Popocatépetl releases a blast of volcanic ash • Earth.com

Popocatépetl releases a blast of volcanic ash

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features Popocatépetl, an active stratovolcano located in Central Mexico.

Often referred to as “Popo,” Popocatépetl is one of the country’s most famous volcanoes. It is the second-highest peak in Mexico after Citlaltépetl (Pico de Orizaba). Popocatépetl is part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt that spans across central Mexico.

“The towering stratovolcano has been erupting for decades, with near constant venting from the crater punctuated by the cyclical growth of viscous lava domes and explosive blasts of ash and volcanic bombs,” said NASA.

“The OLI (Operational Land Imager) on Landsat 8 captured an image of one of the volcano’s recent bouts of activity on January 27, 2024.” 

Sébastien Valade, a volcanologist at National Autonomous University of Mexico, noted that the brown part of the plume contains ash. 

“The ash is thin and not very high in the atmosphere, but there’s still enough of it to have minor impacts on nearby communities,” said Valade. “Compared to what Popocatépetl is capable of, you can think of this as a little hiccup.”

According to Mexico’s Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED), the ash plume reached heights of roughly 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) on January 27 and led to minor ashfall in the towns of Nativitas, San Pablo del Monte, Ixtacuixtla de Mariano Matamoros, Zacatelco, Chiautempan, Santa Ana Nopalucan, Tlaxcala, Totolac, and Panotla. 

“When volcanic ash – made of shards of glass and pulverized rock – falls on nearby communities, it can cause respiratory problems, contaminate drinking water, and harm livestock and crops,” said NASA.

“Ash poses a risk to aircraft by blocking engine fuel nozzles, clogging air filters, and causing a range of other problems. According to one recent study of ash dispersal based on two decades of satellite observations from NASA’s MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) sensor, there are more than 100 airways that can be affected by ash from eruptions at Popocatépetl.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory 

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