Mount Pinatubo Versus the Typhoon

As horrible as things are in the Philippines right now, it would have been a lot worse if one of the country’s many volcanoes had gone off while Supertyphoon Haiyan/Yolanda was there.

The Philippines has LOTS of volcanoes, but only one of them – Pinatubo – has taken on a typhoon during recent times.

Philippine Volcanoes – What Good Are They?

Despite the risk, there wouldn’t be a Philippines today without volcanism, which has formed many of the archipelago’s 7,000-plus islands.

Image:  NASA by way of Wikipedia

Image: NASA by way of Wikipedia

The fire mountains are useful in other ways, too. For instance, there’s a good chance that the sugar on your breakfast cereal and the coconut oil in your nondairy creamer at work can be traced back to thriving agriculture that’s rooted in rich Philippine volcanic soil.

A wide variety of minerals (there’s an awesome video at this link) are also mined there from igneous rock, and the Philippines are second only to the United States when it comes to geothermal energy production.

Some volcanoes attract international tourists, who come to the Philippines to see and sometimes be rescued (or in the rare sad instance, retrieved) from the likes of Mayon and Taal volcanoes.

And then there is Pinatubo.

Volcano 1, Typhoon 0

No one even knew that Mount Pinatubo, on Luzon near Manila, was active. Then, in 1991, it famously blew up.

This isn't the big one - Pinatubo is just clearing its throat.  (Image:  USGS)

This isn’t the big one – Pinatubo is just clearing its throat. (Image: USGS)

Check out Nova’s “In the Path of a Killer Volcano” (1993), which has a lot of close-up video of Pinatubo before, during (yes) and after the eruption.

The weather made things worse. Typhoon Yunya landed on top of Pinatubo – on Luzon, the top island, near that big bay in the lower left – during its climactic eruption and was blown apart, as shown in this too-speedy time-lapse video:

Unfortunately, Typhoon Yunya’s rain soaked the already heavy ash layers on local buildings, causing even more roof collapses, and washing more ash down that would otherwise have fallen into the South China Sea. The rain also brought great overland floods of water, rock and ash called lahars that contributed to the ruination and mortality in the Philippines immediately after Pinatubo’s eruption (note: each rainy season also mobilizes more lahars there).

Had a similar eruption happened during Haiyan/Yolanda, this amateur thinks that not only would it have caused massive lahars, it also might have disrupted the typhoon enough to slow it down, making it linger over the Philippines and drastically increasing the destruction.


More information.


Categories: Sunday morning volcano, volcanoes

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