By Ron Howells •
Published: 26 Sep 2021 • 9:03
Seismic activity is less, but the lava moves forward.
Latest update on the La Palma Cumbre Vieja volcanic eruption.
The Cumbre Vieja volcanic eruption that began Sunday, 19 September, on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands has been spewing lava relentlessly ever since. The Lava flow, which initially had a flow rate of 700 meters per hour, was expected to reach the Atlantic Ocean Monday evening but the river of lava slowed considerably when it reached flatter terrain.
Progression of the lava flow, (below), image: Emergency Services La Palma.
The lava flow has split into two separate streams, one heading inland and the other advancing toward the coast, albeit much slower than when the volcanic eruption originally started. The scientific organizations that are monitoring the eruption predict the lava will enter the sea on the coast of Tazacorte, most likely at Playa del Perdido or Playa Nueva.
Once the lava reaches the seawater authorities are concerned about the reaction of the two elements when they come into contact with each other.
According to the emergency management team, there could well be explosions from thermal shock as the lava has a temperature of around 1,800 ºF (1,100ºC) and the seawater just 73ºF (23ºC). The mixture of the molten rock and the seawater will also lead to chemical reactions that will present additional dangers- deadly toxic gases and acid rain.
The thermal shock besides boiling the water will cause the molten rock to shatter into fine grains of volcanic glass that will be carried in the billowing steam clouds. Additionally, the steam clouds will contain hydrochloric acid gas formed by the interaction of lava and saltwater. This gas will have the corrosive effect of diluted battery acid according to the USGS, which can irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory system.
This combination is called “laze” or lava haze and it can be carried back onshore where it should be avoided. “Acid rain can be generated, causing throat and nose irritations to the public,” said José Mangas, professor of Geology at the University of Las Palmas.
The authorities have established a two-mile nautical exclusion zone for boats that runs parallel to the coast from Las Viñas beach in the north to Puerto Naos in the south. Shipping vessels have also been advised to stay well clear of the area considered at risk.
As the lava advances more slowly, the flow has begun to stack up higher towering nearly 40 feet (12 meters) high in places. These walls of molten rock are engulfing everything in their path. When they reach the shore unstable newly formed land along the coast could fall into the sea.
After the lava has superheated the surrounding water, new portions plunging into the sea could send waves of scalding hot water back onto shore. The exact time when the lava will reach the sea, if ever, hasn’t been determined but those monitoring the developing natural disaster are keeping a close eye on the situation.
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Ron actually started his working career as an Ophthalmic Technician- things changed when, during a band rehearsal, his amplifier blew up and he couldn’t get it fixed so he took a course at Birmingham University and ended up doing a degree course. He built up a chain of electronics stores and sold them as a franchise over 35 years ago. After five years touring the world Ron decided to move to Spain with his wife and son, a place they had visited over the years, and only bought the villa they live in because it has a guitar-shaped swimming pool!.
Playing the guitar since the age of 7, he can often be seen, (and heard!) at beach bars and clubs along the length of the coast. He has always been interested in the news and constantly thrives to present his articles in an interesting and engaging way.
09/27/21 Hello Mr. Howell, I enjoyed your article. I had been wondering what would happen when the lava hits the ocean. I was thinking it would produce a lot of steam. Had no idea it was like this in the article. I am on the Space Coast of Florida. I would be directly in the path of the disaster the Detaching South part of the La Palma Island would create, namely, the Mega Tsumani. I lived in Cali in 1992 and read and studied earthquakes, informally. With that came studying Volcanoes and reading too. I love it, I saw the Shock Wave on one of the blasts of the Volcano and it was amazing. I would Not go near one tho lol.
I am watching Cumbre Vieja. La Palma, Canary Islands intensely. If Detachment occurs, it would arrive here in 6-8 hours and I need 4 hours minimum to head to Alabama area for safety. Lucky I have family that way, but it’s also the best heading, away from the coast. I leave the live stream on my cp, to check on it all night because there is a possibility that in May Happen. From what I’ve read in your article, it really rings some Truth in me, that, the worst scenario, just may happen. It’s happened before, and will happen again. It just may be sooner than later, it’s been 50 years since the last one at Cumbre Vieja. Thank you again. I really like the information, I haven’t read that anywhere before. God in Heaven bless you, you just may be a messenger! Amen.
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