Cumbre Vieja Volcano Eruption Continues to Pose Threat to Locals

Cumbre Vieja Volcano Eruption Continues to Pose Threat to Locals

Thomas Yoon, Staff Writer

On September 19, the Cumbre Vieja volcano of Spanish La Palma island erupted for the first time in 50 years.

Despite the mountain displaying notable precursors to the impending eruption including an earthquake of approximately 3.8 magnitude, the residents of La Palma remained largely unprepared when facing the eruption. Nearly 7000 residents and tourists were forced to evacuate their homes and villages as the lava descended down the mountain and engulfed the surrounding areas (VoA). The report from early November 7th regarding the damage to the island’s infrastructure revealed that 2722 buildings along with 70km of road have been destroyed (AS News). In fact, the sheer weight of the immense amount of volcanic ashes was more than enough to demolish a number of greenhouses throughout the island (AccuWeather).

Amidst the chaos, lava bombs were spotted rolling down the street of Cabeza de Vaca, the southern province of the island. Lava bombs are circular/oval masses of molten rock ejected from volcanoes that cool before they hit the ground. Not only can they inflict severe damage with the impact upon reaching the residential areas, but they can also occasionally explode due to internal gas pressure generated as they cool. Geochemist/petrologist Harri Geiger visited the site of Cumbre Vieja’s eruption and captured a dangerous yet unique scene that not many people can witness throughout their lives. In the video he uploaded on Twitter, a lava bomb that has not fully hardened is rapidly rolling down the ash-covered street like a snowball (Harri Geiger’s Twitter). At first sight, the lava bomb doesn’t look big because the video was taken from a long distance, but the close-up picture next to a person reveals the enormous size of the lava bomb. Even though the lava bomb may appear to be fascinating, the threat that these lava bombs pose to the residents is great.

Fortunately, however, Cumbre Vieja’s volcanic activities are unlikely to have a long-term impact on the local climate. According to NASA’s Earth observatory, although the plumes reached 1-2 miles in altitude, it was not “energetic enough” to deliver large amounts of ashes and gases to the stratosphere, which would have resulted in “strong and lasting effects on weather and climate” (NASA). Experts believe that Cumbre Vieja may continue to expel lava until December. The desperate residents of La Palma island are craving to return to normal life and activities. Some farmers are struggling to obtain a water supply that was cut off due to the eruption, while others are attempting to search for new homes since the molten streams of lava demolished their homes (Sky News). It would be essential for people around the world to be aware of those suffering from the effects of natural disasters and provide necessary medical and financial aid.