Nicaragua’s Momotobo volcano has erupted for the first time in 110 years, spitting lava and sending plumes of smoke high into the sky.
The 1,297 metre peak in northwest Nicaragua also emitted some glowing rock on Wednesday, after gas and ash emissions began Tuesday.
— BBC Weather (@bbcweather) December 2, 2015
The Government spokeswoman said that schools in the region had been evacuated, but fortunately, for now, the hot rock and ash were heading toward very sparsely populated areas.
The last time Momotobo erupted was in 1905 and had been, up until then, one of the most active volcanoes in the country producing 10 eruptions between 1849 and 1905. In 1605 the volcano had a major eruption that destroyed the then capital of the region, Leon Viejo .
Science Alert reports: Locals had reported feeling tremors in the region the past few weeks, and on Monday night the volcano blasted a plume of ash about 1,000 metres high.
It was a strombolian eruption – volcanic activity that produces a range of continuous small explosions – and it produced a beautiful lava fountain, complete with glowing rocks tumbling down the slopes.
Since then, the volcano has continued to belch out gas and ash. Scientists still don’t understand what makes volcanoes go silent for hundreds or thousands of years before waking up again, but there’s evidence that this current eruption has been building since around 2003.
As volcanologist Erik Klemetti from Denison University writes for Wired:
“As recently as 2003-2011, the volcano experienced a series of small seismic swarms that suggested magma moving in the system beneath the volcano. In 2007, the hydrothermal system in the summit crater began to heat as well, so this eruption may be the culmination of over a decade’s worth of priming in the magmatic system.”
It’s not the only active volcano in South America right now, with Fuego and Santiaguito in Guatemala both experiencing moderate eruptions. Nicaragua’s Telica volcano has also had a restless 2015, with minor eruptive activity.
All of these volcanoes are situated on the Cocos Plate, which is gradually slipping underneath the Caribbean Plate as a result of a process known as subduction. Subduction can create conduits for magma to escape to the surface, but it’s not so clear exactly how that happens, or how long it takes.