Live-blogging Popocatépetl from the safety of my home in New York state

CENAPRED’S webcam (“imagen”) and reports page (including report in English) for Popocatépetl.

Note: The 20 Tlamacas webcam closeups of Popocatepetl from June 18th are on page 3

Closeup of Popocatepetl's crater, October 8, 2012

Closeup of Popocatepetl’s crater, October 8, 2012 (CENAPRED)

October 11, 2012: I wasn’t blogging much during the last months of summer because of the heat here (and no AC), but the monsoon season also made it difficult to watch Popocatepetl frequently through the webcams – fortunately its activity slowed down, too.

This will be the last “live” blog post for now. Popo still has its moments, but it’s mostly just degassing now. On September 1st, CENAPRED lowered the alert phase to Yellow, Phase 2 (link is in Spanish).

I did collect some CENAPRED webcam images over the last three months or so, and if my life ever slows down, I’ll try to put the best of those together into a movie. CENAPRED’s daily updates continue, although only once a day at 11 a.m. (Central) since Phase 2 began. Often those have wonderful images of the Colossus of Puebla, like this from today’s update:

Popo having a moment, October 10, 2012.

Popo having a moment, October 10, 2012. (CENAPRED) (Click to enlarge)

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PPIG webicorder July 24

PPIG webicorder July 24, showing strong earthquake in Oaxaca (SSN)

Popocatepetl this morning, July 24

Popocatepetl this morning, July 24 (CENAPRED)

Update July 24, 15:15 UTC: There was a M5.2 (USGS)/M5.0 (SSN) earthquake last night in Oaxaca that actually knocked the broad-band PPIG webicorder off scale (see above), probably because it was shallow. Per news reports (Spanish), it was felt strongly in Mexico City, but so far there have been no reports of damages or injuries.

This morning when I checked, Popo was pouring forth steam, and it still is (see image, left). It’s too early for a CENAPRED update yet, but I got the webcam time lapse capture program going, just in case anything develops at the volcano today (not that it’s likely to, but I think the change to more vigorous steaming is interesting – still, I have not read anything by knowledgeable people that confirms any connection between a particular earthquake and any effects whatsoever on the eruptive behavior of Don Goyo or any of the other volcanoes in the area). The alert level at Popocatepetl, of course, is still yellow, phase 3. Also worth noting is that the seismic activity at Popo didn’t change and was pretty flat both before and after the quake, per the webicorder.

Update July 22, 12:53 UTC: The volcano settled down again, after spending most of the next 24 hours with “puffs.” At the moment it is still puffing very quietly, but I just wanted to share this beautiful morning picture of the Colossus of Puebla in the early morning light:

Popocatepetl in the morning

Popocatepetl in the morning (CENAPRED – click to enlarge)

Update July 21, 02:16 UTC: The view in the webicorder darkened (from ash swirling around the summit), but the webicorder shows continued activity, perhaps not quite as intense but still ongoing. Compared to some volcanoes, like St. Helens in May 1980 or Vesuvius in AD 79, this isn’t anything, but it’s still exciting for a fan of Don Goyo.

And again, I realize that if Popocatepetl had had this event back in April or early May, it would have made the world news. Now, it’s just a show, but still it seems to this amateur that the volcano is gradually, very slowly, ramping up activity. Towards what, though? No one can say. It could settle down tomorrow. It might just keep on degassing like this until something clogs somewhere inside its system. Then things will become more dangerous. But that hasn’t happened yet and there’s no sign that it’s going to – CENAPRED’s deformation graphic is barely visible, fortunately.

Popocatepetl's train of exhalations this evening

Popocatepetl’s train of exhalations this evening (Source: Twitter feed of Geól. Sergio Almazán at pic.twitter.com/k84ja3Up )

Update July 21, 01:55 UTC: Just before the 8 p.m. bulletin, CENAPRED says, Popocatepetl started with an impressive looking train of exhalations. Now that dark has fallen, there is also a very impressive incandescence in the crater. The only clear webcam view is from Tochimilco.

Here is the full bulletin:

July 20 20:00 (July 21, 01:00 GMT)

Since the publication of this bulletin at 11:00 and until 18:00 h a total of ten small to moderate exhalations were registered. At 18:09 a medium sized exhalation started a train of exhalations which continues at the time of this report, and which has produced 56 individual exhalations up to now. Most of them were probably followed by emissions of water vapor, gases and moderate quantities of ash, although this could not be corroborated due to the cloud cover prevailing in the area.

The alert level remains at Yellow, Phase 3.

Incandescence at Popocatepetl, just a few minutes ago

Incandescence at Popocatepetl, just a few minutes ago (CENAPRED)

The PPIG webicorder has shown the train of earthquakes associated with this episode:

PPIG webicorder July 20

PPIG webicorder July 20 (SSN – click to enlarge)

Clouds and steam plume at Popocatepetl this morning

Clouds and steam plume at Popocatepetl this morning (CENAPRED)

Update July 16, 14:50 UTC: Volcanoes often create some of the most barren landscapes in the world, so it is a delight that Popocatepetl’s constant outgassing often takes very beautiful forms. Someday, of course, it will have another big eruption, but for now, it’s a joy to visit the CENAPRED webcams.

That is, it’s nice when the monsoonal rain clouds allow a view of the volcano. These rains have had other, more potentially deadly effects, too. According to news articles (Spanish), recent heavy rains in the area have damaged some evacuation routes, particularly the one over Paso de Cortes.

Anyway, the Colossus of Puebla seems to have calmed down a bit for the moment. It still seems to me that Popocatepetl may be ratcheting up activity gradually (it has been three months since CENAPRED went to Yellow, Phase 3 alert – long for humans, especially those living near the volcano, but just a moment from the geological perspective) and that the periods of activity are getting steadily, if only very slightly, more intense each time. I hope it’s just my imagination. Time will tell.

Update July 14, 02:29 UTC It’s difficult to believe that this image, taken from the Tochimilco webcam this morning, is from Central Mexico in mid-July:

Popo in blue

Popo in blue (CENAPRED)

BRRRRR!

From CENAPRED’s bulletins, it seems that the volcano is carrying on as usual, but at a slightly lower level, although there have been episodes of spasmodic and harmonic tremor. Also, CENAPRED’s seismographs detected another flow on the north flank:

July 13 20:00 (July 14, 01:00 GMT)

Since the preparation of last report 9 hours ago, the monitoring system of Popocatepetl volcano registered 19 exhalations of low intensity accompanied by water vapor and gas and possibly small amounts of ash, which could not verify due to the presence of dense cloud in the area all afternoon and until the time of the report. Additionally, there were some short segments of spasmodic and harmonic tremor of low amplitude.

The alert level remains at Yellow, Phase 3.

July 13 11:00 (July 13, 16:00 GMT)

During the last 24 hours, the monitoring system of Popocatepetl volcano registered 66 exhalations of low to moderate intensity, accompanied by steam and gas and eventually small ash emissions. Aditionally, several segments of spasmodic and harmonic tremor of low amplitude were registered.

Yesterday afternon, signals of the flow sensors on the north of the volcano were registered.

The volcano could be seen only during several hours yesterday afternon and this early morning until the moment of this report. A continuous plume of steam and gas could be observed, reaching 1 km high and travelling toward southwest (see image 1). In small lapses during the night, some incandescence could be seen over the crater rim, which increase during the occurrence of the exhalations (see image 2).

The alert level remains at Yellow, Phase 3.

This level implies:

Intermediate scale explosive activity at high, dome growth and possible expulsion of lava, explosions of increasing intensity and rain of ash on nearby villages noticeable in smaller quantities and more remote populations, depending on wind direction.

1. Announcing the situation and measures taken to the public and the media.

2. Prepare personnel, equipment and evacuation shelters.

3. Implement specific measures in the most vulnerable.

4. Implement preventive measures against ash fall, lahars and against fragments in vulnerable regions.

5. Alert air navigation systems.

6. Limit access to the volcano over a larger area.

Popocatepetl Volcano is monitored continuously 24 hours a day.

That is two days in a row with north-flank flows mentioned in the bulletin. These, of course, don’t show up on the SSN’s broadband webicorders website. (Broadband seismometers measure large ground motion, while short- and long-period meters would be useful in tracking the relatively small waves generated by lahars and other flows; apparently Servicio Sismológico Nacional does not have those publicly available, or at least I haven’t found them yet.)

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Closeup of Popocatepetl's crater, July 12, 2012

Closeup of Popocatepetl’s crater, July 12, 2012 (CENAPRED)

Update July 13, 02:42 UTC: The clouds lifted for a while before and a little bit after sunset, and the scientists took full advantage of it with the cams. The Tianguismanalco cam was zoomed in on the crater when I visited it, though not for long. They were watching closely in the Altzomoni cam for a while, too, and it alternated with the Tlamacas cam at the Altzomoni URL. This may be because there was a lahar seen today on the north flank – I think that would be the Tlamacas cam’s region, but I didn’t hear about it until reading this evening’s bulletin, and by then the cam view was nothing but clouds again. It was very high up on the volcano and certainly within the exclusion zone and therefore not a threat to people. They detected it on seismographs (see below), so perhaps it wasn’t even visible.

Here are today’s CENAPRED bulletins:

July 12 20:00 (July 13, 01:00 GMT)

Since the last report, 9 h ago, the monitoring system of Popocatepetl volcano registered 26 exhalations of low to moderate intensity, accompanied by steam and gas emissions, including small amounts of ash. Some of the most important exhalations occurred at 16:35 h, 16:36 h, 17:32 h, 17:58 h and at 19:51 h (local time) (see image 1), which were accompanied by denser pulses of the gas and ash plume, reaching 1 km high.

Between 19:38 h and 21:35 h (local time), the sytem detected the occurrence of a low magnitude flow, containing water and small amounts of solid material, which was recorded in the seismic stations located in the highest position on the volcano north flank.

Since 17:00 h to the moment of this report, the volcano could be observed with a continuos and thick steam and gas plume, reaching 1.5 km and travelling towards the soutwest (see image 2).

The alert level remains at Yellow, Phase 3.

July 12 11:00 (July 12, 16:00 GMT)

During the last 24 hours, the monitoring system of Popocatepetl volcano registered 53 exhalations of low to moderate intensity, accompanied by steam and gas emissions. During this period, there was not visibility to the volcano, because the cloudy conditions at the area, but probably the most important exhalations, at 23:16 h and 23:25 h, were accompanied by small amounts of ash.

Two volcanotectonic events of small magnitude were recorded too, at 01:05 h and at 07:42 h. Additionally, the system detected several short segments of spasmodic and armonic tremor of low amplitude.

At the moment of this report, the volcano could not be observed. In small lapses during the night and the early morning, some incandescence could be seen over the crater rim, which increase during the occurrence of the exhalations (see image).

The alert level remains at Yellow, Phase 3.

Ash and steam emission at Popo just before sunset

Ash and steam emission at Popo just before sunset (CENAPRED)

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Popocatpetl with ash July 10

Popocatpetl with ash July 10 (from this evening’s CENAPRED bulletin)

Update July 11, 01:17 UTC: The volcano has been really socked in with clouds lately, but I did notice the activity seemed to have increased today on the webicorder. Indeed, according to CENAPRED, in the last 33 hours, Popocatepetl has had 117 exhalations, though none of them seem different from the usual pattern; there is no increase in deformation shown in the graphic; and the alert level is still Yellow, Phase 3:

July 10 20:00 (July 11, 01:00 GMT)

Since the last report, 9 h ago, the monitoring system of Popocatepetl volcano registered 41 exhalations of low to moderate intensity and additionally, several short and sporadic segments of espasmodic tremor of low amplitude.

The exhalations were accompanied by a steam and gas plume, which probably contained small amounts of ash during the most important ones. The ash content could be seen at 17:33 h (see image 1) and at 17:43 h (see image 2) (local time), the only period in which the volcano could be observed. The gas plume reached 900 m-1 km high and travelled towards west-southwest. The rest of the afternoon the cloudy conditions at the area does not allow to observe the volcano.

The alert level remains at Yellow, Phase 3.

July 10 11:00 (July 10, 16:00 GMT)

During the last 24 hours, monitoring system of Popocatepetl volcano registered 76 exhalations of low to moderate intensity, it is possible that some have issued small amounts of ash, but note it was not possible due to cloudy conditions in the area. There were also various segments of harmonic and spasmodic tremor of low amplitude which in total was 52 minutes.

In some small lapses in the night incandescence was observed in the crater (see image 1). At the time of this report do not have visibility due to dense clouds, however in some very brief moments in the morning the volcano was observed with an emission of water vapor and gas (see image 2).

The alert level remains at Yellow, Phase 3.

Update July 5, 14:26 UTC: I learned about the North American Monsoon today after noticing that skies around Popocatepetl will be clear in the morning, cloud up during the day and rain, and then clear after darkness falls. Of course, the daily heating is what is running it.

Here is a time-lapse movie of the volcano and its monsoon clouds yesterday, taken from CENAPRED’S Tochimilco cam.

Otherwise, CENAPRED is keeping the volcano in Yellow, Phase 3 alert. Don Goyo seems to be following the same general level of activity, with mostly steam plumes these days.

Popo has not always been so pleasant to be around. I’ve been reading Clive Oppenheimer’s Eruptions That Shook The World (2011) – disclosure: I’m not associated with him or this book in any way, although he has been a guest at Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions blog and I think he looks like a Baker-era Doctor Who.

Excavating Tetimpa in the shadow of Popocatepetl

Excavating Tetimpa in the shadow of Popocatepetl (Patricia Plunket and Gabriela Uruñuela, Figure 3 in “Dating Cholula” at http://www.famsi.org/reports/02042/section01.htm ).

Anyway, he mentions Popocatepetl in the chapter “The Rise of Teotihuacan” (that’s the abandoned complex of huge pyramids and plazas you’ve probably seen pictures of on TV or in books). The volcano had a VEI 6 eruption in the first century AD and buried a small village called Tetimpa that was nestled on its flanks some 15 km from the summit crater. The residents, apparently (and fortunately) were aware of the danger and fled; thus far, no remains have been found in this “Pompeii of the New World.”

Another big eruption devastated the area some 7 centuries later, after people had moved back into the area. This is all explained in fairly easy-to-understand terms in Mountain of sustenance, mountain of destruction: The prehistoric experience with Popocatepetl Volcano (PDF) by Patricia Plunket and Gabriela Uruñuela.

It’s good to be fascinated by a single volcano, even when it is not spectacularly erupting. There can be much more than details of the current eruption to learn from it, including a lot about human history.

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My first animated GIF, of Don Goyo’s steam column and lenticular clouds. There must have been a very strong standing wave over the summit at the time.

Popocatepetl and Lenticular Cloud, July 2

Popocatepetl and Lenticular Cloud, July 2

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Popocatepetl on the morning of  July 2

Popocatepetl on the morning of July 2 (CENAPRED)

Update July 2, 11:49 UTC: The volcano was shrouded with clouds most times that I checked over the last few days, but this morning the summit is visible, though the sky is still cloudy/ashy. Although unseen, Popocatepetl was still pretty active.

In the nine hours prior to CENAPRED’s bulletin last night around 2000 local time, there were 78 exhalations; this was quite a step up from the previously reported 64 exhalations over 24 hours (from 1100 on June 30 to 1100 on July 1).

However, the webicorder seems to show the seismic activity calming down overnight:

Popocatepetl webicorder July 1-2

Popocatepetl webicorder July 1-2 (SSN)


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