27 comments on “Paricutin, Mexico – My First Volcano

    • MG – there was a horror writer here in the US nearly a century ago that made a living writing about strange happenings at odd locations in New England – HP Lovecraft. I was reminded of him by the SciAm narrative of the area before the eruption started. The depression in the field was well known, warm, and couldn’t be filed – all great fodder for stories of local supernatural events. While the eruption was a surprise to the locals, the fact that something odd was going on locally was not. I find that interesting and wonder how many other locales with odd goings on are actually precursors to geologic events. Earthquake lights, for instance. Cheers –

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      • That hole in the field has always intrigued me. It sounds like a very weak fumarole (mofette?), probably emitting only CO2. It had me wondering; are there any more of these ‘mysterious’ holes in the Michicoan field -perhaps known only to the local farmer cultivating that piece of land – which might one day be the site of an eruption? I wouldn’t mind betting that Mexico’s Geological Survey hasn’t been able to cover practically every square metre to find out (and with the drug cartels operating in the area such investigation could be hazardous to the health, just a little bit)

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  1. Hi Agimarc, that must be your best article so far, I hope you enjoy writing them as much as I do reading them; thank you! I have one perhaps less intelligent question about subduction: Why does the Cocos move in an almost northerly direction? According to the laws of least resistance it would be far easier for it to move east, where there is less land to push into.But no, it choses the way up, taking on the task of lifting/pushing the mass of north American continent…?

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    • Granyia – thank you very much for your kind words. They mean a lot.

      Am completely clueless about how and why plates move as they do. Suspect a lot of the overall movement is driven by currents in the mantle under the gross central area of the individual plates, which in turn tend to define the overall velocity and impact forces at the edges. What happens when they collide, subduct, fragment and otherwise interact with one another is anyone’s guess and the best I can tell a pretty new field of geology (once again, not an expert). One of the things I think I do is recognize patterns in things. Being a generalist, that is a somewhat useful skill. The bad news is that you see patterns where they do not exist, which means you need to be careful. So I use pattern recognition to guide my research a bit (not completely) and it tends to lead to some interesting paths.

      Paricutin was a labor of love as the book on it really got my attention as a kid. It was the first book I remember reading. I think it was third grade. The only bummer is that I have been so far unable to find it, probably due to the 55 year or so hiatus between its publication and now and the wanton destruction of billions of brane cells in needless frivolity over the decades. Cheers –

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  2. Btw. and OT… when I first looked a the photos in this article, I was very suspiscious about that color photo of the eruption at the top. I searched the internet for it, and it seems to be a genuine 1947 color photograph. So you are looking at a historical document from the early era of color photography.

    Apart from many early attempts from the late 19th century on, color photography had its beginnings in the 1930s, when the American Kodac and the German Agfa developed different technologies for films rather than plates. 1941 the first printable plastic sheets were introduced by Kodac, but those were still far too expensive for commercial use. Color photography had its commercial start after 1945, with Agfa technology providing a film that already contained the colors as opposed to the Kodachrome which applied the colors in the chemical developing process.

    The expense of color film as compared to black-and-white and the difficulty of using it with indoor lighting combined to delay its widespread adoption by amateurs. In 1950, black-and-white snapshots were still the norm. By 1960, color was much more common but still tended to be reserved for travel photos and special occasions…

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    • Loved the photos as they reminded me of the old ’50’s SciFi moves. As an aviator, was particularly blown away by the 1945 B&W photo of the Sikorsky helo flying far too close to mountain. Cheers –

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  3. Hi Agimarc

    The article is great. And yes It was a volcano in your backgarden….
    Unfortunalety I seem to have an issue with the pictures. They do not show….

    Plate moves are due to convection in the mantle.

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    • The photos don’t show for me either. Thought maybe it’s because I’m on my tablet. Will check on my computer later.

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  4. Wow, now I remember reading such a story in a children’s book as well, though that must be at least 25 years ago, and had it forgotten for 20 years surely.
    Can’t see the pictures either, only follow the links to them.

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  5. Howdy all – it seems to be some wierdness associated with MSIE8. I have found some info on turning on compatibility view in MSIE8 but have not figured out how to make it work on my desktop (Win7). Firefox, earlier and later versions of MSIE seem to work OK. If anyone else can help figure this out, please let me know. Cheers –

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  6. Hello all – it is the same issue with IE9 on Vista, and turning on compatibility view doesn’t help. It must be something WP has changed since the last article. Dispair not, I’ll go hunting for a fix…

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  7. Congratulations on the new blog. Great informative articles – thank you. I know everyone will always have a special hotspot in their hearts for Iceland and I have accidentally found a video: “Elemental Iceland”, by photographer Stian Rekdal, consists of over 40,000 pictures of over more than 3,000 miles of terrain in Iceland. I only hope it turns out.
    This volcano business has become quite a journey. First Jon’s blog then Carl’s, now here. I feel like a lemming. Hopefully, I am not too OT about this, but the video is breathtaking. http://www.wimp.com/photosiceland/

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  8. OVSICORI reports renewed activity of Costa Rica’s volcano Turrialba on Thursday/Friday. Yesterday, the international airport had been closed but re-opened in the evening, schools have been closed, and authorities are now preparing for evacuations in case of the situation getting worse.
    Several eruptions, stronger than those of the last weeks, have dispersed ash as far as to the capital San Jose, with a plume up to 1.5 km high. Scientists have collected ash samples; the analysis showed that it was almost all “old” material, rock blasted out of the duct, but a very tiny part was apparently fragments of fresh magma, suggesting that new magma could be moving in.
    One of the stronger blasts has also taken a new “bite” out of the crater rim (see image below); the first breach had happened earlier this year (or late last year?).

    Image: OVSICORI
    Turrialba latest videos from OVISCORI on fb (public): https://www.facebook.com/OVSICORI/videos

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  9. What a great, fine post! Congrats Agimarc – Paricutin was the bait who lured me into the world of volcanoes, but I had never stopped to read how interesting the tectonic settings were! Many thanks!

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  10. Paricutín was the first volcano I’ve visited outside of Europe, for the same reason as others mentioned, as a kid I read about it with b/w photos and I never forgot about it. Paricutín, Surtsey and Heimaey were the ones responsible for my fascination with volcanoes. Thanks for bringing back the memories.

    I can’t check the smithsonian database now, but I do not think it is part of the same volcanic field that extends into Mexico City? (That can be fun if it ever reawakens, see Xitle volcano, which erupted about 2000 years ago in what is now Mexico City, I always wonder why that is never paid attention to)

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  11. Good post thank you! That volcano was one of the early stories I read and started my interest in them. nice to revisit it!

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  12. Probably some of the last plots for Bardarbunga caldera.
    Note how nearly all the action takes part on the north side.

    Localization of earthquakes in Bardabunga caldera from 13/02 to 15/03.
    Dot size is according to magnitude.
    One can see that the earthquake frequency and magnitude are much lower than before.
    Data courtesy of IMO and NOAA, made on GNU Octave for Volcanohotspot.

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  13. Askja is what I am watching in terms of earthquake activity. However, she has a very slow system filling. It should be in the double digits of years before an eruption takes places. Very Sensitive measurements on annual basis is being monitored. So unless there is change in activity no worries.

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