Tuesday 4 March 2014

Thousands may need to be evacuted following eruption on Mount Pacaya, Guatemala.

Around 3000 people may need to evacuated from villages close to Mount Pacaya, an active volcano roughly 30 km to the southeast of guatemala City, following a series of explosions over the first weekend of March 2014. The eruptions began in the afternoon of Saturday 1 March, and by Sunday had produced an ash column around 3.7 km high, drifting to the west and southewest, prompting local authorities to consider evacuating the villages of El Rodeo and Patrocinio, as well as diverting air traffic away from Guatemala City.

The ash plume over Mount Pacaya on Sunday 2 March 2014. AFP.

Mount Pacaya is one of the most active in Central America, and has been erupting intermittently for much of the past year. Typically Pacaya produces fountains of incandescent lava that reach up to 50 m above the summit several times  a week, making the volcano a popular tourist attraction.

The volcanoes of Guatemala, and Central America in general, are fed by the subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate along the Middle American Trench, which runs roughly parallel to the southwest coast of the isthmus. As the Cocos Plate sinks into the Earth, it passes under Central America, which lies on the western margin of the Caribbean Plate. As this happens it is heated by the heat of the planet's interior, causing the sinking plate to partially melt. Some of the melted material then rises through the overlying Caribbean Plate as magma, fueling the volcanoes of Central America.

The approximate location of Mount Pacaya. Google Maps.

See also Lava flows prompt evacuations on Mount Pacaya,  Magnitude 6.6 Earthquake in southwest Guatemala causes at least one deathPyroclastic flow and ash column on Mount Fuego, GuatemalaEruptions on Santa María Volcano, Guatemala and Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake beneath Guatemala.

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