July 7, 2011 in Washington Voices

Volcanic activity may be on the rise

Randy Mann
 

The Chilean Puyehue-Cordon- Caulle volcano was erupting last month and caused numerous flight and travel delays. The volcano is about 550 miles south of Santiago, Chile’s capital.

Officials warn that another eruption is possible soon. A new cork of lava has emerged that prohibits lava flows. The cork is building up pressure that may eventually lead to another explosion.

During the eruption of June 4 and beyond, a huge cloud of ash circled the globe and disrupted flights in from South America to New Zealand. More than 3,500 people living near the base of the volcano were evacuated, and tourists were warned to avoid southern Chile and parts of western Argentina. Thick clouds of ash that rose to levels more than 10 miles high in the atmosphere during the early big eruption.

A “rift” has been torn in the earth’s crust that’s more than 6 miles long and 3 miles across. Since June 4, there have been more than 400 earthquakes in southern Chile. Fortunately, they have been mostly minor tremors, at least thus far.

The Puyehue volcano last erupted in 1960, the same year that a deadly earthquake hit Chile, killing thousands of people.

Chile’s chain of nearly 3,000 volcanoes is the world’s second largest after Indonesia, where there have been several large eruptions in the past two decades. About 500 of Chile’s volcanoes are active. There have been at least 60 major eruptions in Chile in the past 500 years, 12 in the past 70 .

If the next eruption is big enough, it’s possible that global temperatures would cool. Earth’s temperature did fall about 1 degree Fahrenheit following the June 16, 1991, eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines.

It seems that volcanic activity may be starting to increase once again. A volcano in central Indonesia erupted Sunday. The active volcano in Iceland is also expected to explode in the near future. And new research has verified that western Victoria in Australia is overdue for a major eruption.

In terms of our local weather, it seems we’re now in the pattern of sunny days and warm afternoons. I still see lots of 90-degree days later in July through early September. Precipitation amounts should be less than normal in the region into early October as La Niña, the cooler than normal sea-surface temperature event, has died off.

The upcoming fall should be a bit drier and warmer than usual. I don’t expect to see nearly as much snow for the winter of 2011-12 as weather patterns are looking to be very different. Stay tuned.

Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrange weather.com.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email