Ecuador’s Tungurahua volcano has been classified as active since 1999, but recent explosions have really redefined the term. Last week, the mountain started ejecting ash an astonishing five miles high into the sky. It seems as though the volcano is living up to its name, which translates as “throat of fire” from the native Quechua language.
Volcanologists noted heightened activity at the volcano during the last few days of February, and the first eruption occurred March 2. Those near the site said windows vibrated and they heard a “bellowing” as the volcano erupted. Local towns were aware of the commotion as well.
One of the largest explosions resulted in a pyroclastic flow, or a mass containing lava, gases, and ash that flows over the side of a volcano – what we think of when we imagine a volcanic eruption. During this explosion, ash was expelled up to 8 kilometers, or 4.97 miles, into the air.
Around 70 families could be affected if the explosions become more serious, and there may be reason for concern. Ten years ago molten rock poured out of Tungurahua, killing around five people and wiping out three villages. Volcanologists today say the chance of a similar occurrence is slight, but still present. The current explosions could signal greater activity to come, or could be the behavior expected of an active volcano.
For now, scientists at the Observatory of Tungurahua Volcano say the explosions could continue for the time being. Marco Almedia, a volcanologist at the Geophysical Institute, said “The activity of the volcano can be classified as moderate-high at the moment.”