Cotopaxi – A most dangerous volcano

The ice covered volcano basking in the sun prior to the current unrest.

The ice covered volcano basking in the sun prior to the current unrest.

As we started our series about the New Decade Volcano Program we had to do some hard choices about which volcanoes we would include. We opted to not feature Cotopaxi even though it is situated near the Ecuadorian capital of Quito and has a proven track record of very large eruptions.

It could though very well have fit into our list of million death expectancy (MDE) capable volcanoes. It is therefore with a bit of worry I notice that it seems like Cotopaxi is showing signs of an upcoming eruption.


Cotopaxi is an Andean volcano situated 40 kilometers from Quito; it is the second closest of the active volcanoes around the capital. The volcano is the second highest mountain in Ecuador and the second highest active volcano in the world after Lluillallaco in Argentina.

It is stated that Quito is the only capital in the world that is in a direct striking range of a major volcano, which is obviously not true since Guatemala City is even closer to the far larger volcano of Amatitlán. And I am not even going to start about Manila in the Philippines. But, the two active volcanoes surrounding Quito are far more active.

Cotopaxi has 86 eruptions on record with at least 7 of them being VEI-5 eruptions. It should though be noted that smaller eruptions (VEI-3 or less) has not been identified in the older record but that they happened.

For those who do not understand how close Quito is and how accesible from Cotopaxi and image tells more than a thousand words.

For those who do not understand how close Quito is and how accesible from Cotopaxi and image tells more than a thousand words.

The last VEI-5 eruption occurred around the year 1130 AD. And for those who believe in the long repose time meme for large eruptions Cotopaxi is a bad bet. In no less than 4 years time the volcano produced this set of eruptions, 1350 (VEI-4), 1352 (VEI-4), 1353 (VEI-2) and in 1354 (VEI-4).

The last VEI-4 eruptions occurred in 1744, 1768 and in 1877. The last eruption was particularly intense in producing pyroclastic flows that covered all sides of the volcano.

Cotopaxi is covered in a glacier and is highly prone to producing large scale lahars that travel for a long way. The lahars from the 1877 eruption travelled all the way down to the Pacific Ocean and in the opposite direction into the Amazon Basin. The mountain is covered in steeply eroded canyons created by the numerous lahars that the frequent eruptions have carved out of the mountain.

There is also an added risk formed by the volcano, and that is that ashes is likely to destroy the fresh-water supply and water plants that Quito depends on for its drinking water. Therefore the authorities also have to cope with planning for and trying to mitigate a likely water shortage that might be prolonged if a larger eruption occurs.

If a large lahar or pyroclastic flow would travel down the valley that leads into Quito there is a potential population of 1 800 000 residents. The local authorities know Cotopaxi well and the potential danger that it poses and mitigation and evacuation plans exist.

Current situation

Seismic signals showing numerous long period seismic events and volcanic tremor periods interspersed by volcanic earthquakes.

Seismic signals showing numerous long period seismic events and volcanic tremor periods interspersed by volcanic earthquakes.

Cotopaxi has been quiescent for an unusually long time and there is no good explanation for this. Currently the repose period is the longest that is likely to have happened in the last 1000 years. The other few gaps are more likely due to scanty records missing smaller eruptions.

The last eruption at Cotopaxi was back in 1940, giving a 75 year long repose period. In 1975 and in 2002 to 2004 there was heightened seismic unrest together with increased degassing. Especially the last period was giving concern about an upcoming eruption from Cotopaxi. In retrospect it is far more likely that these two episodes were intrusions into the magmatic system at 14 and 5 kilometers depth.

In April 2015 seismicity picked up above the base level for the first time since 2004 and 628 local earthquakes was detected, in May more than 3 000 separate seismic events was recorded. In May the first long period seismic signals were recorded, a sure sign that pressure is building within a volcano.

Degassing increases sharply in May from the base level of 500 tons per day of sulphur dioxide up to 3 000 tons per day. This coincides with mountaineers reporting strong sulphuric odor around the crater.

Inflation has been reported on north and north-east sides of the volcanoes with 4 centimeters of uplift. Also tremor and volcano-seismic events relating to fluid movement has been recorded in June.

The current level and type of activity has never previously been recorded at Cotopaxi. Especially the large amount of long period seismic events is troublesome.

Dangers of Cotopaxi

The crater of Cotopaxi in high detail. Click for high resolution.

The crater of Cotopaxi in high detail. Click for high resolution.

If an eruption occurred today it could be anything from a VEI-2 eruption up to a VEI-5 eruption, there is no discernible pattern to what the size of an upcoming eruption would be. But, since the volcano has had an unusually long repose period and at least two magmatic emplacements since the last eruption it is likely that the eruption would be in the higher spectrum of the possible eruptions with a VEI-4 being the most likely.

A VEI-4 eruption is unlikely to carry enough force to send pyroclastic flows as far as into the suburbs of Quito, but villages closer to the volcano would be likely to be hit.

Lahars can travel in almost any direction from the Volcano, and potentially a lahar from a larger eruption could travel into Quito destroying houses and causing material destruction. It is likely that the population living within lahar risk zones will be evacuated as an eruption starts.

Lack of drinking water is a high risk factor after a larger eruption even though the authorities have good plans for solving this. Additional resources for water purification would be needed after an eruption.

If a VEI-5 eruption would occur there is an increased risk for large scale material destruction in Quito.


Due to the type and prolonged high count of seismic events combined with heightened degassing and inflation I think it is likely that Cotopaxi will erupt. If Cotopaxi erupts it is likely to be within a span from VEI-3 to VEI-4.


IG-EPN update June 18th:

The internal activity of the volcano remains at moderate levels. Due to bad weather conditions no direct observations were possible but it is estimated that it continues as on previous days, i.e. with small emissions. We also believe that activity at the surface is low. The volcano while active is not erupting.

Seismicity: This parameter remains at similar levels to the past few days. In the last 24 hours, 36 long period events (LP), 1 volcano-tectonic event (VT) and 95 episodes of tremor (TR) were recorded.


256 thoughts on “Cotopaxi – A most dangerous volcano

  1. That is one big volcano, and so close to Quito. I am so pleased that there are evacuation plans. Lahars are horrible but the pyroclastic flow possibility so near a densely populated area is dreadful.
    I do hope all will be safe.
    When will it erupt? Anytime after Thursday at 9.30 am GMT. I’ll be heading south and away from my PC. and so won’t be able to see any info until next week.!Stuff happens when I am away.

    Thank you Carl. A magnificent picture of the crater, Lot’s of Ice there to make an eruption “lively”

  2. Always surprising to see a snow covered volcano near the equator. And you know what ‘they’ say… Snow/Ice and ‘volcanic products’ = Lahars, And Lahars have a tendency of traveling quite a distance.
    You are right, not a good scenario.

    Comment released. Keap on posting and the system will learn. /Admin

  3. Nice article and a confident prediction by someone who to my knowledge had gotten it right six times out of seven this far. I’ve added a topographical map which shows the area in question:

    • Yes there is. But this is a volcano that erupts quite often, and has been quiet for quite a while, so, odds are against it staying quiet much longer.

      Comment released /Admin

      • Could I kindly ask all Admins to keap an extra eye out for Jorys comments and release them on sight. Akizmet is acting up again for some reason.

        Will do Admin

    • Always that chance. Remember, every “failed” eruption is a successful plutonic emplacement that exists as a magma chamber until it drops below the solidus temperature.

      • The way I see it. There are no failed eruptions. Just eruptions that fail to reach the surface.
        After all, from the volcano point of view. Both are events that release pressure and energy.

        • In the volcanological community they are called “failed eruptions” because these events do actually fail to become eruptions. At least at one time – some eventually succeed in becoming true eruptions (like Montserrat, where there have been at least three failed eruptions prior to the true eruption that began in 1995). La Soufrière de la Guadeloupe in 1976 was maybe the best known example of a classical failed eruption, and it has fundamentally influenced the science of volcanology.

          • Thank you for clarifying that Boris. Proper expert comments are really appreciated here so we can keep “on track” . 🙂

    • The chance is there, if so it will remain as magma in the system untill the eruption occurs later on. With Cotopaxi it is not if, it is when, in regards of an eruption.

      • indeed.
        I might sound harsh, but since it will happen eventually, it is better that an eruption happens now, when the eruption is probably going to be something medium in size and mitigation plans are in effect, rather than 3 or 4 such emplacements down the line, when the eruption would be potentially bigger, and the mitigarion plans/evacuations would have no credibility with the people anymore.

        • Only problem is that it is as likely to throw a VEI-5 a year after an eruption as after a long repose period.
          It is a highly irregular volcano.
          It could for instance produce 3 or 4 VEI-2 eruptions on a yearly basis and then end it another year later with a VEI-5.
          VEI-4 is guesstimate on my side judging from the history of the volcano and comparing ramp up signals from comparable andean volcanoes.

          • Yes, thats kinda the double edged sword here. A VEI3/4 or a couple of 2s, could have people and perhaps even the authorities thinking the main thing is over, and you kinda get a lower sence of importance, or with time, the frog in the hot water analogy here. That is, until a VEI5 would commence.
            Almost like the “almost” Pinatubo fiasco.

            What are the odds of it going mid VEI5 or even a low 6? Theoretically of course…

            • Since there are so many people living within the 50 km distance zone I would be very very happy if it stayed a VEI-2 eruption.
              It is one thing with a VEI-4 or even a VEI-5 at a place like Iceland, one next to a million head capital city… Well, smaller is better.

          • Let’s remember that the size of an eruption is not NECESSARILY a function of the preceding repose period. Cotopaxi’s last major eruption (in 1877) occurred in a period of quite frequent eruptions, not after a long repose period. Same is true for Mayon’s 1814 eruption. Moral of the story: Cotopaxi’s next eruption might be quite powerful, but there is no scientific basis for the assumption that it MUST be so. Still, enough reason to prepare for a nasty-case-scenario.

  4. The last official report was more than a week ago, but the system still looks very nicely pressurized or pressuring based on seismic signals, with a lot of LPs, HTs and HTs with initial breaks. Interesting stuff, and ridiculously volcanic.

    You can add this to the post perhaps. 🙂 Courtesy of IGEPN.

    • Freaking LP events are training. {coming one after the other, like a choo choo} IMO, that is a spooky plot. If we get poppers, can I shat myself?

      (Poppers, as I call them, are actually really short tornillos in shape. It’s like the sound of an advancing finger of magma, crack the rock, ooze into the void, crack the rock, ooze into the void… etc.)

      • When the poppers start I will move into the shatatorium myself.
        The frequency with which the LPs are coming is really heebyjeebous.

          • Well, looking just a month back, when things were relatively normal looking, it kinda gives you the sense of the pressurisation the system went through or is going through.

            • And just to put that into perspective, a month ago the amount of seismic activity had already surpassed the 2002-2004 event.

              It has the same long and slow build up as both El Hierro and Kelud did. And we all know that it in the end it was just as a switch was thrown. To me it is more a question about when, not if. And I think the when is getting pretty close.

            • There is a reason I am sticking my neck out with one of my “probably going to blow” articles. It is the seventh time I have warned that a volcano is likely to blow. And they have a habit of doing just that.
              But, in reality I am just interpreting the acoustic signals given by the volcanoes, a field I studied for a long time. Science based on data has a tendency to be correct.

  5. And in all the doom and gloom. One of my favourite songs.
    Old and Wise by Alan Parsons Project. This is the original demo-version that is sung by the songwriter Eric Woolfson (not Colin Blunstone).
    Eric Woolfson died two years after they made this video (he is the old man in the video).

  6. A few extra points that I don’t believe were mentioned in the OP (Great post!).

    Cotopaxi IS prone to flank collapses of varying size. Any large volcano, especially with significant glacial dissection is a prime candidate to see a sector collapse. The largest Holocene eruption at Cotopaxi was from a small-sized flank collapse.

    Another small thing worth noting – Cotopaxi is a weird sort of bimodal volcano, switching between more traditional arc-based andesitic magma, and a separate rhyolitic magma. The majority of the magma recently has been andesitic, but it has historically had quite a few rhyolitic eruptions. One of the papers I skimmed over mentioned that this could be related to Cotopaxi’s proximity to the ancient Chalupas caldera, which was a large rhyolitic caldera to the east of Cotopaxi.

    • Another thing worth mentioning is that Lahars, even with warning systems are extremely difficult to mitigate. Similar to Tsunami’s, they can occur almost without warning to people far away. A paper I read on Lahar mitigation around Cotopaxi mentioned that the majority of people in Peru did not consider lahars to be dangerous.

      Cotopaxi IS a well monitored volcano, but mitigation requires people to listen to the warnings, which I’m worried many will ignore, or be too slow if a large lahar event occurs (which is a regular occurrence here).

      The Peruvian observatory website mentioned that there are more than 300,000 people who live in the direct path of where lahars would travel. Even if you were to evacuate 90% of those people living in the lahar basins, the left over 10% still ends up with a tragedy of similar scale to the 1986 Armero disaster at Nevado del Ruiz, with 30,000 people potentially dead.

      This is the issue of disaster mitigation. Given enough population and proximity, even the best mitigation can only go so far.

      • And sorry, not trying to scare people, but more awareness around this definitely won’t hurt.

        If Mt. Rainier were experiencing similar signs, people would be freaking out, and Cotopaxi is akin to Mt. Rainier on steroids, with just as much (or more) population living in the disaster-prone region.

        • I wonder if much of the edifice has been subject to geothermal alteration… forming the once hard rock into slippery, gooey clay… Sizable portions of the peak of Ranier have been evaluated to have undergone such a process, making Ranier rather difficult to think about.

          • Rainer is not solid – I witnessed the St.Helens lahars. and aftermath. but it was relatively less populated. I do not like the scenarios here…

          • Well, IF Cotopaxi does have altered rock, that would make slope steepening and subsequent landslide another problem with the volcano. Your right, this is not looking to be a good scenario either way you look at it. (Ranier either, but at least they put in a Lahar detection system on some of the flow paths.)

            • Oh my, after reading you guys, i feel more prone to see this happen. after reading the daily report that the gives i knew there’s something cooking here. I’m from Quito, Ecuador 40km away from the Cotopaxi volcano is, and let me tell you there is a lot of uninformed people from the city of Latacunga wich will be one of the most affected cities if an eruption happens… a many many other community around the volcano, many of them indigenous people who just wont listen or even evacuate in the eventual case of an eruption. there’s a couple of great videos in youtube of the zones that will be most likely be hit by lahars; but they are in spanish, so.

              lets hope it dosnt erupt. but if it does i hope there’s no clouds. cause that will be one hell of a view.

              (sorry for bad english)

              Released from Limbo, and your English es muy bien! / Lugh

            • … as the dragon said, there is no problem with your English. Of course, as a Redneck, I tend to butcher my own language.

              One thing to remember in all of this, is much of what we discuss involve probable scenarios, not certainty. In an MDE sort of analysis, we are intentionally looking at how bad something could be as a way of determining which ones pose a greater threat. Most of us are full on amateurs, tempered by the few of us who are professionals in some field, not necessarily volcanology. The exception is Boris Behncke. Volcanoes are his thing. (and his pet Volcano is Etna) If you see comments by GeoLoco, his specialty is slope failure and geomechanics in general.

              Me, I just plot stuff. And am throughly trounced by the tomographic analysis that appeared here recently. Phenomenal stuff.

  7. Quickly before it gets too rescaled with time (just like Icelandic plots), I have to post this, to show this “seismo-volcanic poetry” at Cotopaxi in high definition.

  8. As Carl has noted, this volcano is a bit of a wild card. I’ve mentioned before my opinion that volcanoes as a rule, don’t like statistics. This is one that seems to go out of it’s way to muck things up.

    This is a histogram of all the repose intervals for the eruption data available at GVP for Cotopaxi. Yeah, there is some techno skew in that more recent eruptions get reported more often in the record, but it has a tendency to be a repeat performer within just a few years of previous activity. This is why the 1 to 2 year repose interval count is so high.

    And many thanks to Zatarain’s for the red-beans and rice! (Not a paid endorsement, just good stuff! It’s hard to stop eating it when you put Cayenne on it 😀 My nutritionist said that I need to loose a pound a month, at this rate it is not gonna work.)

    OT: Ever had Chipotle? The real deal, not the store bought stuff? I made some a few months ago, hickory smoking my Jalapenos until they were fully dried, then I crushed them with a mortar-pestle. I am thinking about doing another batch using Habanero as the source pepper. This should turn out quite vicious… And yes, I know of the “Ghost Pepper” and “Carolina Reaper” Both are a variety of Habanero… and yes, they are just as hot as the various videos depict them as. What ticks me off is the hoopla of everyone jumping on the bandwagon of “Ghost Pepper”. I actually saw a hamburger resturant advertising “Ghost Pepper” french fries. Really? Your actually gonna sell something to the public that is that hot? (I seriously doubt it, more than likely it’s some watered down B/S gimmick just to sell more crap)

    Quite some time ago, I re-canned some dill pickles, adding a sliver of Habanero to each jar. They were quite popular with my step-son and his coworkers. They would sit around at lunch daring each other to eat a slice of pickle.

    • I cannot eat anything too hot at all. I have tried but I just can’t eat it .It is too painful. Is it because I am very blonde and pale skinned of Northern stock? Do we have different taste bud reaction to hot peppers than those born and bred where they grow or those with darker hair and skin?
      When I make Jamaican Patties I use only a half teaspoon of very finely chopped fresh scotch bonnet in the filling mix. That isn’t much only a tiny part of the whole small pepper. but it’s almost too fiery for me. Everyone else thinks it’s just spicey.

      • Scotch bonnets are a pretty close relative of habenero. (both are Capsicum chinense) So, I can understand the moderation. As a rule, the pepper that I use the most is ground Cayenne. Anything hotter than that and you pretty much loose the ability to taste the actual food. Cayenne will not have you cursing all human life and you won’t run around hitting stuff. Cayenne is a much more pleasant heat. {See below}

        If you can find it, try using Cayenne. There is heat, but it is a much more tame pepper. I use it as a table condiment.

        Side note: Peppers are “hot” because the Capsicum skews the heat sensor response in your taste buds, making normal temperatures seems uncannily hot.

        True story: I was at my grand dads place because the family had gathered for my cousin’s wedding. I took the opportunity to bring my mom some habeneros that I had grown. (she was an aficionado of hot peppers as well). The groom to be walked past my table and noticed my habaneros sitting there and asked what they were. Jokingly, I responded “miniature sweet bells”. Before I could stop him, he picked one up and bit into it. It was fully ten years before my cousin would talk to me… Her husband to be had just encountered a fresh off the vine, ripe habenero. I know that hurt… badly. I just hope he didn’t get any juice from the pepper on his hands. It can cause a burning for any sensitive skin that you touch later, even after vigorous washing. A day or so later, there will be pain as you use the toilet. The heat does not diminish (very much) as you digest them. {especially if you ate a seed. In retrospect, that may be an intended method of propagation for the plant.}

        {below} → As noted, Cayenne is my thing. At one time, I was in a position where I and a cohort of mine had to consume a slice of chocolate cake… made with Cayenne. She was hyper sensitive to spices, so I ate my slice of cake and the one delegated for her as well. We passed the event due to the team-work.

        I do have a jar of dried and pulverized habenero in powder form. It only takes a very very small amount to light a dish to the point of pain. I dried the habenero with a dehydrater, then ground up the dried hulk with a portable espresso coffee grinder specifically set aside for that purpose. To measure the powder, I use the back of the handle of a spoon. If I could figure out how to roll it into a little ball, it would be great in a painball gun to dispel rioters, though I think law enforcement already has something like that.

        • I have trouble with a local cat using my seedbeds as a toilet (nice dry finely raked soil for baby plants) The cat, as cats do, scratch up a small pit ,then cover kitty gifts ,again scratching up with it’s little rake-like paws. Poor baby plants are uprooted and die. Even without the odourous stink of kitty gifts the kitty raking annoys me to put it mildly.
          To put off the cat I shake cayenne pepper over the area. Cruel? Maybe, but it seems to work as cats always sniff before they rake.
          Yes! I do use cayenne pepper for when I do Creole cooking but use very, very sparingly. It does give a different taste than in Indian cookery when I use plain chilli powder (again sparingly often using paprika instead)

          • As a cat owner I have observed that the best cat repellant I know is citrus peel, orange is best. They cannot stand it. If I peel an orange or tangerine it clears the room instantly. I put it on my seed beds.

            • Have friend who has a home made cat repellant of cayenne, orange peel, and garlic. Also a miniature poodle. Both very effective..

            • One night, the neighborhood cats are going to mess up and come through here while “Jake” is out side. They will get away, but he will be right on their arse all the way. One night I caught him trying to climb the side of the house to get at whatever was on the roof.

            • many thanks for that ,. It’s not that I dislike cats…I just need my vegetable seeds to grow…:)

      • And, though I am not a “heat freak” by any means, I am quite happy with heat. At one time, I tried to make a home made mosquito repellent spray by simmering a collection of peppers in alcohol. Not a smart move. What I would up doing was clearing the house of all occupants… including myself and the dogs until it aired out. Essentially, I teargassed my house with the stove. Not wishing to waste the additional peppers that I had on hand, I cooked them down into an olive oil based sauce. For some reason, it came out pretty much yellow in color. When cooled, it made a paste. Great on sandwiches, if a bit hot. Easily mistaken for a mustard, so be careful if you make some.

  9. Will the Laacher See volcano near the city of Koblenz in the VulkanEifel in southwest Germany also be put on the New Decade Program? Laacher See is in my opinion due to the vicinity of large towns and cities a MDE volcano capable of producing VEI 6 eruptions. If Laacher See erupts, it will have dramatic effects in Germany and the south-eastern part of The Netherlands. The Rhine river will be blocked, leading to severe flooding of large cities upstream. And the whole economy of Germany will collapse when Laacher See erupts.

    • Dunno, that whole economy collapsing thing could happen with out the Laacher See doing anything. One of their banks is in a financial position more worrisome than Lehman Brothers was prior to 2008… For that matter, we in the US could go poof without Yellowstone so much as passing gas in the middle of the night…

      That there is still something hot down there is a matter of fact. The Laacher See area still has CO2 percolating up from the water depths. Personally, I don’t give it much probability, though volcanoes hate probability and stats with a passion.

    • Can’t comment for the authors, but Laacher See is not likely to have a VEI-6 eruption soon in my general opinion. I believe a lot of people considered the VEI-6 eruption to be a bit of a black swan, and don’t expect anything similar to happen again any time in the near geological future.

    • Laacher See is in my opinion a volcano that will not erupt again. It is of a type of vllcano in the Eifel volcanic field in Germany, which erupt every few hundred thousand years, and each time in a new place. The most likely scenario for a new eruption in the Eifel is a modest, Strombolian, scoria-cone-building event similar to a flank eruption on Etna or Fogo’s latest eruption, with lava flows a few kilometers long and pyroclastic fallout within a few km from the vent. That’s not an apocalyptic scenario (and thus much less appealing for the “media”) but still bad enough for a limited area and a limited amount of people.

      • I think that a future Strombolian scoria cone building eruption in the Eifel would be preceded by numerous earthquakes and increased gas emissions. At the onset of the eruption, it would be phreato-magmatic and a maar would be formed initially. The dangers of that kind of eruption are pyroclastic flows.

        Scoria cone building events are like Paricutín, Eldfell at Heimaey and Fimmförðuháls in 2010.

    • A straight-forward question deserves an equally straightforward answer – no. There have been thousands of eruptions in the Eiffel Volcanic Fields, East and West, but only one VEI 6 with less than a handful of VEI 4 to 5 eruptions. The rest have been smaller strombolian or possibly vulcanian affairs. Apart from the emission of volcanic gasses, mainly CO2, in certain locations there are no signs of activity. A repeat of the 12,900 BP eruption would indeed be a black swan but a you say, had Laacher See happened today, the effects would have been those you describe only I suspect Bundeswehr engineers would have quickly disposed of any wall of pumice blocking the Rhine before too much damage was done.

      • When the maar volcanoes in the Eifel were formed, maars like the Gemündener Maar near Daun (part of the Dauner Maare), Meerfelder Maar, Ulmener Maar, Pulvermaar and Booser Doppelmaar, at which VEI strength did that happen?

    • There is no complete list of all volcanoes. There are just list of those we know are active. I can though say that there are far more inactive volcanoes than active.
      Currently the best list on active volcanoes can be found at Global Volcanism Program, but they have large gaps in their list. And then there is always mount “Unknown” that can surprise us. Welcome to the world of volcanoes, there is always something more to learn.

  10. This is a link to a fantastic set of Videos (with thanks to Escuela Politécnica del Ejército &_Universidad San Francisco de Quito)
    It is in 4 parts ! A deals with explaining about the Location of Cotopaxi, volcanic features & dangers of Pyroclastic Flows & lahars. Part 2 explains the difficulties of initiating evacuation programmes. and on to explain how volcanic mitigation is being explained to the people and communities who will be affected. The use of outreach programmes is reaching communities in towns and in the countryside. Some brilliant explanation on the possibility of building structures to prevent the largest rocks from being carried to the most populated areas.. Like in Iceland it’s not just the muddy water that causes the damage it is the huge boulders that are carried by the raging water.
    Even if you don’t speak Spanish the pictures and familiar words make these videos easy to understand.
    Please do watch as it chillingly brings home the dangers to the children and their families who live even miles from the volcano as well as the sheer size of this beautiful Monster.

  11. Todax Cotopaxi has switched from more LP evetns to more HT style, which is also evident on the spectrogram. Yesterday (16th) 26 LP events were recorded, 2 VT quakes and 86 HT episodes, according to IGEPN. That in my view is more significant than some 1000 “normal quakes”, which IMHO do occur, but the tremor simply outright outscales them.
    And in my personal novice interpretation, the lack of these VT or T quakes (even tho only visually), simply means that the system is in crazy pressurisation mode, and once these events do appear strong enough and rising to the surface, its time to ring the bells.

      • Funny how El Hierro or Iceland show signs of eruptions, and this place blows up. But if a more dangerous volcano in south / central america shows signs of erupting, not many people beyond the regulars here take notice.

        • It is a universal problem. Kelud was the largest eruption since the turn of the millenium, and almost nobody cared outside of this place (and of course the locals).
          And for the brief time of the eruption we where very much the center for finding correct information about what was happening. All the way from my “likely to blow” post to when I correctly used data from the locals writing in here to make an isopach map which made it possible for me to correctly estimate the size of the eruption.
          I guess we just like eruptions outside of the beaten track in here.

        • I suppose it’s because South American Volcanoes do not ,
          usually, disrupt European and to a lesser extent North American Airlines or people’s vacation plans. It’s wrong I know, but it’s a bit of “It’s not in my back yard” plus the fact that it takes some effort to look for information. I do think we are spoiled by the ease of obtaining data and webcam visuals from Iceland and El Hierro.

          • “Nail + on head + squarely” springs to mind. As long as those searching for air travel information leave with a little more information than they bargained for, I don’t mind.

            “Gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo.”

  12. A new signal has emerged at Cotopaxi. A very high impulse low frequency tremor pulse, that rescaled the plot. It is especially nicely noted on the spectrograms aswell. And the general tremoring is on a slow upward trend since yesterday and especially today.

    I made this composite of 3 plots.

    • And that was the signal that magma has reached the depth where it actively degasses and “foams”. Ie, the point of no return. Also, popcorn.
      I also find it interesting that the measuring systems are so close to overloading (clipping).
      I think it is time for me and Lurking to go to the Shatatorium.

      • This pre-eruptive seismic sequence at Cotopaxi is on of the best/classical/textbook looking I have ever seen.

        Can you talk about the magma type from the seismis signals alone? I would assume we are dealing with Ryholite/Dacite here, since I dont think/remember that basalt or andesite have such crazy degasing/pressurising.

        • It’s most likely going to be Andesitic based on recent eruptive events. As I noted in a comment further up the page, it is a strange bimodal volcano, that has Andesitic and Rhyolitic eruptions. The majority of the eruptions in the last 10k years have been andesitic, so that will likely be what we could see here.

      • The emergence of last signal did bring a change. The normal straight line background signal between the LPs on the seismo plot, has now been replaced with the continuous very low frequency signal, tho lower amplitude, but still quite stronger than the normal background tremor and about 50% of amplitude of a normal LP event on these seismos. In essence, its popcorn yea. Any room left in the Shatatorium?

      • Be prepared…

        Geologist Þórðar Hreðu changing a roll of plot paper at the Hreppar SIL-station. This is an exacting task and the reason the Iclelandic Tromlurit network is currently down.

    • Just to make it clear:

      The event Andrew and Carl are discussing is the 13:02 UT event and not the 13:23 teleseism from a M6.9 quake that is also visible on the helicorders at Volcan Chilles and Volcan Pululahua.

  13. I came here to ask a question and now suspect I’ll be glued to web cams for the rest of the day!
    I’ll ask the question anyway 🙂
    I will be on the ground in Holuhraun in about 3 weeks! 🙂 I would love to bring home a tiny bit of the witch’s hair lava. I know I need to have good gloves to handle it, but I also need to have a hard-sided container for it so it won’t break. What sort of dimensions for the container? Will it be more likely to be in balls or sheets? What material would I use to cushion it inside the box?

    • I’ve seen bits from other eruptions that fit in your hand, so a large lunchbox seems a decent scale.
      I think it was almost a ball that I last saw – but I don’t know what you have there.

      padding – probably tissue paper will do, but that may shred a bit, so you might go for one of those synthetic shammy sponge things – it would be padded but less likely to leave bits of it attached to the hair

      • Thanks for replying. I picked a rather talkative day to insert an off-topic question; I’m glad you noticed it.
        Although after doing a bit more reading I strongly suspect there won’t be any witch’s hair visible to me, as it was created at the start of the eruption and I don’t find any references to it continuing to have been created. Anything created at the start, even if blown by the wind, is unlikely to have not been later consumed by the lava field.

    • Having done some mineral collecting myself, though never something as fragile as Pelee’s Hair, I’d recommend stout cardboard boxes (~6″ x 8″ x 5″ is a nice size), bubble wrap, regular tape and not more than one specimen to each box, generously wrapped. A larger box to fit several smaller inside would be icing on the cake. (If only Evan was here to give you expert advice!)

      Good luck!

    • It’s looking that way Tyler, but as Dr. Boris Behnke stated earlier…” Cotopaxi’s next eruption might be quite powerful, but there is no scientific basis for the assumption that it MUST be so. Still, enough reason to prepare for a nasty-case-scenario.” Always remember we cannot scientifically predict there will be an eruption in the next few weeks..or even months. However the seismic signals indicate great unrest. We certainly cannot predict what manner of eruption or size it will be but we can make some guesstimations.. The fact that there is a lot of ice on the summit indicates that even with a small eruption there is the danger of damaging lahars….but when? It’s as always with any volcano….. watch and wait but be prepared.

      • The way the tremors are ramping up and the increasing gas pulses reported from the summit, I wouldn’ t be overly surprised to see some initial phreatic activity by mid next week, but I did see their June 11 report was still not predicting an eruption.

  14. Meanwhile in Iceland. There’s been a few deep quakes to the southwest of Bardarbunga and northwest of Laki.
    17.06.2015 19:16:29 64.224 -18.572 2.9 km 0.3 90.01 23.7 km NW of Laki
    17.06.2015 02:13:01 64.298 -18.377 15.4 km 0.4 99.0 26.4 km NNW of Laki
    16.06.2015 06:47:10 64.270 -18.452 7.4 km 0.7 99.0 24.7 km NNW of Laki
    16.06.2015 04:11:05 64.271 -18.419 7.9 km 0.5 99.0 24.1 km NNW of Laki

    • Looks like local quakes due to strain changes. Nothing magmatic at this point.

  15. Today the National Secretary of Risk Management in Ecuador declared that Cotopaxi is at White Risk Level.
    At the same time the boss of the IGEPN said “The latter explained that in the last 470 years has had five Cotopaxi and eruptions in the last 2000 has been 20.”

    I do not know if I should cry or laugh now. IGEPN apparantly do not know the history of their main volcano. And keeping the alert at Zero is highly odd. I for one wish that it was Surono running the show. My guess is that we would have a 5km exclusion zone by now and the army on standby. Why on earth do not people study how the Indonesians do things?

      • I am also surprised. Normally they do not slip up. I think the head of the place is a political appointee and it was said in a political press conference.

    • Carl, you know as well as I do that Black Swans are never seen until after the fact. That’s what makes them Black Swans.

      This is sounding too much like the typical scenario from a bad scifi movie. The Government of El Hierro pulled the same stunt and got away with it. Sabinosa never became “The Hobbit,” but it came pretty close to it.

      In the long run, it’s just a matter of time. Living on top of a scoria cone directly over an inflating chamber is never a good long term strategy.

    • Is this for real? Like what the actual f**k is wrong with these people?
      Whats almost more crazy than their actions, are the criteria they are based upon. Thats the same BS as saying yellowstone will erupt because its overdue, even tho its not. Same crap, tho you dont get to kill 300.000 people with the yellowstone meme.

      ” IG-EPN suggest that we might expect only steam-driven (phreatic) explosions”

      • I would not be surprised if we saw that first. But the tendency for Andean volcanoes adjacent to Cotopaxi is that if phreatic detonations occur you most of the time get an eruption after a while.

  16. Cotopaxi is going to be (unfortunately) a big one- I agree that anyone who has active volcanoes in their country would do worse than copy Indonesia..;

  17. And a comment from an unmitigated jerk.

    Walked into the Firehouse Subs ™ in Crestview and ordered a Philly Cheese Steak on Wheat. The girl behind the counter cheerfully pipes up “We don’t carry Philly Cheese Steaks!” (which I know is a lie, they have made them for me before and it’s not that complicated of a sandwich) I respond, “Fine, you have a nice day” and walk out. Ya see, I don’t give a rats arse what sort of cutsey name they want to call their various sandwiches, all of which are some sort of term dealing with fire fighting equipment. Oddly, they don’t carry a “Donkey Dick” sub sandwich. (a Foam applicator shaped a bit like… well, you know.) They looked a bit aghast that I wouldn’t play the bullshit name game with the sandwiches. From what I understand, Starmud Coffee does the same with their highly over priced coffee. In my opinion, if they think that highly of their coffee, they can keep it.

    So, I had catfish at a nearby place on the way back to the interstate. One thing that retailers and shops need to remember, until I pay for my food or for an item. I am not a sale. I don’t give a shit what your branding strategy is. I just want what I came in to get. If you don’t have the skill set to do it, fine, I am gone.

    Get enough people pissed off like me, and you’re gonna have a difficult time making payroll.

    (BTW, the look on their faces was quite entertaining as I turned and left I’ve also done the same for pushy “upsale” attempts. If I’ve said no, that means no, don’t try it again. If I wanted it, I would have asked for it in the first place. Don’t like it? FOAD.)

    The item on the right:

    • I walked into Starbucks once and ordered a large latte.

      Unnaturally happy cheerleader barista girl says,”You mean ‘venti’?”

      No, I reply. I mean large.

      “Venti is Italian for large,” she replies.

      I inform her that I don’t speak Italian.

      “Venti is Italian for large,” she repeats, like a parrot, in a slightly bewildered tone this time.

      I tell her that I *won’t* speak Italian.

      Suddenly she gets it–she’s annoyed me.Apparently this hurts her feelings. She rings me up without saying another word and puts my cup in line.

      Two minutes late a tattooed Goth girl hollers, “LARGE latte for Matt.” Winks as she passed it over the counter. The tip I left was for her.

      • The only “latte” style drink that I like is something of my own formulation. The bartenders in Rota were quick to figure it out. Double espresso with whiskey and milk. The cool bit was that another 1st class that was I was hanging out with the embarked flag officers cook, who was from there and had married a local girl when he was stationed in Rota. He was quite fluent in Spanish and we had a blast wandering from Sherry bar to Sherry bar. “Topa Hopping.” All the other squids were at the discos watching the motor scooters crash out front.

    • “towns close to Cotopaxi have been asked to examine their emergency plans”

      … which reminds me of an inadvertent 3 way call that I wound up in. The software vendor asked the client (St of Florida server guys) “You guys do have a disaster recovery plan.. right?”

      As a member of the IT community, I can honestly say that was the most direct veiled slam I have ever heard. I nearly choked listening. And working with the server guys from the other end, I know for a fact that they do have a plan. (part of it is me). All that had happened was that it had just slipped their mind about where the installation software was stored at.

      Back to the volcano thing: “risk management office plans to erect about 300 signs showing evacuation routes in nearby Latacunga”

      Psst. If you are planning on putting up signs, you are not doing your job. They should already be up. what you should be doing is making sure they are correct if any changes have been enacted since they went up.

      #1 should be securing a reliable source of water for the potential evacuees. That’s more important than food. You can last a lot longer with out food than you can water. Though not as critical, keep in mind that food will become important. the “Three missed meals from anarchy” axiom applies here. Not as important, but a potential problem, people pilfering stuff that they think they need. After Ivan, Florida DOT had trouble keeping the traffic lights running. People kept stealing the generators temporarily powering the lights. Yeah, they were caught and prosecuted, but that didn’t stop them from doing it to begin with.

      • After the 2002-2004 seismic crisis of Cotopaxi the water plant company held a drill and made emergency plans to ensure drinkable water for the citizens of Quito since ash and “hot ash” (I guess pyroclastic ash) could render the fresh water supply inusable.
        So, water seems to be a priority thing.

        • Before landfall, one of the first things I do is to top off all my water jugs. I also keep 15 gallons out in the garage. (potable) I also fill the tubs and keep a bucket handy to refill the toilet basin as needed. For last ditch potable water, I keep a bottle of unscented bleach on hand so that I can chlorinate any water that has to be salvaged after that runs out.

          Clear plastic water bottles can disinfect water if left filled in the direct sun for several hours. The 15 pounds of granulated activated carbon I shouldn’t need to use, but I have it if it becomes necessary. It might even work against Florine contaminated water.

          • Geo, ( I live in Charleston, SC – so I know what you mean) most homes have between 25 to 50 gallons of potable water stored automatically – in the hot water heater. Once the power goes out and the pumping stations stop pumping, start draining the tank. Gravity is a wonderful thing in this case.

      • The signs were posted repeatedly. But they keep being wiped out by lahars and other volcanic debris. The 300 signs are just renewing old signs, and maybe adding some new ones.

        Found in dungeon – released /Dragon

      • Latacunga is the city most directly in the path of Cotopaxi. At 25km from the volcano, it’s within range of Pyroclastic flows given a larger eruption, but most important, it is sitting in the middle of a lahar basin. Latacunga has been destroyed 3 times in the last 500 years by Cotopaxi (according to the article), you would think there would be more of a plan than just “put up some signs”. Given that there are more than 90,000 people living in Latacunga, this is pretty disconcerting.

            • Not easy but the authorities have got good plans set up. See this video (Although it is in Spanish)
              The video is in 4 parts and this part shows the outreach programmes to educate communities at risk from the volcano..
              This looks pretty good as long as local communities cooperate. There are now in place sirens to warn of lahars approaching. The rivers are now being closely monitored with the latest electronic technology. Lahars do move pretty quickly though so you have to get to high ground quickly, rather like the Tsunami warnings. However I do think that Equador Local Government seems to be more proactive than in previous years mainly because they have now more understanding and access to technology that has only been available in the last 15 or so years.
              Education to combat the ignorance about the dangers ,especially in younger people is being addressed urgently.

    • I wonder which bit of “this volcano is rapidly heading for an eruption” the NPI don’t get? They need to act, and right now.

  18. Cotopaxi kind of reminds me of Pinatubo. Builds, slows down, builds, slows down, don’t know how many times. Then suddenly, all heck breaks loose. Let’s hope for the Ecuadorans it will be a small eruption. But I suspect it won’t be. 😦

    Found in dungeon – released /Dragon

  19. For anyone wanting to know what and where…

    Name Cotopaxi
    Coordinates 0,683º S; 78,436º W
    Height 5897 m asl
    Diameter 20 km
    Type of volcano Layer composite volcano
    Last eruption 1877
    State Active
    Recent Activity Fumaroles
    Monitoring Seismicity, deformation, hot springs, degassing

    Cotopaxi is located on the Eastern Cordillera (Real), at a distance of 35 km northeast of Latacunga and 45 km southeast of Quito. The building forms a symmetrical cone with slopes up to 35 ° and a basal diameter of ~ 20 km, while the crater diameter varies between 800 m in north-south direction and 650 m in the East-West. Cotopaxi is surrounded by moors bordering 3000 m and other volcanoes like Sincholahua (4873 m), Quilindaña (4876 m) and Rumiñahui (4722 m).

    Cotopaxi is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world because of the frequency of its eruptions, its eruptive style, its relief, its glacier cover and the number of potentially exposed to threats populations. Since the beginning of the Spanish conquest, the Cotopaxi has presented five major eruptive periods: 1532-1534, 1742-1744, 1766-1768, 1853-1854 and 1877-1880. Within a certain range, all episodes have led to very dangerous volcanic phenomena, and there is no doubt that similar episodes will be repeated within decades. The last four periods have led to important socio-economic losses in Ecuador. The danger of Cotopaxi is that its eruptions can lead to the formation of enormous lahars (mudflows and debris) that would transit through neighboring drainages densely populated areas like the Inter-Andean Valley between Mulaló and Latacunga, and part of the valley of the Chillos. It has been estimated that more than 300,000 people live in areas threatened by lahars in case similar to those that occurred in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries repeated eruptions. In addition, the fall of ash produced during an eruption of Cotopaxi could affect a significant portion of the Sierra and the Costa del Ecuador.

    Cotopaxi is also one of the most closely watched volcanoes of Ecuador and to which a large part of the available resources are devoted to monitoring. In fact, the first permanent seismic station dedicated to monitoring a volcano in South America was installed in Cotopaxi, in 1976. Since then, the network monitoring the volcano has grown steadily to the current configuration, which ensures adequate monitoring of this dangerous volcano.

    Found in dungeon – released /Dragon

  20. Something that occurred to me that could be a bit of a problem regarding Lahars.

    IF there were a large eruption, most people who aren’t in the direct path of the volcano would likely go inside to escape falling ash. The problem with this, is that for those within a lahar risk zone, this is possibly the worst thing they would need to get to higher ground / away from the lahar path.

  21. The VEI5s at Cotopaxi erupted mainly Rhyolite, with DRE ranging from 0.2 to 3 km3, and bulk deposit from 1-8 km3.

    That is quite serious stuff, and it means that in the worst case of a Ryholite eruption, the system is capable of 5-12 km3 bulk ejecta in black swan mode.

    Tho the odds are very slim for this scenario, there is always a first time for everything, including a VEI6. Pinatubo also probably wasnt born into this world with a VEI6, but the system slowly built up to its first 6. The same goes for Tamboras’ first VEI7.
    Looking at the history of a volcano is a must, but its not really helpful when the system decides to do something new, or something that it hasnt done in a while. This eruption, shall it happen, is likely to be Andesitic. But Cotopaxi will eventually have another Rhyolitic eruption, so how do we know that it wont be this one? Besides the fact that it hasnt erupted rhyolite in a while. 🙂 We know the odds for it, but as I always say, unlikely is not the same as impossible.

    • A funny thing about the andesite fact, is that it will eventually fail and prove useless. And it will happen eventually since this is a known bimodal system. With many intrusions in the past decades, there could be some rhyolite created via partial melting, and lets not forget all the leftovers. Think Eyjafjallajökull.
      The tricky part with such a volcano as Cotopaxi is not to determine what is likely, but to determine when the system is ready to do something new or something it hasnt done in a while. I mean, come on, there has to be more to determinig magma, than just the fact that the last X eruptions were Y magma.

    • If you go back far enough, you get at least one VEI-6 eruption from Cotopaxi. I would read the the paper below (specifically the first phase of Cotopaxi Volcanism).

      “The Cotopaxi I deposits include a series of rhyolitic pyroclastic flow and ash falls that range in age from 420 to 560 ka (fission-track ages; Bigazzi et al., 1997), and are collectively called the Barrancas Sequence. These ignimbrites represent the 32 km3 explosive eruption of the Cotopaxi Caldera, the remnant of which forms an arcuate edifice that has an estimated diameter of 8 km (Hall & Mothes, 2008). To the SE of Cotopaxi is the Chalupas Caldera (Fig. 1c), a 12 km diameter caldera that produced the Chalupas Ignimbrite 211 kyr ago”

      Given, this was from quite some time ago, and from a separate period in Cotopaxi’s history prior to its reawakening 13k years back. So it doesn’t entirely represent the current situation too well, but does represent a baseline capability to do something bigger than a VEI-5 (although that is true in most mature volcanic systems).

      • I actually read a similar paper, but I avoided putting it in, since it is really far back and obviously from Cotopaxi with a different configuration than today. But yes, the point remains, and that is that the system is capable of producing mid to high VEI5s, and eventually one day a 6 may emerge.

  22. Latacunga is 25km away, and has been wiped out repeatedly by lahars. As of 2010, it has 98,355 people. Not Good!

    Found in dungeon – released /Dragon

  23. This comment was just made by Teofilis Toulkeridis (Greek volcanologist working in Ecuador with Cotopaxi).

    “It´s in Spanish, but I think more than obvious. Based on the historical record of Cotopaxi having had some 19 eruptive phases in the last 2200 years, the re-occurrence of such an activity is for every 117 years (±70). This year we are having 138 years without any tremendous activity. The probability that it will happen this year is of 72%. It´s not a matter of if, rather than of when exactly its gonna happen. And all signs demonstrate it will be soon.”

    • That looks suspiciously like the side of a bell curve. I really hope he isn’t placing a lot of predictive faith in the stats idea. If it does go, that’s gonna be a healthy dose of confirmation bias that he takes on board.

      • A Weibull distribution is just giving the increasing percentage chance against a known normal distribution.
        From a mathematical standpoint I would say two things. One, there are to few datapoint to make the needed normal distribution, and second of all it does not say anything on a stochastical system like a volcano.
        That being said, it says a bit about risk in the future.
        I do prefer to use signalinterpretation over mathematics. I have tried that road and failed, and I am fairly adept at juggling numbers.

      • The model is too limited to be of much use. There are too many factors involved that the model assumes are going to remain the same. As an example, St Helens would not have been so devastating had not an entire flank of the volcano decided to collapse. Several tens of cubic kilometres of edifice that fell anywhere between 500 and 2000 metres releasing prodiguous amounts of potential energy, dear old mass x gravity x height. A km^3 falling a km loses ~29,5 PJ of potential energy or the equivalent of 5½ megatons of TNT.

        As with all calculations done while insufficiently caffeinated, I hope I didn’t misplace any commas…

          • True, as measured in magma ejected, DRE. Nevertheless, the USGS says “For example, the landslide at Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, had a volume of 2.5 km3, reached speeds of 50-80 m/s (180-288 km/hr), and surged up and over a 400 m tall ridge located about 5 km from the volcano!”

            What disappeared was the top 1,300 ft (400m) and 2,000ft (600m) below that of north flank (as measured to the 5,800 ft isoline). The surface of Spirit Lake is at 3,400 ft which means that what ever ended up there has fallen between 2,400 and 5,700 ft (730 to 1,740 m). Regarded as a ballpark figure for the potential energy released in the collapse, 10 – 15 megatons of TNT is not unreasonable.

            Another way – (mass x velocity squared / 2) 7.5 x 10^9 tons (density 3.0) moving at 50 m/s gives an energy of 9.375 PetaJoules. That’s the equivalent of 2½ megatons of TNT using the lowest value for speed.

            And with that kind of energy having to go somewhere, you cannot destroy energy, it’s no wonder the ground was so hot afterwards!

    • Hmm. This 72% is the change that it has already happened. That is not the same as the chance it happening this year. There is some issue with the statistics here.

      • I noticed that. I was pondering if they should not have used game theory instead when doing their statistics.

        For the rest… The time of when you buy a lottery ticket (with fixed numbers like scratch tickets) affects the chance of winning. If you buy them on the first day of sales the chance of winning is much lower than if you buy it during the last day. The chance of winning actually changes dramatically.
        So, if you have a volcano with a fixed maximum repose time of let’s say 100 years the winning scratch ticket will be “sold” on the last year unless an eruption has happened previously (someone has scratched it). The math behind the principle is a bit heavy duty, but a simplified concept runs like this. Year one you have one winning ticket and 99 duds. Next year one winning ticket and 98 duds and so on. So the percentage chance increases rapidly.
        Only problem is that no volcano has a set number of scratch tickets so it is a pointless excercise.

        • The question is whether the chance of an eruption increases with time. That is true for earthquakes, where the stress increases over time. Also for geysers. It is not true for throwing dice where what was rolled in the past has no bearing on what will happen next. Volcanoes presumably are a bit of both. GL’s plot of the counts versus time lapsed since last eruption suggests that for this volcano, the chance goes down (not up!) after 1 to a few years since the last eruption, and after that stays constant. So it starts out as a negative geyser (the longer it has stayed quiet, the less dangerous it gets), and than becomes a random throw of the dice each year. The chance of an eruption wold have been about 1% this year, not 72%. Of course the current signs of a possible eruption skew the odds a bit. A bit like insider trading on volcanoes.

          • Yes, the current signals create a magnificent skew. It is like picking a scratch ticket where all of the fields has been scratched showing a win and with only the last left to scratch.

  24. Hi folks. Speaking of all this talk of Lahars and Pyroclastic flows:

    Last saturday i was hiking on the south face of Mt St Helens. It’s the first time i’ve been up on top of the lava flows in this area, which i’ve read are dacite from ~500 years ago. I was struck by how loose the material seemed. There isn’t really a ‘trail’, just a set of markers across the boulder fields, which makes for treacherous footing. Anyways i started thinking about how it seemed the loose material seemed like it should come sliding down the mountain in the case of an eruption, yet it stayed emplaced through the shaking of 1980. It gave me another bit of perspective on how volcanoes can be fickle beasts.

    Here’s a pic looking up St. Helens from the south side.

    Map coords from where this cellphone pic was taken are 46.1566, -122.1696. The crater rim at top is about 2.25 miles distant.

    Edit: “The image (link) cannot be displayed because it contains errors”. Try uploading it to FB, TinyPic, InkFrog or something like that! / Prunelle

          • Erm, the link was the same one in quijebo’s post! I was posting my browser’s message saying that the image at it “can’t be displayed because it contains errors”. If such links are to be “removed for safety reasons” shouldn’t it be removed from quijebo’s post as well? Or better yet, the image reuploaded in non-corrupt form, and the link changed if that couldn’t be done at the original URL.

      • Generally, just post the raw URL (unless it’s mangled by a lot of BS cookie juggling nonsense code), WP will put the formating on it correctly.

        And if not, there be dragons. Well, mostly a dragon, but the dragon master as well.

    • I really like eric’s blog, but normally the comments can be …. less than inspiring. However on this article there’s some worrying claims from someone who says they’re a local: (copy/pasting)

      Ana Jacome • a day ago

      Thanks Erik. The most urgent danger is the lack of an early alarm system in case of mud flow. thousands live in the paths. we dont even have emergency communications systems (a siren that would go off in case of emergency), something we desperately need in case of am eruption. where i live along with thousands, the mud would destroy everything within 30 minutes. there is no system, not enough information, no answers from the authorities. Geologist Dr. Theofilos Toulkeridis will speak this friday at the army university at two pm (coliseo ESPE).

      There are no sirens and as Erik has updated, information is contradictory. we need to demand emergency communication systems.

      we are in the middle of protests againstthe government, for tax reasons and other stuff. it is the worst timing. Dr. Theofilos Toulkeridis will speak tomorrow at an open event and people will collect signatures to demand mitigation infrastructures, an alarm system and so on. we are scared of the lack of political will to do what needs to be done regardless of how the volcano evolves. we are a third world country, a condition that increases the risk.

      If it’s true that they don’t even have a warning siren this could utterly terrible.

  25. Just a comment on getting people to evacuate from danger zone around Cotopaxi.

    Some time back my wife and younger son and I spent 6 weeks exploring Ecuador, by local bus of course.

    We visited Banos (needs tilde on n) where we met an American married to a Quechua. We traveled with them to visit his wife’s parents deep in the Amazon.

    Anyone who has spent a fair amount of time visiting Andean countries and parts of Central America can not help but notice that virtually all homes have windows with bars, no matter how simple the house. Many in Ecuador, and especially Peru have tall walls around their plot with broken glass cemented in the top of the walls and often razor wire which, additionally, is also often electrified too.

    With this in mind, consider what happened in Banos when Volcan Tungurahua, whose steep slopes start at Banos and have some houses on the slopes, started to get dangerously restless. The authorities asked all residents of Banos to leave which they reluctantly did. Only some soldiers were left in Banos to protect property. When the people returned they found many of their homes had been striped of belongings. The people blamed this on the soldiers. You figure.

    Now with this in mind do not be surprised if many people will refuse to comply to leave towns and villages around Cotopaxi when ordered – especially if they do not understand the concept of lahars and pyroclastic flows. Thus, a serious eruption could have very serious consequences in terms of fatalities, indeed.

  26. Another “back to Iceland” question.

    I have had a very, very difficult time finding hiking boots that fit. I finally found a pair that is quite comfortable (a men’s US size 7 1/2 4E). (Dunham Lawrence, by New Balance) They have good ankle support and are “waterproof”, BUT the soles are not very good. The best that can be said about them is that they are “slip resistant”.

    I have also in my possession a wonderfully sturdy pair of Vasque boots with Vibram soles. These are too narrow on one foot (a blister will form but I don’t think the foot will cramp) and the other foot notices they are too long so the foot slips a bit.

    Mostly we’ll be on “the beaten path”, but of course I’ll be out at Holuhraun (taking a helicopter trip; we’ll land there and also a few other places.) Also some hiking around Kfrafla, and we’ll take a super-jeep up to Dynjandi Falls. (There SO isn’t enough time there, but we aren’t in shape to do a whole lot more hiking anyway.)

    What would you bring?

    • Something with good treads on it to keep from slipping on rocks and to lessen impact. What ever you choose, make sure you break them in well before going on a hike of any duration.

    • Put an insole in one boot, put a piece of wood in the other and stretch, for you lava, bring scissors to cut newspaper and zip lock baggies to blow air into, find cookie jar tin.

    • Believe it or not, any Doc Marten’s boot will work great. I worked on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier for 11 years and the “airware” soles on those things, aside from being close to 3/4″ thick, would grip the non-skid on the deck like a gecko. Not once did I slide across the deck with those things on. LOVED THEM. Also, at $125-$150 USD, they seem a bit pricey, BUT – I have two pair, in well-worn condition, for over 20 years now. In both cases, the only “repairs” I have had to do is replace the laces – three times each.

      • I still use a variation on the boots I used on the ship. Same overall design, but made by an actual retailer. My problem is wearing the heels down and getting an odd foot ache from the improper heel strike after it’s worn.

        Steel shank, steel toe.

        As for non-skid, there is not a lot that won’t stick to it. Skin sticks the best. (but really, really hurts)

        • Yeah, the Forrestal, Connie, JFK, TR, Stennis, and Ike all have various portions of me smeared here and there on the deck, to be sure!

          What I always had a problem with when utilizing the issued boots were the hard soles (be it Boondockers, LOX boots, or FDBs). On fresh nonskid, they were fine. But after about 45 days into deployment the ladder lines around the Finger and Fantail aft of the 1 wire, as well as the LA around Cats 3 & 4 would get a nice thin mix layer of hydraulic fluid, JP-5, DFM, MolyB, turbine oil, and concentrated AFFF over the paint and worn skid. It turned GI boots into roller-skates; one good blast from a Tomcat or Intruder/Prowler and you went on a ride! But, those dang *Airwair* soles on Docs just stuck like you were wearing magnets….

          Plus, they were so much more comfortable.

          • On the subject of shoes and feet, I have (and my wife, too) have what is known as “Morton’s Foot.” or “pied de Néanderthal”.. the classic “Roman toe”
            where the big toe is shorter than the middle toe. I inherited my feet from the Native American side of the family. Wife has similar genetics. Always had trouble finding 12EE’s if I find something , I keep it forever, I run over heels like crazy because I favor the outside of my foot. There are insoles that can be ordered over the internet that give support under the big toe metatarsal.
            Celts, Native Americans and some Northern Euro groups have it Wife and i are those groups.
            Neanderthal had it,too, thanks, Granpa Oog, If anyone has such, I recommend those insoles for better fit and comfort..

    • Shoe stretching! I seriously can’t believe I didn’t think of that. I’ve got the tools but I’ve not done it ever because 95% of the time I’m either wearing some type of sandal or ugly slip-on walking shoes that fit. … Shoe stretching should be done w/ a prep. put onto the leather as well as the wedge so I’ll have to check into if that is OK for the boot, but I bet the wedge by itself will work! THANK YOU for stating (what should have been) the obvious.

      Doc Martens doesn’t come in my size. The closest they have is 3E, which, although aptly named, doesn’t appear to have ankle support: (Had to share the link ’cause of the name.)

      And yes, I have a very wide foot. Not to mention short — many men’s shoes don’t add wider widths until they are at size 8.

      • Do you think you will update on your FB page, I’m stuck here with the animals so I will have to “staycation” with you 😀
        I”m so jealous, hope you have a great time even without pouring lava

        • I’d love to write up more than would fit on a FB post, but I doubt I’ll get anything coordinated (since I don’t already have blog space.) I’ve been amazed by some of the blogs I’ve read where the author spent 15 hours travelling / sightseeing in Iceland yet still had time to upload the pics off of 2-3 devices, write text and select which pics to share. Hello? I’m going to be either dealing w/ food, laundry or fast asleep on those days. But we have down days, and, seriously, do you think anyone could *stop* me from sharing on FB? 😀

          • Well, if you wish to do a lengthy write up on your travels, I could recommend a voice recorder. I carry one with me on the road and am able to record my thoughts for later writing when the inclination hits me. As for publishing it on the Internet, we at VC are always interested in things volcanic. A new VC email addy was recently posted, and if that fails, mention it here and I will send you my addy for article submission. Include your photos and I’ll push them to the media side for inclusion in your article.

      • You might be able to get by with a “toe gel pad”. Just a thought but the pad that goes in front in high heel shoes. Or cut and trim anything. In my snow boots I did not like the insole at all, I cut sheepskin to fit, so comfy. Don’t forget glue.

    • Note: Léon nailed it.

      … Sorry about that, it’s sort of my fault. As noted, a “Black Swan” is the ultra rare event, so rare, that it’s not given any chance of actually occurring. At one time, no one had ever seen an actual black swan. They were as a rule, always white. Then someone found out that in certain parts of the world, they were all over the place and were quite common.

      A few years ago, Nicholas Taleb wrote a book about the subject of Black Swans (as we refer to them here). His take on them were that we bring them upon ourselves for relying on predictive models that do not properly account for what we think is ultra rare. For example, the Gaussian distribution was developed as a way to compensate for measurement errors. When you measure something, you will invariably be just above or below the actual measurement by some small amount. Averaging those measurements will give you the central tendency of them and should balance out the errors. Taking that a step further, you can estimate just how often some random measurement of whatever you are looking at will be within certain boundaries related to the average. This is where the classic “Bell Curve” comes from. Later, William Sealy Gosset came up with a way of extending this as a way to determine the characteristics of a population based on a few samples from that population. His work was published under the psuedonym “Student” since his employer Guinness Brewing, didn’t want to leak any information about how they were able to manufacture a consistent product. Had he published under his real name, competitors would have known that was how Guinness was doing it. Talebs issue with the Gaussian distribution is that it doesn’t properly account for the likelihood of extreme outliers. Since based on the math they are so ultra rare, they tend to be ignored.

      By far the best example I can give you is the Japanese Tsunami. Looking at the historical data, you can develop a model of how often you will see a tsunami of a given height. For example, say that a 9 meter tsunami happens 0.001% of the time. If you build your defensive sea walls and protection to deal with that, you are fine. Your investors (who paid for the construction) are happy. 99.999% of the known tsunamis are accounted for and you are protected from them. How about that 23 meter, once in 10 million chance event? Opps. Didn’t build for that.

      Going back to Taleb’s definition of a Black Swan event, If you see it coming and prepare for it, it isn’t a black swan. Swans are ultra rare, are quite profound or catastrophic when they happen, and are explained away after the fact. (if only we had more data or had accounted for “x”.)

      The reason that the topic shows up here on VC is that I am quite enamored with them and yammer about them all the time.

      Carl elaborated on a comment that I made earlier that the guy who predicted a 72% liklihood of eruption this year was using a Weibull distribution. That’s a tactic used to do failure analysis and is quite common in quality control analysis. It’s a bit more advanced than using an integral of the bell curve, a method that is quite suitable if you have all of the data. It will tell you the likelihood of picking a specific value out of a random sample. (again, it’s only highly accurate if you know all of the data points)

      And this is where volcanoes upset the cart. 1st, there is almost no way of knowing all of the data points, and 2nd, fracture mechanics, bubble nucleation, pressure fields, tensile strengths all come together to make a very chaotic system. “Stochastic” And, from the idea of chaos theory, the actual value you are looking for is probably not going to be where you are looking for it. It will be the “strange attractor” that all your measurements and predictions are orbiting in sample space. (No, not some location, just the set of numbers that contain your estimates)

      … yeah, this is the same stuff Jeff Goldblum was yammering about in Jurassic Park. It’s an almost perfect way to stumble over a Black Swan, because invariably, you’re gonna miss something.

      • Probabilities are fun to toy around with! Let’s say that the chance of a meteor landing on the village or town where you live is 1 in 100 million every year (it’s not, but let’s say it is). This means the probability of your town/village NOT being hit is 0.99999999 every year so you won’t ever be hit, right? We-eel…

        Let’s say that there are 10 million human habitations (there are not, but let’s say there are). That’s 0.99999999 to the ten-millionth power that none of them be hit any given year. That works out as a probability of 0.9048 for any given year. Now, what are the chances over the next 25 years of none being hit? 0.082 which means that there’s a 91.8% chance that over the next 25 years, a town or a village will be hit by a meteorite – and it could be yours!

        The point of this exercise is to show that no matter how small the chance is of an event happening at a given location, it’s almost a certainty that it will happen, somewhere, over a period of time that most of us can fathom. That’s why it’s so stupid to base one’s calculations on a single locality and a single year.

  27. The monitoring graphics are offline, both the drumplots and spectrograms. The whole server is offline which hosts them. Could be server overload and/or they are now keeping them private. Which is the reason why I was always uploading them on other servers and then sharing the images here, instead of linking directly and sharing the link.
    They might upgrade servers and it will work again. Or they will just keep it private, and prevent the public from false interpretating the plots and creating panic. Tho that panic might be better at saving lives than what IGEPN is doing.

  28. So, out of curiosity, at what temperature is the boiling point of water, at 19000 feet? I’d think it wouldn’t take to much to boil that high up. Which would explain those steam plumes they have been seeing.

    Released from the Aksimet Dungeon. Eventually Aksimet WILL twig! / Prunelle

      • Metric? NEVER!!! (at least you don’t see us using stones as a unit of mass)

        Besides, how else could we explain missing a planet? (okay, we didn’t miss it, we missed the orbit and cratered the spacecraft)

        HOWEVER. For things science like, unless you are trying to give a passing reader a bit of perspective, metric is preferred.

          • Erm… Just try this mathematical calculation:

            A 14-stone, five pound and tree-and-a-half ounce person requires a continuous injection of medication measured as 1/128th grains per hour. The concentration of the solution is given as 1 grain per avoirdupois pound and the device is engineered to deliver 1 oz at 2½ pounds per square inch per hour with the internal diameter of the needle given as 1/64 inch.

            Would you like to be that patient? :mrgreen:

            • Call NASA. They know how to convert units. Or in the one-in-a-million chance they get it wrong and destroy Mars, try the google search bar.

              The most confusing thing in metric units is the kilogram.

            • How they got to the Moon, let alone into space, would be a mystery had they not “enlisted” the services of Werhner von Braun and his co-workers.

            • At first attempt to launch into space, the rocket (Vanguard 3) made it to about 4 feet (1m) height before coming down again. Maybe this was a unit conversion problem as well? Confusing feet and fathoms?

  29. A quick update from my side, on the seismic signals of the day:
    I mainly use BREF/BHZ station plots, due to the location of the station on the north flank of the volcano and it is the closest station to the crater.

    Mainly the volcano keeps on doing what it was doing for the past few days/weeks. It is still well in the pressurisation mode, evident by many long period/B-type events and intermediate/overlapping volcanic tremor. Sometimes its hard to seperate the two when they are overlaped, since it is normal for a volcanic system in this stage to have two or more different events that happen at a similar time at different locations, but all get plotted overlapped.
    Otherwise, the main difference today, or differences since they were two, were first that the tremor amplitude was a bit lower than in the past 2 weeks. I first thought that it is just due to the plot scaling, but I later confirmed it on the median filtered tremor plot. Now such fluctiations of activity are completely normal in volcanic systems in such state as this one is. Just remember the mind games Pinatubo was playing on USGS/PVO. 😀 So this doesnt mean that the system is generally calming down, since IMHO, it would take a small miracle or a reversed black swan mode to get this volcanic system back into a state of equlibrium without a surface magmatic eruption. Just my opinion tho.
    The other difference was that there were more A-type events or magma-tectonic quakes, due to rock breaking as the magma rises closer to the surface, or spreading out and around, since a volcanic system is not just one big ball of magma chamber an a single vent straight up at 90°. 😀 Just my opinion tho.
    So you see, that despite tremor being a bit lower today, but still well present and way above background levels, there was more rock breaking, probably resulting by magma moving closer to the surface.

    Just my opinion/interpretation as a novice / amateur. A year and a half ago, I didnt know the difference between magma and lava. 😀 So feel free to correct me in any point.


    • The only issue that I have is that the celebritards have come out in force, glomming onto the latest Church shooting in the Carolinas. It seems that not a single one can keep their mouth shut, it’s all about them and how they feel. Starved for attention, they have to spew whatever vitriol they can about whatever the subject du jour happens to be,

      I turned the channel and watched golf for a few minutes… and I hate golf, it’s like watching paint dry. At least they had Mt Ranier in the background.

      … full contact golf might be interesting. Let the competitors start at each end of the course and meet in the middle. Whoever completes wins. The caddy would be tasked with recommending irons as well as placing land mines, claymores and trip-wires. You could even send him ahead to ensure that the fairway ahead was clear.

      (I gave up in golf after bouncing a ball through base housing on a bad slice. With the players as obnoxious as hell, I think the greens would be better served if they used them as pasture. Save the money on clubs by buying a goat or a good dog to watch the goat.)

      • Sorry, no ulterior motive, they just tick me off. For the most part, I’ve given up on watching TV, other than heckling “Vodka Bob” on the afternoon news. He still carries that “holier than thou” attitude and evidently didn’t learn anything from his arrest. One day karma is gonna bend him over and make him scream.

        As for your analysis, it seems quite appropriate.

        • Wait a sec, werent you talking about my analysis “in between the lines”? 😀

        • Not at all. I don’t do nuanced stuff worth a hoot. I tend to be direct and abrasive. Nuance can get you in trouble when you tell someone to do something. In my opinion, it’s best to clearly state your meaning.

          Besides, the only thing that would be better than full contact golf would be full contact baseball, where the batter gets to keep (and use) the bat as he makes the bases. Direct assault of the basemen would be illegal, but in all cases the ball would be a valid target, no matter where it’s at or who is holding it (including the umpire) Last team standing wins.

            • …in my own mind, maybe.

              Perhaps they could just field all of the batters at the same time. That would tend to keep the outfield on their toes as the extra batters charge out to block the catch, bats in hand.

              Their goal would be to keep the ball in play. No direct assault allowed.

              Failing my fictitious change of the rules of baseball, how about dismissing with the supposition and just impose a three drink minimum for the umpires between innings? By the seventh inning, things would really get interesting.

              This particular umpire got nailed by a line drive and is (likely) not drunk. Just injured.

              The source site infers that he got hit in the groin and was down for about 10 minutes. You get hit there by a 141.75 to 148.83 g projectile doing well over 100 mph (44 m/s), you’re gonna know it.

          • Baseball is the equivalent of a certain book that Mark Twain termed chloroform in print. I used to turn on the radio when young and listen to baseball I would fall asleep right away. lol

            • Collegiate Softball is pretty fun to watch… for a guy. But then I’m not watching for the astounding plays. I just want to see the batter round the bases. Some of those Sports Bras are amazing… others, not so much. 😀

  30. And back to Iceland, sorry no screenshots to share … Anyone keeping an eye on Vat and Is that tremor I see at 4.20am? If so, there was a bunch of them yesterday spread out over an hour our so. Can’t see anything similar nearby so just wondering what I’m looking at – you’d think by now I would have learned! 😉

        • This begs the question: why do those ice cauldrons exist? From the IMO pic in the link I gave it looks like they are on the same line as the Fögrufjöll fissure. For the cauldrons to fill regularly, does this mean the fissure is always geothermally active there? Also, if they are from the Fögrufjöll fissures that would put it in the Hamarinn system. I read that the Hamarinn system is “within the Bárðarbunga fissure system, but is independent of Bárðarbunga itself.”
          How can something be within the system but independent?

      • Actually HAM and HUS stations have had tremoring signals today, and some low freq events, almost like quasi B-types.

        • Forgot to add HAM. The signals are on more stations and are not necessarily a result of activity at the station.

          HUS is a station S of Hammarin and SW of Grimsvotn. HAM is actually a station at Hammarin.
          I suspect that all the recent activity is due to the hydrothermal activity under Vatnajokull.

  31. Hi, just came across this post. Very interesting, although quite worrying too for me. I’m due to head to Quito on 25th June to climb Cotopaxi with a large group as part of a charity challenge. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for the latest updates as it does seem like things are being played down so as not to alert anyone.

    • Climbing Cotopaxi at this stage, would be very unwise. I would not reccomend approaching it within few km.

      • I would tend to agree with you based on the discussion and evidence presented above. The information I’m getting from the organisers of my trip is that the volcano is on white alert and they have people monitoring it over there. Apparently the travel company organising the trip have a back-up plan in place too.

    • What you ultimately choose to do is of course your prerogative and I wish you the very best of luck. That said, there is possibility that you will not be allowed on the mountain and if it is so, count it as a blessing. Like you say, to pay close attention to the bulletins of IG-EPN is wise – if you still choose to go ahead.

      • Hi K Z, I checked your link to Cotopaxi, moving to cameras the shots show the current date and UTC value and seem to wizz by at 15 min intervals. However the bottom shot shows a warehouse or something and also shows an image of a camion moving below but its progression does not fit a fifteen minute interval unless it is traveling at a snails pace.

        Anyways the cameras appear to give fairly fresh images of the Cotopaxi area- unless I am reading some thing wrong.

  32. Like I said in my overnight post, the lowered activity of the day does not necessarily mean that the activity is calming down generally.
    And like the volcano would hear me, now the low and mid-high tremor is on the increase, signalling another phase of activity beneath the surface. This phasing is normal for a system in such a state, with of course Pinatubo being the best example.
    The strongest signals come from 0.5-1.5hz range and in 6-7hz range. Also there is a slight increase in the 3.5-5.8hz range. Now this “bimodal” signal is interesting, but in my personal interpretation, the low frequency signal is magma movement, while the higher freq signal is possibly due to pressurisation of the volcano due to magma gases and steam. This higher freq signal did lag a bit compared to the low freq signal, so lets say kinda that the magma started to move and then the higher freq pressurisation signal appeared. If this were to continue for a certain period and further escalate, I would not be surprised to see a Phreatic detonation.

    I made a composite of 4 plots, the spectrogram, showing nicely the frequency ranges, two median filtered plots of tremor and infrasound, which both show this last uptick of activity, and of course the dumplots showing the actual tremor. The infrasound frequencies are on the highest sustained level since the onset of the activity.

    Images are courtesy of IGEPN.

    • The tremor continues. The BTAM station is E of the cone and lower down than BREF which is closer to the cone and on the north flank. So even tho the TAM station does not really record as much or any higher frequencies, it really nicely captures the lower freq tremor of magma movement. Looks like the higher freqs are further up in the cone, and on the northern side where it looks like the main pressurisation is occurring, since that is also the area of deformation.

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