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Why Guatemala’s Volcanic Eruption Is So Much Deadlier Than Hawaii’s

Rico’s TICO BULL – A report on CNN explains how Guatemala’s Fuego volcano eruption is so much deadlier than Hawaii’s Kilauea eruption, though both eruptions swallowed homes and reminded everyone how ferocious nature can be.

The huge differences between Guatemala’s volcano eruption, which has killed 109 people and some 200 still missing since Sunday, and Hawaii’s eruption, which hasn’t killed anyone but keeps slowly wreaking havoc one month later: Lava vs. pyroclastic flow.

The report explains that Kilauea’s primary mode of destruction is lava, but Fuego has unleashed pyroclastic flow — a nasty mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases that can be much more dangerous than lava.

In Guatemala, pyroclastic flow from Sunday’s eruption topped 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit), according to CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

Kilauea’s volcanic eruption, left, and Guatemala’s Fuego eruption. The latter looks more like the images of volcano eruptions here n Costa Rica.

CNN quoted Erik W. Klemetti, associate professor of geosciences at Denison University. “This eruption at Fuego was explosive, sending hot debris down the steep sides of the volcano to make the pyroclastic flows.  Pyroclastic flows can tumble down a volcano at hundreds of kilometers per hour — way faster than what people and even cars could outrun,” he said.

By contrast, Kilauea produces lava (or sticky, molten rock) that typically creeps along at maybe hundreds of meters per hour — not nearly as fast as devastating pyroclastic flow.

Another difference is that the Kilauea is within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. But the Fuego volcano erupted near densely populated areas. “Villages are right on the foothills of the mountain,” Cabrera said. “So they had no time (to escape).”

Costa Rica’s volcanos are also within National Parks. But they areA report on CNN explains how Guatemala’s Fuego volcano eruption is so much deadlier than Hawaii’s Kilauea eruption, though both eruptions swallowed homes and reminded everyone how ferocious nature can be.

The huge differences between Guatemala’s volcano eruption, which has killed 109 people and some 200 still missing since Sunday, and Hawaii’s eruption, which hasn’t killed anyone but keeps slowly wreaking havoc one month later: Lava vs. pyroclastic flow.

The report explains that Kilauea’s primary mode of destruction is lava, but Fuego has unleashed pyroclastic flow — a nasty mix of ash, rock and volcanic gases that can be much more dangerous than lava.

In Guatemala, pyroclastic flow from Sunday’s eruption topped 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit), according to CNN meteorologist Ivan Cabrera.

CNN quoted Erik W. Klemetti, associate professor of geosciences at Denison University. “This eruption at Fuego was explosive, sending hot debris down the steep sides of the volcano to make the pyroclastic flows. Pyroclastic flows can tumble down a volcano at hundreds of kilometers per hour — way faster than what people and even cars could outrun,” he said.

By contrast, Kilauea produces lava (or sticky, molten rock) that typically creeps along at maybe hundreds of meters per hour — not nearly as fast as devastating pyroclastic flow.

Another difference is that the Kilauea is within Hawaiʻi Volcanos National Park. But the Fuego volcano erupted near densely populated areas. “Villages are right on the foothills of the mountain,” Cabrera said. “So they had no time (to escape).”

Different is also the long-term effects In both the Kilauea and Fuego areas, “the land will be unusable for years,” Klemetti said. But Guatemala faces a special danger that Hawaii doesn’t.

“The bigger issue with pyroclastic flows is they can be turned into volcanic mudflows (lahars) when the loose debris mixes with rain/river waters,” he said. “That is the new danger at Fuego right now.”

Costa Rica’s volcanos are also within National Parks. But they are also close to densely populated areas.

Just picture the Poas, Irazu and Arenal. Now an eruption. How far do you have to be to outrun pyroclastic flows? If you have that image, obviously not far enough.

In the Central Valley, both the Poas and Irazu are part of the landscape. Getting up to the Poas (to the crater when it is open) from the international airport is less than a 40-minute drive, less to the top of the Irazu from downtown Cartago.

And let us not forget the Turrialba, the volcano that ‘keeps on ticking’. It wasn’t long ago that an ash cloud made it to the greater metropolitan area, even forced closed the San Jose airport a few times.

Land use such as farming and dairy production surrouding the Turrialba has been greatly affected.

Me, I am taking the news of the volcano activities in Costa Rica more seriously. Just the way I learned to not dismiss lightly the earthquakes.

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