Several flights from airports in Mexico have been canceled following an eruption on Mount Colima on Wednesday 18 November 2015. The eruption produced an ash column about two kilometers in height, ane led to ashfalls near local airports, causing flights to be cancelled as a precaution. Colima is one of Mexico's most active volcanos, having erupted more than 40 times since records began in the area in 1576. It has been erupting more-or-less continuously since 2001, with the current bout of eruptions having began in July this year.
Ash column over Mount Colima on 18 November 2015. BBC.
Volcanic ash is extremely hazardous to aircraft in a number of ways. At its most obvious it is opaque, both visually and to radar. Then it is abrasive, ash particles physically scour aircraft, damaging components and frosting windows. However the ash is most dangerous when it is sucked into jet engines, here the high temperatures can melt the tiny silica particles, forming volcanic glass which then clogs engine. When this happens the only hope the aircraft has is to dive sharply, in the hope that cold air passing through the engine during the descent will cause the glass to shatter, allowing the engine to be restarted.
The location of Mount Colima. Google Maps.
The volcanoes of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (including Mount Colima) are fueled by the subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the North American Plate along the Middle American Trench to the south of Mexico. As the subducting plate sinks into the Earth it is melted by the heat and pressure, and volatile minerals liquify and rise through the overlying North American Plate as magma, fueling Mexico's volcanoes.
The subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the North American Plate in Mexico, and how it leads to volcanoes and Earthquakes. King Saud University.
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