"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Volcanoes of Ecuador

While very often new invitees post about their country's flag, the map, etc., I'm posting about volcanoes. I do care about Ecuador's government and history (which I'm reading about), but I'm absolutely fascinated by volcanoes. They were one of my top reasons I hoped very much to get invited to Ecuador, and one of the first things that raced through my mind when I received my invite. "Romantic" names like 'Tungurahua,' 'Reventador,' 'Guagua Pinchincha,' 'Cotopaxi' - all names I heard very frequently while in graduate school, but volcanoes I was never invited to come see. Until now!

And more here! Global Volcanism Program's list of Ecuadorean volcanoes

1. Tungurahua has been in the news very recently, and quite often. According to the BBC on 4 December 2010, the Ecuadorean Institute for Geophysics reported an increase in seismicity and an increase in the number of explosions. Locals began feeling shaking and hearing rumbling noises, and the next morning lava blocks and hot gases flowed down the slopes, accompanied by ash falling on nearby villages. People were evacuated, but it was nothing like in 1999 when about 15,000 people in the town of Banos were evacuated for a year. Tungurahua is a 16,479-foot andesitic-dacitic stratovolcano that has actually been constructed three times - which of course means it was destroyed in eruption and collapse two times. So technically, it is Tungurahua III. More news BBC: Tungurahua volcano prompts evacuation in Ecuador 4 December 2010

Tungurahua, 4 December 2010 (AP)

2. Guagua Pichincha is right outside the capital city Quito. It's another stratovolcano and rises to 15,695 feet. The Global Volcanism Program lists 2004 as the volcano's last known eruption, but it has many logs up to 2009 describing possible phreatic explosions and central vent eruptions.

Guagua Pinchincha with Quito in the foreground by http://www.ecuadorciencia.org (date unknown - pre-2007?)

3. Reventador is yet another andesitic stratovolcano about 11,686 feet high. Frequently active, the last log at the GVP was in November 2010 describing an ash plume rising to 15,000 feet. The largest historical eruption was in 2002, when it produced a 17-km-high plume, pyroclastic flows that traveled up to 8 kilometers from the center, and lava flows from the summit and flank vents.

Reventador in eruption, 2002 (G. Eguiguren)

Quito covered in ash from 2002 Reventador eruption (Wikipedia Commons)

4. Cotopaxi is ridiculously beautiful. The andesitic stratovolcano rises to 19,393 feet, covered in glaciers and topped off by a series of nesting summit craters. Deep valleys carved by lahars surround the mountain, and violent eruptions in 1744, 1768, and 1877 caused lahars to travel all the way to the Pacific Ocean 100 kilometers away. The last known eruption was in 1940, and the last significant eruption was in 1904.

Cotopaxi (Global Volcanism Program)

5. Sangay is another gorgeous stratovolcano, rising to 17,159 feet in isolation on the border of the Amazonian lowlands. It has been in somewhat continuous eruption since 1934, and lately small ash and gas plumes have been identified by pilots and on satellite imagery. The last log at GVP, from 1-7 December 2010, described elevated seismicity.

Photo by Minard Hall, 1976 (Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Quito)


  1. I want to go see Ecuadorian volcanoes with you! That would be super freaking awesome.

  2. Let's go!!! It's my mission to see as many as possible.