Photographer Emilio Morenatti
THIS apparently wintery scene seems fitting for many at this time of year, if somewhat extreme. Yet this isn’t snow. It is a deep layer of ash deposited by the Cumbre Vieja volcano on the island of La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands. The image was taken by Emilio Morenatti, chief photographer for the Associated Press in Spain and Portugal.
Since 19 September, Cumbre Vieja has been continuously erupting, forcing the evacuation of about 7000 residents and destroying around 2700 buildings. The activity has been explosive, spewing enormous amounts of lava, ash and gases such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the air, and has been accompanied by ongoing earthquakes.
The Cumbre Vieja volcano last erupted in 1971, and scientists are trying to work out what is causing the current outburst. Signs that trouble was looming may have emerged as early as October 2017, when clusters of quakes, dubbed “earthquake swarms”, were detected. Many more swarms occurred in the intervening years, but eight days before this eruption began, the number of earthquakes increased sharply, to several hundred every day.
The volcano’s infrequent eruptions make it difficult to forecast future activity, but evaluating what is happening this time could help with future volcanic risk management in the region.
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