Monday 21 October 2019

Residents of Piparo, central Trinidad, on alert as mud volcano shows signs of erupting.

Residents of the village of Piparo in central Trinidad are on alert after the Piparo Mud Volcano began showing signs of activity towards the end of September 2019, for the first time since 1997, when an eruption damaged more than thirty houses in the area. The mud volcano began to make rumbling noises around the middle of September, which it kept up for about a week before falling silent. An areal survey by drone carried out by the Young Professionals Trinidad and Tobago Chapter of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists on 29 September found that extensive cracks had appeared around the site of the mud volcano, and the centre of the site had subsided by over a metre. Since then the site has undergone several bouts of audible rumbling, and a seismic survey has suggested that the site is continuing to subside, and that much of the ground is water-logged, something that adds to the risk of eruptions, as water-logged soil has less cohesion and is therefore less resilient to gas upwellings.

Aerial photograph on the Piparo Mud Volcano taken on 29 September 2019, showing ground cracking around the site. American Association of Petroleum Geologists Young Professionals Trinidad and Tobago Chapter.

Mud volcanoes are the result not of hot magma rising up from deep within the Earth, but of liquids or gasses being released suddenly from rocks into soft sediments, resulting in dramatic upwelling of mud and gas. Trinidad sits on extensive hydrocarbon reserves, which sometimes results in gas permeating up through the ground at sites such as Piparo, resulting in explosive eruptions at the surface. The Piparo Mud Volcano typically erupts every twenty to thirty years, having last done so on 22 February 1997, when an eruption covered an area of 2.5 km².

Cracks in the ground around the site of the Piparo Mud Volcano. Rishi Ragoonath/Trinidad & Tobago Guardian.

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