Monday, January 20, 2014

Volcanic Eruption in Southern Chile

article from June 6, 2011
By Jamie Douglas

On Friday, June 3, 2011, Southern Chile's Puyehue Volcano started erupting again. It threw an ash cloud 10km (6.25 mi) into the air and is accompanied by hundreds of temblors in the range of 4-5.5 on the Richter scale. The Chilean civil defense authorities called for an immediate evacuation of about 3,500 people living in the shadow of Puyehue.

By midday on Saturday, the debris started falling in nearby San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina, where pebbles of 1- 2 cm were raining onto this Andean ski resort and the bordering Nahuel Huapi National Park. Civil defense authorities are urging all to stay indoors and not use automobiles or other motorized equipment, due to the possibility of severe damage from the ash fall. The ground is shaking.

Here is a list of some of the seismic activity yesterday:

M 4.9      2011/06/04 17:54     Depth 20.3 km    
M 4.7      2011/06/04 17:00     Depth 23.5 km     
M 4.8      2011/06/04 16:28     Depth 19.6 km     
M 4.6      2011/06/04 15:19     Depth 35.6 km     
M 4.6      2011/06/04 15:05     Depth 46.2 km     
M 4.7      2011/06/04 13:48     Depth 46.8 km     
M 4.7      2011/06/04 13:20     Depth 35.8 km     
M 4.8      2011/06/04 12:24     Depth 58.9 km     

Chile’s 1960 seismic event

In 1960, this same volcano erupted after Chile suffered the most intense earthquake in recorded history, a temblor of magnitude 9.5, which caused widespread destruction in the region as well as causing much death and destruction across the Pacific Basin. Sixty-one people in Hawaii were killed and the east-facing port of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii was wiped out. Waves as high as 35 feet were observed. Waves of 18-20 feet slammed into Northern Honshu in Japan, killing another 185 people and damaging or destroying several thousand homes. The Philippine Islands counted 32 dead and suffered severe localized destruction, while damages to Samoa and Easter Island were moderate and fortunately without any loss of life.

Along the Chilean coast from the southern tip of the Arauco Peninsula all the way to Quellon on Chiloe Island, the ground sank as much as 3-5 feet, while on Isla Guafo, the  surface rose a whopping 10 feet! Chile has experienced many seismic events of this and lesser magnitude, but it was the first time scientists were able to document a seismic event of this size. Two days later, Puyehue erupted in grandiose style, but not as severely as the current eruption.

The wisdom the Chilean dam projects (or lack thereof)

Now, the Chilean neoliberal government, led by Sebastián Piñera Echenique, a billionaire who bought himself the presidency, has approved the damming of the Baker and Pascua rivers in this highly active seismic zone, virtually endangering the entire population living downstream from the projected dams. I am all for hydroelectricity, as I grew up surrounded by it in Switzerland, and aside from the construction debris, it is very clean energy. The mountains in Switzerland, however, have been very stable for millennia, and the electricity does not have to be transported 2,000 miles away, which will result in a very large consequent line loss of what was initially put into the system. Considering that the electricity is destined to be used most heavily at the very northern end of the country, the players involved in the construction of the dams, and the subsequent destruction of thousands of acres of Valdivian forests, it is very easy to see how corruption within the Chilean government has made this possible.

Ash-fall from Puyehue Volcano

In Bariloche, the airport was closed on Saturday and Sunday, and a continuing eruption with the prevailing westerlies will bring major problems to this area that is world-renowned for its great skiing in the austral winter. The main winter sport season here starts on June 15, and continued lack of air service will deviate a lot of the aficionados to resorts further north in Mendoza province. Right now, the area looks as if it had a serious snowfall, with the entire landscape covered with a light-gray layer of volcanic ash. By Sunday afternoon, the ash-fall in Bariloche has subsided, and a shift in the wind is dropping most of the ashes in Chile, but Bariloche has a bear of a cleanup ahead of itself, and the winds may shift again. “Experts” are forecasting this event to last anywhere from days to weeks to months. I have taken the precaution of putting a couple of pillows and a comforter into our car that is parked in the open, instead of the carport, in case of seismic activity, at least for now.

Jamie Douglas
San Rafael, Mendoza
Where the Malbec wine is Always Fine!

[Image via Wikipedia]

I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.