Ecuador – Volcanic Activity Report

Volcano Map of Ecuador

Volcanos of Ecuador

Original Image Part of a world wide set of volcano maps from The U.S.G.S. via

Why Ecuador?

With all the earthquake activity that we’d seen lately (see this link with live earthquake maps, so you will see the quake activity today, but with comments reflecting what it looked like when I wrote this):

I was cruising through the volcano reports and it just sounded like something fun was going on. I'd love to find a video of this, but have not had time to look yet. Besides, folks are always talking about Chaitén or the Indonesian volcanos. It's fun to look at something else from time to time. (And yes, Chaitén is still going and still has a chance of being a Super Volcano, but that could be a million years away. Literally. While this puppy could put on a real show any day now!)

One of my favorite bits is this quote:

During 11-12 January, activity increased; ash plumes rose to higher altitudes and more explosions were detected. Incandescent blocks were ejected almost 1 km above the crater and 1.5 km away from the crater, onto the flanks.

It has got to be a bit of a show to see incandescent blocks flying a kilometer through the air! Also notice that 1916 – 1918 date for the last major eruption. There were many volcanos that blew their top around then, including Mount Lassen in California (IIRC it was 1914). IF we are entering a new volcanic active window as we enter a solar minimum, I’d expect to see some of that old cluster of volcanoes lighting up this time. We’ll have to wait and see, but the anticipation is what it’s all about …


We have:

TUNGURAHUA Ecuador 1.467°S, 78.442°W; summit elev. 5023 m

The IG reported that during 5-6 January a gas-and-ash plume from Tungurahua rose to an altitude of 6.5 km (21,300 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NW. The sulfur dioxide emission rate was 3,200 tons per day, ten times the value measured during the previous months. On 7 January seismic tremor duration and amplitude increased, and signals indicative of explosions were detected. On 6 and 7 January, incandescent blocks were ejected and fell back into the crater. During 8-10 January, cloud cover often prevented observations; on 10 January a steam-and-ash plume rose to an altitude of 6.5 km (21,300 ft) a.s.l. and drifted W. Incandescence from the crater was sometimes seen at night. Ashfall up to 5 mm thick was reported in areas W and SW on 9 and 10 January. Roaring noises and vibrating glass were occasionally noted during the reporting period.

During 11-12 January, activity increased; ash plumes rose to higher altitudes and more explosions were detected. Incandescent blocks were ejected almost 1 km above the crater and 1.5 km away from the crater, onto the flanks. Gas-and-ash plumes rose to an altitude of 8 km (26,200 ft) a.s.l. and drifted in multiple directions. Ashfall was reported in areas to the NNW, W, SW, and S.

Geologic Summary. The steep-sided Tungurahua stratovolcano towers more than 3 km above its northern base. It sits ~140 km S of Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, and is one of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes. Historical eruptions have all originated from the summit crater. They have been accompanied by strong explosions and sometimes by pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached populated areas at the volcano’s base. The last major eruption took place from 1916 to 1918, although minor activity continued until 1925. The latest eruption began in October 1999 and prompted temporary evacuation of the town of Baños on the N side of the volcano.

So toward the south of the country and away from Quito, but a “big one” that is often active.


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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27 Responses to Ecuador – Volcanic Activity Report

  1. POUNCER says:

    Isn’t is “settled science” that increasing the particulates in the atmosphere leads to global cooling? Sagan’s nuclear winter, the post-Krakatoa yeas without a summer, all that?

  2. Harold Vance says:

    I tried to climb Antisana back in 2000 but the weather didn’t cooperate and we ran out of time. I have been to the tops of Guagua Pichincha and the dormant Illiniza (both Norte y Sur). The highlands of Ecuador are beautiful. Weather is perfect year round. What a cool place.

  3. E.M.Smith says:

    To the best of my understanding, yes, if a big volcano blows, or even a collection of little ones, we get very very cold in a hurry and stay that way for years, sometimes decades.

    There is a clear correlation of such events with solar minima, but since no iron clad mechanism can be shown, it is rejected as ‘unproven’. This also has a nearly exact overlay with planetary positions and Solar angular momentum (and that has been used to predict solar output with high reliability) but that too is rejected as ‘astrology’ (while being completly mum on why solar / planetary mechanics should be so slandered…) But until a provable mechanism can be demonstrated, it will stay in the dog house.

    FWIW, the physics of “spin orbit coupling” is accepted at the subatomic level, but rejected at the macro level. I’ve never seen a good explanation of why physics would change between those two scales…


    So you are saying that if I had a chance to go live in Ecuador for a year or so I ought to give it a shot? (I know some folks down there so this is not a complete hypothetical ;-)

    I was leaning toward Chili or Argentina, but could be convinced otherwise 8-)

  4. pyromancer76 says:

    At the moment I think it is pure fun — aside from the science — to think about more frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions connected to our solar minimum since this one is so different, if I am thinking clearly, that no one alive has experienced anything like it. I had great enjoyment using your post to look through a number of Google pages and found:
    1. Stothers 1989 — “two weak but probably statistically significant periodicities of about 11 and 80 years, the frequency of volcanic eruptions increases (decreases) slightly around the times of solar minimum (maximum).” He also talks about longer periodicities and concludes that solar flares may alter earth’s spin, the jolt of which [might] trigger small earthquakes which affect volcanism.
    2. Can’t tell author — academic emporia — aberjame? Earth experiences more-or-less continuous volcanic eruption along mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones; hot-spot volcanoes are somewhat irregular. Cited Nesje and Dahl (2000) who suggested that volcanic eruptions played a major role in cooling events in the northern hemisphere during the past 600 years (LIA).
    3. Saul in Physics Forums 4/26/09 suggests that “what is causing the volcanic eruptions could also be causing the planet to abruptly cool” He turns to the “role of explosive volcanism during the “Cool Maunder Minimum” and the Dalton Minimum (Tambora). He ends with Bay ea (2004) who find volcanic ash layers in the Siple Dome (Antartica) borehole simultaneously with milennium-timescale cooling recorded at Greenland (GISP2) — however the abstract does not mention solar minima at the beginning of these events.

    There is more, but it is time to cook dinner. I haven’t even got to the barycenter material — oh, the problems on WUWT over this speculative (so far) subject.

    I enjoy these specualtions very much, especially when they are connected with too many coincidences. They say keep looking, even though we do not yet have any “physical” mechanism — and maybe we never will. But, thanks for the pure pleasure. (My most recent interest is in comet/asteroid impacts — some may be connected to significant volcanic eruptions — but I do not know any linked to solar minima.)

  5. Harold Vance says:

    E.M., I would spend three or four months in each of those three countries if I had the time and the flexibility. Back in 2000, Ecuador was on the dollar and it went a long way. The local beef was awesome as was the red wine. You could get a big steak and a glass of wine for like $7 at a nice restaurant. Quito was pretty inexpensive. The air quality wasn’t that great in the big city, but we spent most of our time outside of the city and hiking or climbing.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @pyromancer76: Take a look at this graph:


    If the graph can be believed AND if we are dropping into another event like “the last one”, then we will be watching something last seen about 1300 to 1600… The note from the “Little Ice Age” dip is “about 90 major eruptions, 4 in 1660 alone”. Just image 4 Pinatubos or 4 Mt. St. Helens a year…

    But we are early in the drop, if there is one, and it happens in geologic time scales… so it might well take a decade to get rolling.

    (My most recent interest is in comet/asteroid impacts — some may be connected to significant volcanic eruptions — but I do not know any linked to solar minima.)

    Google “antipodal focusing”. There is decent evidence for major impacts causing the other side of the planet to have crustal flexure and loads of vulcansim. So when the asteroid killed the dinosaurs, we also had intense vulcanism, but not as a coincidence as always assumed before…

  7. Geoff Sharp says:

    FWIW, the physics of “spin orbit coupling” is accepted at the subatomic level, but rejected at the macro level. I’ve never seen a good explanation of why physics would change between those two scales…

    And I wont stop digging…recently Gerry and I found (to be tested) missing angular momentum between the planets and Sun and if we follow the laws of conservation of angular momentum, this could be traded off as spin orbit coupling and a change of rotation at the Sun.

  8. windansea says:

    Yellowstone earthquake swarm continues into third day, intensifies
    Source: Denver Post

    The swarm of earthquakes that started Sunday at Yellowstone National Park continued this morning with the magnitude of the tremors increasing last night and today.

    At 9:48 a.m. today, a magnitude 3.3 tremor was recorded. A magnitude 3.3 tremor was also recorded at 8:39 p.m. Monday night followed by a magnitude 3.0 earthquake at 9:42 p.m. Monday. Prior to the 3.3 at 9:48 a.m., the park had seen tremors of 2.5, 2.6 and 2.7 this morning.

    As of 9:20 a.m. today, 424 earthquakes had been recorded in the swarm, according to Jamie Farrell, a doctoral student in geophysics at the University of Utah, which operates more than two dozen earthquake recording stations in the park.


    Prof. Robert B. Smith, a geophysicist at the University of Utah and one of the leading experts on earthquake and volcanic activity at Yellowstone, said that the activity is a “notable swarm.”

    Read more:

  9. Tim Clark says:


  10. Tim Clark says:

    Dam** keyboard

    Pick Chile,
    At least I’ll know at least one person with an inquiring mind who enjoys wine (I hope).

    REPLY: [ I do enjoy wine, but I can be very picky about it. It must be either red or white, unless it is ‘blush’ aka rose. It is best if it is a still wine, or has fizz “sparkle” in it. I’m expecially fond of sweet German style whites, dry French wines, the smooth Italian wines, and all the South American, Australian and Amercian versions of same. Though I’ve also had a few interesting African wines. I must also give “special mention” to the fine Spanish and Portugues wines, especially the Madeiras and Ports. Oh, and there are those wonderful Asian fruit wines too… I even have a special place in my heart for those Vitis Labrusca varietals that can only properly be made in places like Georgia, Tennissee, Texas, New York, … Other than that, about the only other wine I drink is desert wine and Sake (aka Rice Wine). I know, too limited a palate … but I get by ;-) and Yes, the Chilean wines are very nice… BTW, I like living in wine country here in California… -E.M.Smith ]

  11. Zuri says:

    The Tungurahua volcano has been active since 1999. Now it has become one of Ecuador’s main attractions.

  12. Retardo says:

    This is completely off topic, but I figured you might know this.

    Do you have an idea of how all the different data sets are generated? Ie, which data sets contribute to which other ones?

  13. boballab says:

    There is really only one widely used global dataset and that is GHCN which is a product of the National Climatic Data Center, a division of NOAA. They get the information for the dataset from what is called CLIMAT reports which are made up from data collected by the different countries. Examples of this are Australia’s Bureau of Meterology and New Zealands NIWA.

    I made up a Yahoo Group that has a dataset primer on Who makes the Datasets, Who uses them and a basic what is made from them.

  14. Retardo says:



  15. Dennia says:


    OT but I wanted to congratulate you on your appearance on the American Thinker Blog today. Nice Job and thanks for the work you do.

  16. DirkH says:

    So you are saying that if I had a chance to go live in Ecuador for a year or so I ought to give it a shot? (I know some folks down there so this is not a complete hypothetical ;-) ”

    A friend of mine was in Quito for 3 years.
    You will be breathless the first months, often waking up at night, until your body gets used to the height – Quito is on a high plateau.
    Sun sets at 6 p.m. year round and rises at 6 a.m.
    No seasons. Same weather year round.
    On sunset, it gets cool. You always need a leather jacket or somesuch.
    He said every continent has its Finland – in South America it is Ecuador. (He was referring to the depressive boozers in Quito’s bars. Here in Europe the Fins are famous for their sombre mood. Watch a film by Aki Kaurismaeki to get the picture, “Ariel” for instance, and then imagine the film happening in Ecuador.)
    Hope i didn’t spoil the fun ;-)

    REPLY: [ I don’t seem to have problems with altitude. I’ve run up to 8500 ft and skied all day long, including cross country, and not noticed. Also hit 12,000 (via car) and got out to explore a volcano… Folks with me had issues, I felt fine… Then again, I have oversized lung volume… BTW, I don’t care who’s hanging out in bars or what they are doing. As long as they’re not in my face, not my problem… I’m looking to visit a place a bit more ‘in the country’ ;-) -E.M.Smith

  17. Layne Blanchard says:

    E M,

    Really like your work. The NOAAGATE story is on American Thinker right now.

    It seems clear to me that gravitational interactions are a meaningful component in climate changes…… and I’m a touch nervous about Yellowstone right now. :-)

  18. lgl says:

    “IF we are entering a new volcanic active window as we enter a solar minimum”

    We are already there, but it’s the Moon, not the Sun.

  19. Jim S says:

    Volcanic activity and the current unusual solar cycle would make an interesting study. There is probably a distinct correlation.

  20. Tim Clark says:

    on January 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm Layne Blanchard
    It seems clear to me that gravitational interactions are a meaningful component in climate changes…… and I’m a touch nervous about Yellowstone right now. :-)

    141 quakes in the last 6 days. A second “swarm” there in the last year or so. Hmmmh. Somewhat unprecedented.

    This research indicates “number of 7 or greater earthquakes is the highest in the history of the earth”. Well, maybe since 1973.

    From the website:

    The Earthquake Project is a concerted effort to bring together historical data on earthquakes for purposes of trend analysis.
    It provides a comprehensive picture of US Geological Survey data from the 1970s until today, and exposes some interesting trends in seismic activity.

    I’ve read two other papers, one claims a 21 year periodicity (Jaroslav Strestik), the other (can’t find the links right now)claims that earthquakes ramp up the most after a significant solar minimum.

    We’re all gonna die!!!, eventually.

  21. Tim Clark says:

    The U of Utah siesmo program shows 243 cat. 1 or better in the last six days.

  22. e.m.smith says:

    It looks to me like we’re dropping off a little bit on recent larger quakes, but the overall activity is still quite high (i.e. lots of little squares on the maps). But volcanos are very slow things (until they blow their top ;-) so it could easily take a decade (or a century!) to see a ‘spike’ in volcanic activity.

    OTOH, that Utah map is interesting. Looking at the list of quakes (and a lot of them are dinky) they ALL have (for the present list) West Yellowstone as the location…

    I don’t know enough about the dinky quakes pattern there, but “this isn’t good” comes to mind ;-)

    That sure looks to me like a lot of rock slowly moving somewhere. I’d hope were not seeing “uplift” at the same time…

    This map:

    shows them in a pretty tight cluster on the edge of the old caldera. Murfpht…

  23. turkeylurkey says:


    Ze upleeft, eet’s no more jus pour les Gran Tetons, no?

    Nice to see you back at the house organ, Cheif!


  24. pyromancer76 says:

    Yes, that Yellowstone swarm. I have been watching and reading other science sites. So far, “nothing to be concerned about”; “same activity last January”. But then, well, it might be a little more this time. Anyway, both series are within this solar minimum.

    J. Stestik (2003) also finds greater vocanism. “Using 21-yr running averages a striking similarity between these two time series [sunspot numbers and volcanic activity] is clealy seen. Volcanic activity is generally lower in periods of prolonged maxima of solar activity and higher in periods of prolonged solar minima….main peaks…in both series (200-215m 100-105, 80-90 yrs)”

    From 2008 Fall Meeting (AGU?) a presentation by TJ Crowley: “…there is a first-order shift in the intensity and frequency of global volcanism that began in the mid-13th century, almost at the same time as cooling events….almost eerie similarity in the timing of pulses of volcanism and C-14 and Be-10 inferred changes in ‘solar’ variability.” He continues by asking if pulses of volcanism might cause these changes we can measure rather than any other possibilities. The main point is that solar proxies might not be as reliable as believed.

    As to my frustration with your tip jar. I finally figured out the required information was simply email address and name. But my, my, it sure is complicated. Can you find something easier? Furthermore, I want to “subscribe”, not simply to “tip” the one amount permitted (and, as usual, I probably just don’t know how to change it, but I tried). This time I am going to make multiple “tips”.

    Thanks for all your efforts in so many areas, the latest for assisting Anthony Watts and Joe D’Aleo with “Surface Temperature Records.” Great work. Blogs are the real thing in investigative journalism.

  25. Tim Clark says:

    I thought this was a good explanation of Yellowstone “swarms”. (From the Vulcanism blog)

    A few thoughts about faulting, earthquakes and eruptions:
    The earthquakes at Yellowstone have been universally attributed to fault movement rather than magmatic activity by the USGS and the researchers at the University of Utah. This is likely based on the moment solutions for the earthquakes (i.e., the sense of motion on the earthquake – side to side, dilation, etc.) and the fact that there are no directly correlative volcanic/magmatic symptoms to go with them (such as pronounced, short-term bulging, excessive hydrothermal venting, etc.) Now, a lot of you are concerned that maybe we’re all misreading this and the earthquakes are being seen as merely tectonic because magma is moving things around down there.
    Well, it is a little bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario: do fault move because of magmatic activity or is magma movement facilitated by fault movement. There is likely a little of both can could happen – an earthquake can trigger an eruption if the system is posed at the brink of an eruption and conversely, as we know, magmatic movement can trigger earthquakes because the crust has to accommodate the new material (it has to “make room”). So, how can we be sure that this isn’t happening at Yellowstone – and remember, for extreme conclusions (like an impending eruption) we need exceptional evidence. (And take note, I’m not seismologist or structural geologist, so feel free to point out where I might be off in these descriptions).
    (1) The moment tensor/focal mechanism solutions for these earthquakes are dominantly strike-slip – i.e., the “beach ball” symbol suggests the movement is side-to-side motion with some extension on the fault – or a transtensional movement with both some extension and shear. This sort of movement can be accomplished without magma just from movement along faults due to extension. However, before you get too excited …
    (2) The earthquakes are in the middle of an area of historical seismic activity that don’t produce volcano eruptions. The previous activity is the best sign for what is to come is what typically happens. So, the fact that most earthquakes in this area, at that depth with this solution are tectonic rather than magmatic, it would indicate that the current swarm is saying the same thing. It is sort of like watching a guy who only hits singles but hit a home run years ago come up to bat and expect him to hit a home run merely because he’s at bat. The earthquakes are commonplace at Yellowstone – just a normal at bat for the caldera.
    (3) If this were, by some chance, to be magmatically related, we would expect to see a progressive shallowing of the earthquakes as the magma moved upwards (if we’re worried about an eruption). So far, I have not seen either in the current swam. Even the most recent earthquakes are still at ~14-16 km / 10 mile depth. If you’re worried about an eruption, you’d need the earthquakes to start progressing upwards – without it, it could be lateral movement of magma, or just microfaults adjusting at depth.
    (4) Finally, although we have accessory anecdotal evidence of changes in the hydrothermal/magmatic system (e.g., Old Faithful isn’t so faithful, the long-lived bulging under Yellowstone Lake, etc.), these correlations do not automatically lead to causation. The caldera system is very complex, so much so that events on one side of the caldera can likely be wholly unrelated to one on the other. Just because we might see signs of change in the active systems roughly correlated with an earthquake swarm doesn’t mean that they must be related. However, it is a good idea to continue look for changes that could end up pointing towards a magmatic causation … with enough evidence.
    So, that is my take on this swarm and why we don’t need to be panicked or concerned that things are being misread. There are very clear signs that scientists look for when dealing with earthquakes and their sources, especially when magma is involved.

  26. E.M.Smith says:


    Per the ‘tip jar’: I’d just stuck it up as a ‘what the heck’ when I first was making the pages and substantially forgot about it (it was a free widget). Since Anthony has now pointed folks at it, there seems to be a ‘bit of action’ ;-)

    There had only been one or two ‘tips’ until now. FWIW, I’d been planning to just remove it. Then Anthony goes and points folks at it ;-) So my ‘first use’ of the ‘tips’ may just be to buy a ‘site upgrade’ that lets me put a real ‘tip jar’ widget on it ;-) That would also let me do a bit more of the more interesting ‘stuff’ that are ‘paid features’ on WordPress… We’ll see. How much I get done will depend on how much I have to work with. ALL money will go to hardware, software, etc. for the analysis work.


  27. pyromancer76 says:

    More power to you — let the tips and the “subscriptions” (like my regular contributions) begin. I have mourned the loss of my environmental organizations and their publications and all the science journals I no longer subscribe to (I am keeping Science Mag — can’t give up everything just yet.) Now I want to “invest” in investigative “journalism” — there is very little to none in the lame-stream media — even Fox News treats topics so gingerly, but they are the best. I am eternally grateful to you for the research you have so generously done. I’m sure there are many others like me as well.

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