Canary Island Volcano Continues To Erupt After Two Weeks

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The Cumbre Vieja volcano eruption is causing extensive damage in La Palma (Credit: INVOLCAN.org)

La Palma, one of Spain's Canary Islands, has been feeling the wrath of the Cumbre Vieja volcano since September 19, 2021. The explosive volcano, which came to life shortly after 3:00 pm local time, has been spewing out large amounts of molten lava, sometimes up to 20 feet (6 meters) high. The slow-moving rivers of magma have destroyed nearly 400 homes, buried dozens of kilometers of roads, and consumed hundreds of acres of farmland.

On Tuesday, September 28, 2021, the Canary Islands Volcanic Institute confirmed that the lava had started pouring into the Atlantic Ocean. Officials fear that the magma's interaction with the cold water will release toxic gases and small particles. They are asking area residents to stay indoors and keep their windows closed. Scientists are also concerned that the chemical reactions between the lava and water may result in powerful underwater explosions.

Experts are unsure when Cumbre Vieja, or "Old Summit," will calm down. La Palma's Teneguía volcano, which came alive in 1971, remained active for more than three weeks. "The only way to know is to know the total volume of eruptible magma under Cumbre Vieja," says Pablo J. González, a physical volcanologist at the Spanish National Research Council. "That piece of information is unknown."

The only silver lining is that no lives have been lost yet. Cumbre Vieja provided plenty of warning — in the form of 20,000 small earthquakes — during the week leading up to the first eruption. This, together with the magma's slow pace, has allowed officials to safely evacuate the over 6,000 residents in its path.

The massive volcanic eruption was captured in an image by NASA's Landsat 8 satellite (Credit: Earthobservatory.NASA.gov)

La Palma is among the smallest of the main eight volcanic islands in Spain's Canary Islands archipelago, which is strung along Africa's northwestern coast. The largely rural community of 85,000 residents depends on crops like bananas, avocados, and grapes for its livelihood. Unfortunately, the lava has buried many plantations and left thousands homeless. While it may take months, or perhaps even a few years, to recover from the destruction, the Spanish government has promised to do everything it can to help.

"The people of La Palma should rest assured that we have all the resources and emergency personnel necessary," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said after meeting the local officials on September 19, 2021.

Stay Strong, La Palma!

Resources: elpais.com, Smithsonianmag.com, NPR.com,

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135 Comments
  • aradousky
    aradousky2 days
    wow
    • aradousky
      aradousky2 days
      did not see that coming
    • xxwarrircatsxx
      i hope everyone is not hurt.
      • alma_824
        alma_8244 days
        I hope nobody was hurt.
        • lizzygrenne
          i have to use this for my current event for school
          • sheshe789
            sheshe7897 days
            I feel so bad for the people in La Palma! I wish them good luck but I hope it doesn’t spread out more into the water!
            • haiii
              haiii7 days
              omg
              • pickypat
                pickypat8 days
                Hope it doesn't end like Pompeii! #StaySafe 🌋
              • queeni
                queeni9 days
                imagine if you were in the house and did not know what was going on and died.
                • danganronpa_fan
                  That's so sad, I feel really bad for the people that had to go through that. :(
                  • pink_fox11
                    pink_fox1110 days
                    i hate the mental image of me and my family and my house in a situation like this. It would be so scary!!!