Popocatépetl update, and why it’s my favorite volcano

The Colossus of Puebla had some explosions later in the week after my last post, but I held off on posting as CENAPRED didn’t raise the alert level, and I also wanted to explain why this volcano interests me so. There just wasn’t time to do all that during the work week.


Clouds obscured the webcam views much of this week, probably because the summer monsoon (PDF) is starting to crank up a little (the heavy rains generally start in late May).

The prior CENAPRED daily bulletins are here, in English as well as Spanish. My brief descriptions below (and all images of Don Goyo, of course) are from these reports and/or the volcano webcams, which can be accessed here under “Imagen.”

On the 24th, Popo was active enough with volcanic tremor as well as summit activity to warrant an early bulletin at 8:30 a.m. local time. It also provided some spectacular views.


Popocatépetl on April 24th. CENAPRED (Click to enlarge)

Cloudiness obscured views of the summit part of the day on the 25th and the 26th, but the volcano’s explosions, exhalations and tremor didn’t increase. If anything, I think they had decreased.

CENAPRED (Click to enlarge)

Views from April 26. CENAPRED (Click to enlarge)

Yesterday, Don Goyo maintained a similar pattern, and the skies were clear enough to get good views of the summit. Today, CENAPRED isn’t reporting any tremor, but the number of exhalations is up substantially from yesterday.

April 27 (left) and 28 (right).  CENAPRED (Click to enlarge)

April 27 (left) and 28 (right). CENAPRED (Click to enlarge)

Again, this volcano has vulcanian eruptions currently. In the distant past, I believe, it has also had plinian eruptions and flank collapses, and perhaps even some basaltic flows.

Seismologists have done a “CT” of the volcano to understand its internal structure. The paper whose abstract is linked here is not easy for a layperson to follow, but while I missed a lot certainly, it did give me a good idea about what’s going on inside and underneath Don Goyo.

Throughout the past week, the alert at Popocatépetl has remained unchanged – Yellow, Phase 2. I won’t be live-blogging again unless CENAPRED raises it, as they did last year to Yellow, Phase 1, for a while. That’s the highest they go before getting into Red, which will trigger evacuations of populated areas (not a small task when millions of people are involved).

Why I like Popocatépetl so much

Clearly, this volcano fascinates me. Why is that? Well, in a nutshell . . .

Wait. This needs a soundtrack. Here you go.

Now then, while hardcore Miles Davis fans are divided about the value of Sketches of Spain, I loved it, as a newbie, in the 1980s when I found myself in New Mexico for a couple of years after failing to get an undergraduate geology degree because I couldn’t “get” geochemistry.

During those years, my confidence returned and my career interest pivoted towards medical transcription, and eventually I left Albuquerque for San Francisco to learn the needed skills. I’ve been in that field ever since and am quite happy.

It was, in part, the wide open spaces of New Mexico, and the stunning beauty not just of the rock formations but also of the Sonoran desert that drew me out of my failure funk and brought me back to hope and determination again. I will always love La Tierra Encantada because of that.

I also heard a music in the Spanish street names in ABQ and began to teach myself Spanish. Audio helped, and besides language tapes I got into Los Lobos and Julio Iglesias, as well as Sketches of Spain, which as an album is the soundtrack for all my memories of that time.

I’d never heard of Popocatépetl except as a funny name. A deeper acquaintance with this colossus came later, after the Internet grew and I had discovered volcano cams, beginning with Mount St. Helens, perhaps the most famous volcano in post-1980 America.

Mount St. Helens erupted in 2004 in a very different way from its catastrophic May 1980 eruption, and I was hooked on volcano cams forever.

You could climb Popocatépetl in 2002.  (Source)

You could climb Popocatépetl in 2002. (Source)

I stumbled over CENAPRED’S Popocatépetl page at some point.

Don Goyo has been in an eruptive phase off and on for many decades – it’s difficult for a layperson to say clearly how long “this” eruption has lasted – but it was quiet, with perhaps a little steam now and then, for quite some time after I “discovered” it.

I was in the East then and under a lot of pressure. The high desert-like beauty of the area as seen through the webcams (there were only two then, Altzomoni and Tlamacas), especially when the summit was painted adobe rose at sunrise or loomed dark against a bright sky at sunset, brought back memories of the tranquil desert and mountains of New Mexico so many years ago.

That was pleasant, and I got into the habit of visiting Popo often via webcam. Then it got more active, and I’ve been having much fun ever since!

Categories: volcanoes

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