Volcano Erupts In Costa Rica, Turrialba’s Biggest In 150 Years

Costa Rica’s Turrialba Volcano started erupting Wednesday night, covering cars and homes in ash in the nation’s capital of San Jose. Turrialba Volcano is located in the northeast of the Cartago province. Although, the current eruption is Turrialba’s largest in 150 years according to the National Seismological Network, no injuries have been reported.

According to the Tico Times, volcano watchers at the University of Costa Rica first noticed a spike in seismographic readings Wednesday night at 11:10 PM. The smoke spilling out from the volcano’s fumarole reached several hundred meters high.

Volcano expert Raul Mora discussed his observations with local Costa Rican television.

“We saw fiery explosions. We must confirm whether it was lava or burning material that fell so spectacularly.”

Turrialba Volcano In Costa Rica
Turrialba Volcano In Costa Rica

The Civil Aviation Administration in Costa Rica advised airplanes to not come within 32 kilometers (20 miles) of the eruption site and stay above 5.8 kilometers (~18,000 feet) if in the area. No flights have yet been grounded, but Civil Aviation Director Álvaro Vargas warned that more preventative measures could be taken as the situation develops. Officials are still investigating the situation on the ground.

Luckily, Turrialba gives a warning far in advance.

The volcano began unusual activity in 2010, giving people about four years to evacuate. As a result, only 11 people required emergency assistance to get out of the area.

Last year in July, Turrialba started a new fit of high activity, giving volcanologists in Costa Rica more than enough work to do. For that month, researchers recorded an average of 20 earthquakes per day, with a high point of 30 in an hour.

The Costa Rican government fears that Turrialba’s eruption could trigger two other volcanoes, the Poas and the Rincon de la Vieja, and has issued an alert for travelers to avoid those mountains.

The last time the Turrialba erupted with this much force was about 1863, long before the modern state of Costa Rica; an eruption that didn’t completely stop for three years.

With news of threatening lava flows in Hawaii and the Bárðarbunga volcano in Iceland, the most recent eruption in Costa Rica might make it seem like volcanic activity is on the rise.

However, according to Oregon State University, the scientific consensus is that volcanoes haven’t been erupting more, it’s just that media coverage has increased.

“Nearly every inch of the Earth is now monitored by many satellites so volcanic activity occurring in even very remote areas, with little or no population, is instantly reported to volcano monitoring agencies.”

Still, with the human population continuing to grow, the same level of volcanic activity affects human society far more in modern times than it did hundreds of years ago. The people of Iceland recognize that fact as they enter the 8th week of the eruption of the Bárðarbunga volcano.

As for Turrialba, Costa Rica will have to watch and wait to see how bad the eruption will be.

[Images: Twitter and Fbolanos/Wikimedia Commons]