“This is just the beginning”: scientists do not rule out that lava reaches the sea through new areas

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Magma young man that rose from the depths of the Cumbre Vieja has reached the sea. It only took him two days to slide down the side of the volcano until he fell off a cliff about 100 meters high in the vicinity of Los Guirres beach. Lava, at more than 1000ºC, in its contact with sea water has formed a toxic black cloud, while gradually leaving a lava deposit that in just 45 minutes already reached 50 meters in height. Experts warn: “This is just the beginning.”

The lava deposit that is forming will continue to grow as long as the lava continues to gush out of the volcano and follow the path that this lava flow has already opened hawaiian. On its journey to the sea, it will continue to modify the terrain and create what is known in the Canary Islands as badlands, a steep and impassable terrain.

As Rosa Mateos, a geologist at the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain (IGME) comments, “we have only been erupting for 10 days” and “we still have a lot of eruption ahead of us.” Days when everything can change: both the surface of the land and the volcanic building that the lava can create on the seabed as the volcano continues to feed the lava. The expert insists that the uncertainty is maximum and everything can change, because this volcano has already shown that “it has many faces.”

“The island of La Palma is growing, we are verifying it”, assured Eugenio Fraile, expedition chief in the Ramón Margalef, in statements to TVE. From the ship they were able to perform a very high resolution bathymetry and managed to record the zero moment. This means that, once this volcanic episode passes, they will carry out another new reconstruction of the bottom to determine how much the island has grown.

As reported by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, a lava delta is forming that “little by little is gaining ground from the sea.” This formation originates after lava solidifies on contact with water. What happens is that it cools and breaks into fragments that are deposited on the seabed and that form, as occurs on the surface of the island, a non-uniform terrain.

“A positive moment”

Mateos considers that “it is a positive moment”, because “the lava has found its way of escape”. In full effusive phase, of continuous faster and more fluid magma emission, the expert points out that it is very possible that, from now on, everything that the volcano expels will follow the same path of this second pouring. “What is coming out is going to end up in the sea,” says the geologist. This material “is going to be redistributed” by the seabed and will fill in annexed areas and even collapse some already formed in others.

However, experts such as Rubén López, IGN volcanologist, assures this newspaper that the fact that lava can follow another path “is not a dismissable scenario” and, although now he follows the simplest path -which is the one that has formed this first wash that has reached the sea-, “it could change everything”, but “it is difficult to predict this”.

This eruption of Cumbre Vieja “It is very similar” to what happened in 1949 in San Juan, a little further south on the island of La Palma. In that case, a similar wash occurred and it reached the sea. As in this case, the lava at that time traveled through part of the island, until it spilled down the cliff and formed a delta or deposit of several thousand meters. “That delta is now full of banana trees,” says Mateos, adding that with the eruption of Cumbre Vieja “it could happen the same.”

At the moment, the situation at the level of deformation of the ground -in about 30 cm- and earthquakes remains stable. Since the effusive phase of the volcano began, there have already been at least a fortnight of earthquakes between 9 and 14 km deep. However, as López assures, “the situation remains stable” and the lava is expected to “continue advancing” in the form of runoff.

As Fraile explained, the fall of the lava into the sea has stained the water in shades of green, due to the large concentrations of ash and other products in contact with the water. An effect that was previously noted when the underwater volcano Tedoro erupted in El Hierro. “For now, all the scientific keys are being fulfilled”, said the expert, and “the steam columns are also behaving in the way we expected, there is no danger to the population.”


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