Saturday 6 July 2013

Fresh eruption on Mount Popocatépetl disrupts flights around Mexico City.

Fights in and out of Mexico City were cancelled on Thursday and Friday 5 and 6 July 2013, after Mount Popocatépetl, 65 km to the southeast, began a new round of eruptions with an ash column rising 1.5 km above the summit, and drifting towards the city, accompanied by showers of hot glowing rock around the summit of the volcano. Popocatépetl is a very active volcano, and is seldom completely quiet, but has undergone a sharp increase in activity since the beginning of May, with a series of large explosions and ash columns reaching up to 3 km above the summit.

An eruption on Popocatépetl on 4 July 2013, as seen from San Mateo Ozolco in Puebla State. Pablo Spencer/AFP/Getty Images.

Major eruptions on Popocatépetl are a cause for concern as the volcano is in a densely populated area, with 30 million people living within the potential hazard zone. The last major eruption, a Plinian (or Vesuvian) event in about 800 AD, triggered a series of pyroclastic flows and lahars that scoured the basins around the volcano.

The location of Popocatépetl. Google Maps.

The volcanoes of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (including Popocatépetl) are fueled by the subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the North American Plate along the Middle American Trench tp 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.

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