TNB Night Owl – Overnight Volcano

Parícutin Volcano, Mexico, in the 1940s. Image captured by the News Blender.

Dionisio Pulido, his wife, and family, were preparing their fields for spring planting. Their farm was situated 322 kilometers (200 miles) west of Mexico City, in the state of Michoacán, part of an area of Mexico that volcanologists call the Michoacán-Guanajuato Volcanic Field, which is in turn part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. In the preceding days and weeks, an estimated 300 short, minor earthquakes rumbled and gently shook the land now and again. The date was February 20, 1943.

At 4 p.m., I left my wife to set fire to a pile of branches when I noticed that a crack, which was situated on one of the knolls of my farm, had opened . . . and I saw that it was a kind of fissure that had a depth of only half a meter. I set about to ignite the branches again when I felt a thunder, the trees trembled, and I turned to speak to Paula; and it was then I saw how, in the hole, the ground swelled and raised itself 2 or 2.5 meters high, and a kind of smoke or fine dust – grey, like ashes – began to rise up in a portion of the crack that I had not previously seen . . . Immediately more smoke began to rise with a hiss or whistle, loud and continuous; and there was a smell of sulfur.

Dionisio Pulido

Within 24 hours, the volcanic vent Pulido had seen became a scorian cone, or cinder cone; a mountain of ash and lava about 50 meters (260 feet) high. In a week it grew to an estimated 100 to 150 meters (325 to 490 feet) tall. The newly born volcano was christened Parícutin, the latest (and only eruption since 1759) in a volcanic field of approximately 1,400 cinder cone volcanoes and vents covering the region. Parícutin was active for nine years, and went permanently dormant in 1952. By that time, it had reached an height of 424 meters (1,391 feet). The damage it caused affected 233 square kilometers (90 square miles). In all, three people were killed by the eruption of Parícutin. Hundreds of others had to be evacuated and relocated. Two nearby villages were buried forever in ash and three other villages were damaged, but survived.

Fast foward to the present day: the Institute of Geophysics at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) has detected 236 earthquakes between May 1 and June 8, 2021, in the very same area as Parícutin. Six of those quakes were recorded as magnitude 4.0 or greater. Additionally, a swarm of 300 milder earthquakes were measured in the months prior to May. Does this mean another ash cone volcano arising out of the ground is imminent? Maybe, maybe not. But authorities have warned area residents to be ready to evacuate, just in case.

“The Active Volcano which Grew from a Farmer’s Field; Paricutin” (3:46):

“Volcan Paricutin (Michoacan, Mexico)” (4:17):


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About Richard Doud 622 Articles
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