Select Page

Involcan make first estimate of sulphur dioxide emissions on La Palma “with lava flows up to 6 meters high that slowly advance unstoppably”

Involcan make first estimate of sulphur dioxide emissions on La Palma “with lava flows up to 6 meters high that slowly advance unstoppably”

The Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (Involcan) have made a first estimate of the amount of sulphur dioxide (SO2) being emitted into the atmosphere by the current eruptive process in Cumbre Vieja during its first day of eruption on the Canary Island of La Palma. Scientists calculate that between 6,000 and 9,000 tons of the gas is being emitted per day.

The estimate was calculated after four samplings using the transect method, with a miniDOAS optical sensor at a land mobile position, explained Involcan. Likewise, they anticipate that as of this Monday, this type of measurement will be carried out in collaboration with the Guardia Civil Helicopter Unit on Tenerife, as they did during the underwater eruption of El Hierro, ten years ago. Daily monitoring of this parameter will be essential to analyse the evolution of the current process, and to be able to certify the final point of the eruption.

The volcanic eruption on La Palma could last “several weeks, if not a few months”, explained Dr. Nemesio Pérez, the Involcan coordinator. The duration of the eruption will depend, said Pérez, during a radio interview for Cadena Ser, on the amount of magma that has accumulated in the volcano’s “reservoir”.

“The chamber, which could be three to five kilometres deep, is connected to another, 20 or 30 kilometres away, so the feedback from the deeper one, on the shallower one, could make the eruption lengthen,” added Pérez.

He explained that to predict the end of this episode it is important to study the sulphur dioxide emissions that are recorded.

“The first day we have calculated between 6,000 and 9,000 tons, a reasonable amount, we have seen greater, and any downward trend will be indicative that the eruption is waning; when 48 hours have passed without any emission of sulphur dioxide, we can take it for finished “, said Pérez.

As for the advance of the lava flows, he said that the route of the lava flows can be foreseen and that, therefore, they should not generate “loss of human life”, although he has acknowledged that they will destroy “everything that does not move”.

“It is a bittersweet feeling, because it is an unparalleled spectacle of nature, but very sad because people who have worked all their lives are going to see how the lava is going to destroy everything,” he acknowledged.

He has also doubted that the eruption will change the orography of La Palma. “The island has been made of thousands of volcanic eruptions, here, what is going to be added, is another little layer, the only thing that [might change is] if the lava reaches the sea, the island could be extended by a few more square meters”, he pointed out.

The president of the Cabildo de La Palma, Mariano Hernández, expressed gratitude this Monday that there have been no injuries reported at the beginning of the eruptive process on the island, although he acknowledged that the material damage is already considerable, affecting around 100 households during the first 24 hours.

“On its way to the sea, there are already between 80 and 100 homes affected by lava, with lava flows up to 6 meters high that slowly advance unstoppably” Hernández said this morning on radio Cope Canarias.

Incandescent tongues of lava slowly descend the hillsides, parallel with several houses, while others have had less luck and have been consumed, completely devoured, by the relentless passage of the magma flows.

The areas closest to the eruption, El Paraiso and Cabeza de Vaca, were evacuated as soon as the eruption began. The neighbourhoods of Todoque and La Laguna, in Los Llanos de Aridane, have also now been evacuated. More than 5,000 people have had to leave their homes.

Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, immediately changed his plan to fly to the USA yesterday, arriving on the island last night to observe at the scene and lend support, on behalf of all Spain, to the people of La Palma.

About The Author