It’s been a busy week for Mexico’s agency in charge of civil protection: first there was Monday’s 7.7. earthquake, which was felt in several states, and now the federal authority is exhorting people to stay away from Popocatépetl, a volcano in central Mexico where at least two minor eruptions occurred early Wednesday morning.
The eruptions with low ash content were reported by the National Civil Protection Coordination (CNPC) in two tweets that included videos showing columns of smoke estimated to be 800 meters high and blowing in a southwest direction.
The first eruption occurred at 4:48 a.m. and the second at 7:17 a.m. CNPC said the volcanic alert traffic light is on yellow, which is phase two. The National Center for Disaster Prevention (Cenapred) also issued warnings to not approach the volcano, which is located in the states of Puebla, Morelos and México.
Falling ash from Popocatépetl was reported shortly after the center of the country was shaken on Monday by a 7.7 magnitude earthquake centered in Coalcomán, Michoacán.
Live-action footage of the Popocatépetl volcano this morning shown on Webcams de México.
A las 07:17 h se presentó una explosión con contenido bajo de #ceniza, la altura de la columna fue de 800 m en dirección suroeste.
— Coordinación Nacional de Protección Civil (@CNPC_MX) September 21, 2022
At 4:20 a.m. the next morning, the volcano emitted an exhalation with low ash content and a plume of smoke estimated to be 1,200 meters. Later that day, there were minor eruptions at 7:39 p.m. and 7:42 p.m.
Cenapred noted that Popocatépetl’s monitoring systems detected 45 exhalations that were accompanied by water vapor, volcanic gases and light amounts of ash in a 24-hour period that started at 10 a.m. Monday (shortly before the earthquake). Additionally, eight minutes of high-frequency tremors were recorded.
Geophysicist Carlos Valdés, former director of Cenapred, said that “if the volcano is in a more or less uneasy situation, an earthquake can modify its behavior and increase activity.”
However, it has not been determined one way or the other if the Coalcomán earthquake had any effect on Popocatépetl or the Colima Volcano, which are both active and periodically exhale ash (and are both in or near the earthquake zone).
Any earthquake-volcano effect will only be observable as the days go on, Valdés stressed. “It has been seen in other volcanoes in the world, and also in Popocatépetl,” he added.
After the earthquake, and a 5.3 aftershock in Colima, the National Meteorological Service did issue a special warning due to the activity of the Colima Volcano, which was in the stage of passive degassing.
Additionally, about four hours after the earthquake, Mexico City’s office of Comprehensive Risk Management and Civil Protection (SGIRPC) activated the volcanic alert traffic light (yellow) and announced that ash might fall in any area of Mexico City. Popocatépetl is 70 kilometers (43 miles) southeast of Mexico City and can be seen from the capital depending on atmospheric conditions.
People were asked to stay informed through official channels, cover their noses and mouths with a handkerchief or wear a face mask, clean their eyes and throat with pure water and use eyeglasses rather than contact lenses to reduce eye irritation.
Similarly, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) recommended that people refrain from outdoor activities, keep pets from moving too much and sweep and remove ash from roofs, terraces and streets.
Popocatépetl — known colloquially as “El Popo” and “Don Goyo” — stands at 5,426 meters (17,802 feet), making it the fifth highest peak in North America and the second highest in Mexico behind Citlaltépetl (aka “Pico de Orizaba”) at 5,636 meters (18,491 feet). The Colima Volcano is the 14th tallest peak in Mexico, standing at 3,830 meters (12,566 feet).