The La Palma volcano experienced yesterday the most powerful energy episode of the last month. During the central hours of the day, strong intensification pulses were recorded in the tremor and the expulsion of volcanic bombs increased on the eastern slope. The volcanic episode of the Isla Bonita marks 86 days today since the beginning of the eruption and yesterday it registered a "sudden and overwhelming" reactivation, with strong explosions that could be heard at a great distance and a huge ash column that rose to about five kilometers altitude, which left behind impressive images.
The seismologist of the National Geographic Institute (IGN), Itahiza Domínguez, explained that it is the most energetic episode of the last month, although it does not reach the magnitudes of the explosions that occurred at the beginning of the volcanic crisis last September. In any case, he explained that in recent times a more irregular activity of the volcano has been observed, which invites us to think that more explosions such as the one experienced yesterday will occur in the next few days.
High levels of gases make access to Las Manchas, Las Norias and La Bombilla impossible
Sunday day at the volcano started with very little activity and little by little it increased with the volcanic tremor until around 1:00 p.m. the energy pulse was produced that made the ash column rise to about five kilometers in altitude. When this episode ended, there was a "significant decrease in tremor", a situation that had not been experienced since last September 27, when it stopped completely. From that moment on, the normal activity of the volcano began to recover in recent days.
This energetic episode caused yesterday that the scientific teams that were working in the area had to withdraw to stay safe, although throughout the afternoon they were able to resume their activity in the exclusion zone. Despite this, the levels of gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide reached in recent days are "very high" at certain times and harmful to health. This is why the technical director of the Emergency Plan for Volcanic Risk of the Canary Islands (Pevolca), Miguel Ángel Morcuende, recalled that most days people living in the neighborhoods of Las Manchas, Las Norias and La Bombilla cannot access to their houses to clean them of ashes.
The plume reaches 1,400 meters and the scenario will be favorable for aerial operations
The scientific spokesperson for Pevolca, María José Blanco, reported that before the energy pulse the roar of the volcano also stopped after 36 hours with a "fairly quiet" activity. Increased activity also produced a small northward spillover of pre-existing runoff that runs over previous runs. In this regard, Morcuende indicated that an "important" lava outflow was observed which, although it runs through previous flows, is being monitored by the Military Emergency Unit (UME) to obtain more data. María José Blanco added that the most active stream falls in two branches on the low island in the area of Las Hoyas and it is producing some spills to the south in areas that, like Las Norias, had not previously been affected by lava.
The other emission centers of the main cone are very little active, although they register a very intense gas expulsion. In this sense, Blanco predicted that the volcanic plume, which has reached 1,400 meters, will continue to face south-southwest, which presents a favorable scenario for aeronautical operations in the next few hours. He added that this situation is likely to continue until tomorrow, which is when a turn of the wind is expected to occur, to which the haze will be added that will contribute to increasing the pm10 values. That same day, locally moderate rainfall is also expected, mainly in the north and east of La Palma.
Regarding the flows, María José Blanco said yesterday during the press conference that number nine has experienced a slight widening towards the south, an area that, at least until just before the tremor intensified, was the one that was receiving most of the energy coming from the cone through, fundamentally, lava tubes with several jameos.
Seismicity remains low on the island of La Palma, with a maximum magnitude in the last hours of 3.2 at a depth of 36 kilometers and the tremor is also at low levels, while there is general stability in the deformations of the ground. Regarding gases, a high level of sulfur dioxide was reached on Saturday, although it continues to decrease since September. However, "relatively high" values of diffuse CO2 flux have been recorded in the La Bombilla area and the presence of dead birds has been observed, said Miguel Ángel Morcuende.
The air quality, in relation to sulfur dioxide, during the weekend ranged between good and very unfavorable levels in Tazacorte, where the values have been decreasing. Poor air quality was also recorded in Puntagorda and in Los Llanos de Aridane very unfavorable levels were reached, while particles smaller than pm10 have been decreasing. In any case, the Pevolca recalls the need to continue complying with the Special Plan for Civil Protection and Emergency Attention for Volcanic Risk for the Red Traffic Light situation and mandatory evacuation.
So far, in total there are 547 people housed in hotels on La Palma and 43 dependents in social health centers. 1,188 hectares affected by the volcanic eruption and the deltas have 48.5 hectares, while the maximum width between flows remains at 3,350 meters.
For its part, there is 1,642 buildings destroyed, among which are 1,314 homes for private use, according to data from the cadastre. However, the Copernicus satellite has counted 3,046 buildings or constructions destroyed by the lava.