Monday, September 26

Drones, aluminized suits and sheets of ash: the remains of a geological adventure in La Palma

A year after the eruption of the La Palma volcano, there are three things that continue to worry experts: when will the neighbors return to live normally, how the new terrain created will behave and what can be learned from the data of a volcano that it was in eruption 85 days and has left so many records. This Monday, coinciding with the first anniversary of the day on which the Cumbre Vieja volcano erupted, the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME-CSIC) has inaugurated an exhibition dedicated to the response given by scientists and emergency teams during the almost three months of eruption.

The victims of the La Palma volcano commemorate the anniversary with a demonstration: “The management has been a disaster”

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Through 12 explanatory panels, the organizers detail, they want to take a tour of the process of formation of the Canary Islands, the volcanic history of La Palma in particular and how the response work was carried out in Cumbre Vieja. “From a scientific point of view, it was important to know that this could happen and to explain its context”, pointed out the director of the IGME-CSIC, Ana María Alonso Zarza.

In the showcases located on the first floor of the IGME headquarters you can see drones, aluminized suits, sheets of accumulated ash, lapilli or the notebooks in which the geologists took the first notes of what they were observing. The volcano spewed out more than 200 million cubic meters of lava.

“We cannot stop a volcano, but we can respond”, said Raúl Pérez López, coordinator of the Geological Emergency Response Unit of the IGME-CSIC, who recounted during the presentation of the exhibition how those 85 days were, how necessary coordination was when “making decisions such as moving 2,000 people from their homes” or the impression that “entering lava fields” gave them.

Now it’s time to return to normality, the geologist has asked. “We have lava fields, volcanic tubes, fumaroles, structures,” he lists. On the one hand, all these new formations have to be protected; but on the other, “there are people who have lost everything and who deserve to have what was theirs again.”

On the ground, the most worrying thing is the gases. “The volcano has placed a large amount of magma underneath, which is cooling and degassing,” explains Pérez López. That gas, which does not have enough pressure to make the eruption continue, is the reason that many residents of Puerto de Naos and La Bombilla cannot continue with their lives, explains the expert. Although inside Cumbre Vieja there is still movement of gases and fluids, “these are different signals from the first ones that were telling us about an eruption.”

In the words of the researcher, right now the studies are focused on seeing how what has happened in La Palma can serve to identify “future eruptions in Tenerife, but also in other islands such as El Hierro or Lanzarote, which are islands that have active volcanism” .

“We work with uncertainties. We will never be able to tell you in four months, at four in the afternoon, a volcano in such a town is going to erupt, with this energy and this vigor”, acknowledges Pérez López. “But we can see, based on what has happened on La Palma, what could happen again on the island and, above all, how we could understand the signals that could appear on Mount Teide or in Lanzarote.”

About the future of the land that the lava engulfed, the geologist is more pessimistic. “I hope they ask us, because we will be able to give them information that will surely be useful to them, but it is still very difficult. It will take a long time and it is very complicated. There are many interests there”, ditch.

The exhibition ‘On the volcano’ can be seen from Monday to Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the headquarters of the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain. Calle de Ríos Rosas, 23. Madrid (Madrid)

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