Mother Nature in a country like Costa Rica is unpredictable. And, therefore, it makes it difficult to predict if at some point we will endure eruptions similar to those that caused a wake of death and destruction in Guatemala in the last few days.
The Fuego volcano, located 50 kilometers from Guatemala’s capital city, Guatemala City and at a height of 3,700 meters (12,140 feet), produced a series of powerful eruptions that buried entire villages and left more than 70 dead.
A clear example of what can be in Costa Rica was the eruption of the Arenal volcano in July 1968, with a deadly and destructive balance in its surroundings. Or, what happened in the Rincon de la Vieja, thousands of years ago.
“All the volcanoes in Central America are formed by the subduction zone. Because the Cocos plate gets under the Caribbean plate. That’s why we have active volcanoes throughout the region. That binds again, because they have a very explosive and gas-rich magma,” explained Raúl Mora, volcanologist at the Universidad Estatal a Distancia (UNED).
According to the geologist, all Costa Rican volcanos are capable of generating pyroclastic flows and waves. However, the most recent ones did not have the magnitude – not by any means – that the Fuego volcano presented on Sunday.
“Costa Rica is a country full of active volcanos that can generate this type of activity. The difference is that most of these volcanoes are national parks, with safety perimeters where people cannot build. In the case of Arenal there is already a restriction on land use and in Turrialba we want to do the same,” said Mora.
Experts insist that monitoring devices installed in national volcanos are not infallible and eruptive events cannot be predicted either. However, the culture of risk and prevention rooted in the Costa Rican system is a point in favor.
Though volcanos look alike, but there is no such thing as two volcanos the same.
“The Fuego volcano is the most active in Central America and the eruption on Sunday proves it. It has had activity since colonial times, for in 1542 the first Spaniards who came to the area described the eruptions. Unlike our volcanos that for reasons of individuality are calmer, but they had their violent past,” concluded Mora.
But of importance (of possible eruptions), of note are:
It will be 50 years since the great eruption of 1968. It generated pyroclastic flows and waves that killed dozens of people and hundreds of cattle heads. It was an eruption greater than that of the Fuego volcano. The colossus is currently in a period of rest, so to speak.
The Arenal Volcano is an active andesitic stratovolcano in north-western Costa Rica, some 135 km from San Jose. The Arenal volcano measures at least 1,633 meters (5,358 ft) high. It is conically shaped with a crater 140 meters (460 ft) in diameter. Geologically, Arenal is considered a young volcano and it is estimated to be less than 7,500 years old.
In April 2017 it generated phreatomagmatic eruptions, with pyroclastic flows and waves. The waves, which are more gas than rock, affected the tourists viewpoint and burned surrounding vegetation. They were small pyroclastic flows and waves that were concentrated in the crater and surroundings.
The Poás Volcano is an active 2,708 meter (8,885 ft) stratovolcano. It has erupted 40 times since 1828, including April 2017. The volcano is 48 km from San Jose (32 km from the San Jose airport).
The Poas National Park continues closed, with a possible re-opening in the coming months.
It produced important eruptions in the 60s. There are deposits in the tourist viewpoint that show that it has generated pyroclastic waves. The waves are characterized by having more gas, instead of rocks. They were not as great as those of the Fuego or El Arenal volcano.
The Irazú is an active volcano close to the city of Cartago, some 31 km and 55 km from San Jose. At 3,432 metes (11,260 feet), the Irazú Volcano is the highest active volcano in Costa Rica.
In May 2016, it generated a pyroclastic surge. Also, a pyroclastic flow was formed that managed to overcome the ring of the active crater and began to be emplaced by the slope that goes to La Central. It was the last time there was something like this in the Central Volcanic Mountain Range.
The Turrialba, a stratovolcano, is 3,340 m (10,958 ft) high and is 64 km from San Jose.
Turrialba is adjacent to Irazú and both are among Costa Rica’s largest volcanoes. Turrialba has had at least five large explosive eruptions in last 3500 years. On clear days both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea can be seen from the summit.
Rincon de la Vieja
Since 2017 it has been quite active, with similar events with minor pyroclastic flows and waves.
The Rincón de la Vieja (from Spanish, “The Old Woman’s Corner”) standing at 1,916 meters (6,286 ft) is an active andesitic complex volcano in north-western Costa Rica, about 23 km from Liberia, in the province of Guanacaste and 269 km from San Jose
What are pyroclastic flows or waves?
A pyroclastic flow (also known as a pyroclastic density current or a pyroclastic cloud) is a fast-moving current of hot gas and volcanic matter (collectively known as tephra) that moves away from a volcano reaching speeds of up to 700 km/h (430 mph) and temperatures above 700 ° Celsius
Although at present no Costa Rican volcano has shown this type of activity, in the past there are records about the emanation of pyroclastic flows and waves.