Chaitén volcano still going strong – more ash and aerosols

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The Chaitén volcano is maintaining its eruptive activity unabated.

Yesterday, the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia (ONEMI) reported that military personnel in Chaitén ‘perceived loud noises coming from the volcano, abundant ashfalls and electrical discharges around the top of the mountain’. Heavy cloud cover and rainfall prevented observation of the eruption cloud. The ONEMI bulletin also confirms earlier reports that 90% of the town of Chaitén is flooded.

‘This further activitation of the volcano is a situation that is really worrying us’, Sergio Galilea, Intendente of the Los Lagos Region, told Reuters on Thursday. The Reuters article describes the volcano as having ‘increased its activity, with frequent small earthquakes’, and quotes Miguel Munoz of ONEMI: ‘pyroclastic flows are continuing, and there is a more pronounced emission of ash’. A report from TV Canal 13 observes that ‘There’s nothing encouraging in the picture from Chaitén’, with ‘heavy rains and floods nearly destroying the place, on top of increased activity from the erupting volcano’.

New reports came in from Chile’s Oficina Nacional de Emergencia today – a change in wind direction has brought ashfall to areas west of the volcano that have hitherto been spared:

The eruptive process continues at Chaitén volcano. The volcano itself could not be observed today because of the cloud cover in the area.

Since late yesterday a light ashfall has been occurring in some sectors of Chiloé Island, principally affecting the islands of Butacheque, Metaluf, Quenac and Tac and the communes of Quemchi, Achao, Castro, Chonchi and Queilen. Municipal teams are distributing masks in the sectors concerned.

According to information from the Meteorological Directorate of Chile this situation will continue until the early hours of tomorrow morning, Friday 16 May. The orientation of the wind to the north-east and later to the east has been partly responsible for the carrying of ash into these areas. During the morning the Chaitén area will experience cloud cover and rain.

The areas of Chiloé Island being affected by the ashfall are all towns, villages and small islands on the Chiloé Island east coast. The Dirección Meteorológica de Chile, to judge from their forecast for the Los Lagos region (PDF) expects predominantly northerly winds to continue today, along with yet more rain, which does not bode well for the already lahar-engulfed town of Chaitén.

NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image on May 10, 2008:

Chaiten Volcano Erupts Image. Caption explains image.

Click here to view high-resolution version (2.67MB)

I’ve no new imagery showing the wind reversal as of posting time. If anyone knows of one please advise. (h/t to the Volcanism Blog and Gary Galrud)

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Brian D
May 16, 2008 2:35 pm

I check here daily for visible sat images.(visible-norte Patagonia)
You can go here for small visible image loops.(Volacanes)
The 10th of May is the last good image. Been real cloudy there.

John F. Pittman
May 16, 2008 2:45 pm

Could we repost the Antartic volcano or even better the Circum-Pacific Belt at the Antartic with recent geothermal activity? I could not find a good graphic showing CPB in the Antartic. I wonder if it could be shown that the melting around the Archipelago is geothermic. Perhaps already dicussed.

Brian D
May 16, 2008 6:04 pm

Chaiten may be getting ready for another good belch.
Saturday 17th May 2008
Chaitén Volcano, Chile
Continuous eruptions are occurring at Chaitén volcano in Chile. The airfield at Chaitén town has been covered by ash and water, and is currently not able to be used. Ash and pumice is floating northwards along the Chile coast. The bay near Chaitén contains run-off from rivers with a milky-green colour. A large amount of sediment has blocked river channels, and lahars will continue to overflow river edges. Over the past two days there has been a marked change in seismic activity at the volcano. Earthquake swarms indicate fracturing of the main conduit, and possible ascent of magma towards the surface. Increasing pressure from magma is creating a potential explosion hazard, and collapse of the dome, generating pyroclastic flows.

May 16, 2008 8:31 pm

Check the latest translated from Spanish data at
I see that the USGS volcano disaster squad is on its way. They will get there just after the dome collapses and the final eruption occurs – as usual.
I think I would rather be more worried about that giant ice and snow covered volcano Michinmahuida just a few kilometers away from Chaiten. The initial seismic activity indicated that the eruption had taken place there. It was a little bit unexpected that Chaiten – considered almost extinct had been the eruption site.
Interesting to note that the US expert who had studied the previous Chaiten eruption 9000 years ago noted that this area did not produce that much SO2 in its eruption ejecta and as such even if there was another large event where the ejecta reached the Troposphere it would not have much of an effect on global weather.
The one thing that I notice is that although there are so many experts with PHD’s, Doctorates in Geology, geophysics or volcanology, none can tell us accurately what is going to happen or when. Or to put it another way, as Alan Sullivan puts it over at Fresh Bilge – This eruption is without modern precedent. Volcanology is new territory here.
Some Spanish speaking geophysist or volcanologist checked out the seismic data and concluded that Chaiten and Michinmahuida were linked underneath.
His translations appeared early on in the eruption but I haven’t seen them since. Anybody able to verify this?

May 16, 2008 9:03 pm

Thanks Brian D. for the links. The loops much more clearly show how extensive the ash distributions is. I was also able to get more out of the Terra image after seeing the loops.
In answer to Beano’s question about the link between the two volcanoes I would venture a guess that there is a reasonable probability that they both could share a magma source at depth. I doubt they would share a magma chamber closer to the surface though.
I noted in an earlier post that the terrain surrounding Chaiten did not appear to be that which typically surrounds strato volcanoes. My guess then was that perhaps Chaiten was a newer eruptive center.

May 16, 2008 10:55 pm

FWIIW, I don’t think the final eruptive event is imminent. Not enough earthquakes for one thing.
And if you want to scare yourself with how bad it could be, read this.

David Walton
May 17, 2008 2:12 pm

If this keeps up the Chaitén volcano may end up having a bigger carbon footprint than Madonna and Al Gore combined.

May 17, 2008 4:31 pm

Chaitén Volcano…
Hat Tip to Watts Up With That? (additional information in comments)Excellent satellite loop of Chaitin Volcano:

May 17, 2008 9:57 pm

I’ve got a funny feeling that this thing is emptying 9000 years of buildup, and when it’s empty and the cauldera collapses…. Krakatau time….

Pierre Gosselin
May 18, 2008 2:41 am

Is the nitrogen footprint coming next?

John West
May 18, 2008 11:28 am

There’s a very interesting report on Bloomberg about the man who owns this volcano. Yes, that’s right, owns. He’s Douglas Tompkins, the founder of North Face, Inc. Read “Chile Volcano Ravages North Face Founder’s $50 Million Reserve” at

May 18, 2008 8:49 pm

That is interesting.
However I fail to see the effect go beyond the local region because the eruptive plume does not appear to be going high enough to get spread far and wide.It has to penetrate the upper TROPOSPHERE level before it can be carried around the world.
Can anyone shed more information about it?

May 18, 2008 9:00 pm

Ok here is more on the volcano:
Chaiten Volcano: Videos, Pictures, Map, News and Background
Chaiten Volcano Summary:
On Friday, May 2, 2008, Chaiten Volcano in southeastern Chile erupted for the first time since about 7400 BC. Its initial eruption produced a plume of volcanic ash and steam that rose nearly 17 kilometers high. Winds carried the plume east, over the Andes Mountains and into Argentina. The plume then drifted out over the over the Atlantic Ocean. It was visible on satellite images for hundreds of kilometers over the Atlantic.
This is a fantastic website covering the eruption in detail.

Gary Gulrud
May 19, 2008 7:59 am

“It has to penetrate the upper TROPOSPHERE level before it can be carried around the world”
SERNAGEOMIN: The column exceeded 100K ft on four brief occasions prior to 5/12 and had ejected 2km^3 for a VEI of 5, but only some 10^3 tons of SO2.
The injection of ash and SO2 into the ‘stratosphere’ would have a cooling effect were the eruption at lower latitude. The one caveat here is the jet stream overlies Chaiten at this time effectively distributing the ash.

Jeff Alberts
May 19, 2008 10:02 am

here’s a very interesting report on Bloomberg about the man who owns this volcano. Yes, that’s right, owns. He’s Douglas Tompkins, the founder of North Face, Inc.

So his company can be sued for damages?

Gary Gulrud
May 21, 2008 10:57 am

By way of the ‘Volcanism Blog’ a story on Toba’s last eruption:
Just Monday a 5.8 earthquake occurred at its location. All right, I’m reaching.

Gary Gulrud
May 29, 2008 10:22 am

Earthquakes an hour north of Chaiten.
Interesting delay in reporting by USGS.

Chance Metz
May 30, 2008 7:03 am

hmm,usually it takes a few mintues for a report to come out to their website.

July 14, 2008 6:32 pm

[…] Tip to Watts Up With That? (additional information in […]

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