La Palma Volcano Seeing Thickened Lava Flow as Further Evacuations are Halted

by Matthew Memrick

Thickened lava flow at Spain’s La Palma volcano was a good sign as officials halted more evacuations on Monday.

CNN reported that a river of lava from the Cumbre Vieja, or “Old Peak,” volcano started to thicken after the north side of the crater collapsed Sunday.

This lava flow and others in the volcano’s history have avoided populated areas. Canary Islands regional president Angel Victor Torres told television station TVE that some ordered lockdowns came because of air quality. The island region evacuated 6,000 people at one point.

Reportedly, the lava has destroyed 20 miles of roads and the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program reported one part of the lava river was between 12 and 18 feet in height.

While governed by Spain, the island nation sits off the western coast of Morocco.

What’s Up, Volcano?

Government officials were fearful of a massive eruption this year. Torres said the volcano had more material spewed from it at a fast pace than the 1971 eruption. There was also an eruption in 1949.

On Sept. 11, seismic activity under the volcano increased, and the area experienced about 22,000 earthquakes. The earthquakes averaged about 3.5 on measuring scales. A couple of days later, warnings went out to 35,000 people in a radius around the volcano.

The island isn’t out of the clear yet. Though there’s less gas coming from five vents, Torres said the eruption’s pace could spell more damage for the country. His administration has plans to buy 300 or so houses for those who lost their homes.

Since Sept. 19, CNN reported that the volcano had destroyed about 1,000 buildings. Many El Paso and Los Llanos de Aridane residents left the area when the volcano started to brew. The island nation, where many hurricanes form and head toward the U.S., has 83,000 in population.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez visited over the weekend and told officials the country would offer 206 million euros in the rebuilding effort. He also vouched for La Palma’s safety to tourists.

Strange Circles Over Volcano

Late Monday, the Washington Post reported that satellites picked up images of swirling clouds above the volcano. Meteorologists and social media fans picked up on the strangeness of the images.

The Washington Post described the rings and likened the event to a fishing bobber in a pond.

“(The bobber’s) density allows it to sit on the surface of the water without sinking,” author Matthew Cappucci said.

Cappucci said if you were to press downward on the bobber, it pops up. But if you lifted it into the air, gravity would throw it down. With the volcano, each surge of updraft producing a disturbance that ripples outward. Kind of like the waves that surround a bobber