Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Update on the Uturuncu, Bolivia, Volcano

I had recently included a post that referenced a volcano at Uturuncu, Bolivia. (See here). I decided to see if there was anything more to report, and came across this discussion of recent earthquakes at that volcano and the results of seismic studies. The conclusion:
Should we be worried by the seismicity? To answer that question we need to first know if the seismicity is unusual, for either Uturuncu or other similar volcanoes. It is difficult to say what is normal for Uturuncu. There have only been two previous seismic surveys, one in 1996-1997 and one in 2003. As none of these used the same methods or stations, comparisons are also difficult, however it appears there has been little change in the seismicity for the last 14 years. Looking further afield, this style seismicity doesn't seem that unusual at large volcanoes, and doesn't necessarily precede an eruption.

It is becoming clear that magma injection, like what is currently happening at Uturuncu, often occurs before an eruption. Indeed, it is likely that it triggers some eruption. However, the injection of magma doesn't always lead to eruption at the surface. We don't have enough experience of eruptions of this sort to really tell what is going to happen. While an eruption of Uturuncu is not going to lead to the end of the world, especially as it is so remote, it could still cause us problems. I wouldn't loose too much sleep over it, but it is definitely a volcano to watch closely.

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