Chaiten Volcano Erupts

Chaiten Volcano Erupts

Chile’s Chaitén Volcano continued releasing ash and steam on May 31, 2008. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite took this picture the same day. In this image, the plume blows toward the east, fanning out as it goes. The white color of the plume suggests that it contains more water vapor than ash. The red outline at the volcanic summit is a hotspot where the satellite has detected unusually high surface temperatures.

Clear skies over the coastline show that much of the land along the coast has assumed the gray-beige dullness characteristic of volcanic ash. A May 30 bulletin issued by Chile’s Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería stated that recent winds had dispersed volcanic ash along Chile’s coast between Chaitén and Chumildén to the north. The report also stated that, although seismic activity at the volcano had decreased, the possibility of explosive eruptions and pyroclastic flows could not be ruled out.

Chaitén is caldera volcano formed by a collapse of the volcanic summit that creates a circular depression. Prior to its May 2008 eruption, the volcano had been dormant for more than 9,000 years.

NASA images courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.

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