By Ron Howells • 03 October 2021 • 9:53
La Palma volcano lava starts to emit deadly toxic gas as it enters the sea. Stock Photo
The La Palma volcano lava has started to emit toxic gas as it enters the sea, turning into glass underwater.
The interaction between the lava and the sea of La Palma is generating more than great columns of smoke, now adding toxic gas to the mix. Underwater, the enormous collective mass, with its large thermal difference, is also altering the nature and shape of the coastal area itself.
The first thing that happens when lava at more than 800 ° (it has lost about 200 ° on the way since it left the Cumbre Vieja volcano) mixes with seawater at around 24 ° is that the lava fragments (breaks up) violently and suddenly.
As hot lava boils cool seawater, a series of chemical and physical reactions create a mixture of condensed, acidic steam, hydrochloric acid gas, and tiny shards of volcanic glass. Blown by the wind, this plume creates a noticeable downwind haze, known as “laze” (short for lava haze).
However, and contrary to popular belief, is that it does not explode outwards as what is produced are mostly implosions- into the substance itself. Thermal contrast (the difference in temperature) causes much of the material most exposed to water to break up and detach, these are called hydroclasts, (chilled glass particles formed by lava–water interactions) and a submersive version of pyroclasts, (Pyroclastic rocks are rocks composed of rock fragments produced and ejected by explosive volcanic eruptions.).
The process remains active as long as new material continues to arrive from the volcano- a process so fast that liquid rock solidifies without even crystallizing.
Geologists believe that some of the changes will be short-lived, but it is feared that others will last for thousands of years. The most immediate and characteristic phenomenon is being the vitrification of the red-hot magma flow.
Despite the enormous technical and scientific resources deployed on land, sea and air, what is happening underwater is so far not been studied as thoroughly.
The Spanish Institute of Oceanography, currently operating from the Ramón Margalef vessel, has not yet deployed underwater cameras, nor has it brought its unmanned submarine to the island, it is presumed that as the volcanic activity decreases then these high-tech surveillance devices will be put into action.
A new eruptive mouth opened at the Cumbre Vieja volcano on La Palma, this morning, Sunday, October 3, forcing the evacuation of surrounding areas. However, the President of the Canary Islands, Angel Victor Torres Perez, said that so far there had been no casualties.
Despite previous forecasts, the lava is advancing slower than initially anticipated and didn’t reach the ocean on Monday night, regional emergency officials said. Over 5,500 people have been evacuated, and hundreds of houses have been affected, authorities reported.
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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.
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