Volcano Gives a Christmas Gift

Cumbre Vieja eruption, 7 Dec 2021 (photo by Mike Peel via Wikimedia Commons)

4 January 2022

On Christmas Day the volcanic eruption of Cumbre Vieja on La Palma (Canary Islands), which began on 19 Sep 2021, was declared over at last.

“What I want to say today can be said with just four words: The eruption is over,” Canary Islands regional security chief Julio Perez said at a news conference.

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez described the end at the Cumbre Vieja volcano as “the best Christmas present”.

UPI: Canary Islands volcano eruption declared over after 3 months of activity

Less than two weeks earlier, on 12 December, Cumbre Vieja broke the local record for the longest known eruption of any volcano on La Palma. By then it had run 85 days, one day longer than the Tajuya Volcano in 1585.

The next day, 13 December 2021, Cumbre Vieja burped a huge amount of sulphur dioxide gas that forced 30,000 people to shelter indoors and then it stopped rumbling. Seismic activity dropped to zero. Was it merely aiming to break Tajuya’s record?

Scientists waited and watched to make sure it was over. The official news came out on Christmas Day.

The eruption left behind a wake of destruction. This 23 November map shows the lava extent and destroyed buildings (red dots) at the time.

Map showing the extent of lava from the 2021 Cumbre Vieja volcanic eruption and buildings destroyed by lava, as of 2021/11/23 (from Wikimedia Commons)

The final lava extent was even larger, covering at least 1,040 hectares (2,570 acres). It increased the island’s size by 119 acres, destroyed almost 3,000 buildings and wrecked businesses and banana plantations.

Interactive Open Street map of the Cumbre Vieja lava extension, snapshot on 31 Dec 2021 (from Wikimedia Commons)

But there was a side benefit. In October 2021 “all hotels, hostels, guest-houses at La Palma were fully booked on account of the large number of tourists traveling there wanting to see the volcano.”

Visitors watch the Cumbre Vieja eruption, 31 Oct 2021 (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to Cumbre Vieja’s Christmas gift the hard work of rebuilding can begin. “The Spanish government has promised $255 million in assistance for people living on the island.

La Palma will have a happy new year.

For more information and photos see:

(photos and maps from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals)

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