The Calbuco volcano in Chile has erupted again, triggering a panic as gas and dust blasted into the sky on April 30.
This was the third eruption in eight days, although this latest blast was less powerful than the previous two events. The first eruption took place on April 22.
Calbuco is a stratovolcano, rising over 6,570 feet above sea level in the Los Lagos region of southern Chile. It is a member of the Andes Mountains, located in the Llanquihue National Reserve and is known as one of the most active volcanoes in that nation. However, it had not erupted for more than 50 years before the most recent series of events.
Approximately 2,500 people who live near the volcano have been evacuated to nearby regions. Some residents had begun to return home after the first two eruptions before the third event blasted through the air, shaking the ground.
Skies darkened above the villages surrounding the volcano, as ash and dust rained down, covering the streets with debris up to 2 feet thick.
This eruption is posing a major hazard to aircraft. Flights as far away as Buenos Aires, 870 miles from the site of the eruption, were canceled due to the geological event.
Chilean officials are closely monitoring the continuing eruption in an effort to predict what hazards the eruption could pose to residents. Researchers are examining the amount of sulfur dioxide released by the volcano. This gas may have an effect on the environment, and between 300,000 and 400,000 tons of the gas were released during the first three days of the latest eruption of Calbuco. Much of that material was lifted into the stratosphere 13 miles above the surface of the Earth, where it is able to float for long periods before falling back to Earth.
When sulfur dioxide (SO2) is released into the air, the gas can interact with water vapor to form sulfate aerosols. This material reflects light back into space, cooling the surface of the Earth. The chemical is so effective at carrying out this process that some climatologists have discussed the idea of purposely injecting the material into the atmosphere to offset the effects of global warming.
"Climate modelers need estimates of SO2 mass and altitude to run their models and accurately predict the atmospheric and climate impacts of volcanic eruptions. SO2 plume images also provide unique insights into the atmospheric transport and dispersion of trace gases in the atmosphere, and on upper atmospheric winds," Simon Carn of Michigan Technological University said.
The National Geology and Mine Service in Chile issued a red alert after the latest eruption, warning residents and tourists of the imminent danger from the volcano. Rock debris and ash could mix with water from heavy rains, producing lahars, mud flows that tumble down a mountainside like an avalanche, destroying everything in their path.
Government officials are advising everyone living within a 20-mile radius of the volcano to leave their homes.