Stratovolcano In Ecuador Shows First Signs Of Structural Collapse

One of the many mountains that’s picked up many names throughout the centuries is Tungurahua, which is an active stratovolcano located in the Cordillera Central of Ecuador.

Named after the province where it sits, some say that Tungurahua stands for “Throat of Fire” in the indigenous tongue of the Quechua people, while some say it translates to “crater” in the Quichua language. Other times, it’s also called by its nickname, which is “The Black Giant.”

While the translations for what its name really stands for differ, one thing people can agree upon is that the volcano, being active, has posed a real threat to everyone. And, unfortunately, its more recent rumblings might signify something far more dangerous than any eruptions it has previously had.

This is because according to a new analysis, the volcano may now be showing the earliest signs of what can only be a structural collapse, which is thought to be slowly triggered by all of the ongoing magma activity that’s bubbling up inside it.

“Using satellite data we have observed very rapid deformation of Tungurahua's west flank, which our research suggests is caused by imbalances between magma being supplied and magma being erupted ,” James Hickey, geophysical volcanologist from the University of Exeter in the U.K., said.

With its last eruption happening back in February 1, 2014, the stratovolcano has been persistently active since 1999 and has had many eruptions since then.

But if that were to happen, then it won’t be anything new, at least for the volcano itself. This is because Tungurahua is already on its “third life,” having survived two structural collapses before. What’s unfortunate, however, is that the same can’t be said for people living close to it since structural collapses oftentimes result in massive landslides that shoot rocks up to tens of kilometers.

“Magma supply is one of a number of factors that can cause or contribute to volcanic flank instability, so while there is a risk of possible flank collapse, the uncertainty of these natural systems also means it could remain stable,” Hickey added, hoping that it remains stable.

At least, for now.

volcano-1081840_960_720 Scientists observing a volcano crater. Photo by Pixabay (CC0)

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