23 comments on “Pinatubo – a personal journey

  1. Hi Agimarc, thanks a lot! That must have been exiting times, even though some work might have been involved too. 😉 Were you already interested in volcanoes back then? The same as I keep wondering what makes people choose a volcano for the best place to live, I don’t understand why they would keep a huge expensive military base near a potentially active volcano. They might not have known for sure when they first built it in 1903, but I read it was greatly extended and flourished best from 1945 to 1990.


    • Howdy Granyia –

      I was (and still am) interested in things that went boom – which included volcanoes. This led me into the bombs and bullets business and into amateur volcanology and amateur astronomy (meteors, comets and bolides) over the years. It is an interest that grew slowly and fitfully over that time. You can see a lot more interesting stuff from the air than you can from photos and maps.

      Interesting part of this is that Pinatubo was not identified even as a volcano until sometime in the 1970s – 1980s. By that time, the base had been there for a long time. Like I noted in the post, it was only confirmed as a real volcano with fumaroles in the early 1980s. Like we are seeing elsewhere, when you look at the same thing with different or differently educated eyes, you see different things. In Pinatubo’s case, it went from a pile of sand to a remarkably dangerous volcano capable of puking out 10 km3 in an 9-hour eruption.

      Hope all is well with you and yours. Cheers –


      • Additional thoughts: Clark was one of the primary places that supported Vietnam war during the 1960s – early 1970s, which led to most of its growth.

        The more I think about it, the more I believe the military planners focused on Arayat as the closest and most dangerous volcano to the base, and it hadn’t had any activity in recorded history. At the time, Taal was the next closest active volcano, some 190 km south of Clark. It took a long time to identify Pinatubo as a volcano. Cheers –


        • Writing from memory, it could take me a while to look up the reference, but I think the first geologist to mention Pinatubo by name (late 19th C) was a distinguished German Herr Doktor Professor, who opined that, while he couldn’t explain the geology of the massif, he was sure it was NOT a volcano. Was he ever wrong 🙂


  2. Here are some volcanic news and updates of this week:

    May 31: (SERNAGEOMIN) A yellow technical alert has been issued for Volcán Guallatiri or Wallatiri in northern Chile on the grounds of volcano-tectonic earthquakes and deformation changes.
    GVP: One of northern Chile’s most active volcanoes, Volcán Guallatiri is a symmetrical ice-clad stratovolcano at the SW end of the Nevados de Quimsachata volcano group. The 6071-m-high Guallatiri lies just west of the border with Bolivia and is capped by a central dacitic dome or lava complex, with the active vent situated at its southern side. Thick lava flows are prominent on the lower northern and western flanks of the andesitic-to-rhyolitic volcano. Minor explosive eruptions have been reported from Guallatiri since the beginning of the 19th century. Intense fumarolic activity with “jet-like” noises continues, and numerous solfataras extend more than 300 m down the west flank.

    Seen from lake Chungara: the Nevados de Quimsachata. Fltr: Cerro Humarata, Acotango Volcano, Cerro Capurata. Guallatiri Volcano. Photo: Gerard Prins

    The current alert levels for Chilean volcanoes are now:
    – Villarrica ORANGE – Calbuco YELLOW – Chaiten YELLOW – Copahue YELLOW – Guallatiri YELLOW

    VOLCAN WOLF, Ecuador
    June 2: (IG-EPN) Galapagos Special Report No. 3-2015
    Volcano Wolf is still erupting, albeit less intensely now. On 29 May an overflight has been conducted to assess the state of the eruption. Although clouds had been hampering the task, some thermal images could be taken to roughly map the lava flows, which mainly went down the SE to NE slopes and to a lesser extent to the W.
    One unusual feature of this eruption is the fact that it has no ash emission (except for the initial blast) but an extremely high output of SO2. The report states: “SO2 concentration peaked at more than 5000 ppm (Fig. 8). SO2 flow of 40,600 tons/day based on that journey, with a wind speed of 5 m/s (NOAA source) and a main direction towards the NW (Fig. 9) was calculated.”

    Hot spot imagery from MODVOLC Hawaii shows the daily lava heat source on Volcan Wolf:

    June 2: (IG-EPN) Cotopaxi Special Report No. 2-2015
    The seismic activity of the Cotopaxi volcano has been showing changes since mid-April this year, accentuating them in May. In May 3000 local earthquakes have been recorded, including a higher number of VLPs (very long period events). This increase is significant compared to 628 events recorded in April, as also observed during the 2001-2002 crisis, which was the most important in the last 15 years.
    Additionally to the number of earthquakes, the values​of their seismic amplitudes recorded at the nearest to the crater (BREF) station, also show an increase in May. The associated seismic energy corroborates this increase. Also since May, there has been an increase in the crater fumaroles, visible even at times from Quito. Additionally reports of climbers indicate that during the weekend of 22 and 23 May the sulfur smell was very intense, especially at 5700 m high on the northern flank of the cone.

    GUNUNG SINABUNG, Indonesia
    June 3: (PVMBG) RED allert has finally been called for Sinabung. After the previous lava dome collapse in April a new dome has been growing to about twice the size of the last one, fears are now that this could lead to a still more dramatic collapse event. Falling of incandescent rocks and pyroclastic flows have already started at the end of May. Also seismic activity that indicates higher internal pressure and/or arrival of new magma has been recorded during the last days. According to the procederes for red alert, over 6100 inhabitants of villages in the 7km radius have been evacuated, additionally to the ones that had still not been allowed back home since the beginning of the eruptive period in 2013.

    The lava lobe on Sinabung’s upper SE flank on 3 June 2015 (Beidar Sinabung/facebook)


  3. If one were inclined to the fantastical, one might see the toe of that lava lobe as the snout and head of a classic Dragon, just awaiting the right moment to breathe fire…..


    • True… 😀 But this dead one has more life in it as any classic dragon ever had; not only can it bite and breathe poison on you, it can throw a whole mountain on your village!


  4. A Mg 6.0 Earthquake (depth 10 km?) hit Mt. Kinabalu in the NE corner of Borneo (Sabah, Malaysia) this morning at 07:15 local time (23:15 UTC). This is quite an unusual area for EQs of that magnitude. About 40 climbers had to be rescued as slopes had become unstable and aftershocks caused rockfalls (another M 4.7 happened just now, 15.33 UTC). One prominent rock feature of the mountain, the “Donkey’s Ears”, had one “ear” broken off in the event.
    Posted on Twitter by Masidi Manjun (@MasidiM)

    Mount Kinabalu is split down the middle by a 1 1/2 kilometer deep gorge. This led people to assume that the mountain was an old volcano. However, recent evidence proves differently. It reveals Mount Kinabalu as the youngest granite pluton in the world, which has probably been uplifted by complex tectonic interaction of the subduction forces that work on its neighbors Sulawesi and the Philippine islands. Following the uplift, glacial and weather erosion denuded the batholith of its sediment cover. Mt. Kinabalu is now part of the Crocker Range and with its 4100m it is the highest mountain in the Malay Archipelago.
    from http://www.mount-kinabalu-borneo.com/mount-kinabalu-geology.html and


    • Howdy Granyia – there is a place called the Landslides Blog hosted by a geologist in Britain who specializes in landslides. As this was not active volcanic event, it will likely show up over there at some point. The earth does some interesting things over time under the actions of gravity, water and ice. Best to you and yours. Cheers –

      Addendum: He already has a post up on the slide. http://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/


      • Very nice article Agimarc, the more so with the vintage photos. The final dome of Sinabung has a real nasty look.

        The landslide blog is really very interesting, you learn a lot from it.


      • OT: I have known Dave Petley’s blog since even before I got interested in Volcanoes. On 4 Jan. 2010 there was a massive rockslide in Atta abad (northern Pakistan), blocking the Hunza river completely, creating Lake Gojal who’s level rose consequently to over 100 m depth and up to 21 km length in the narrow valley, inundating all villages, fields, bridges and the Karakorum highway to China on its slopes. Everyone was concerned about the loose rubble dam breaking and causing death and destruction down the entire valley and still further down at Tarbela Dam and water works. Very carefully a spillway was hewn or blasted out for the time when water would reach the top. In May/June that year the water begun overtopping the dam. That was a nerve racking time for all involved and even for us onlookers, as now the danger of the dam breaking was greatest. Dave Petley kept a blog with daily or more updates, with pictures, infos, rumors, decisions taken, decisions discarded, theories how to solve the problem etc. In the end, government couldn’t agree on any action and did nothing. And guess what? The dam thing is still there! But it seems to be running out through erosion, as its length on Google maps is now only abt. 11 km.

        Photo: Zulfiqar Ali Khan

        During this time the Pamir Times also reported daily, especially with wonderful footage by Zulfiqar Ali Khan (not the Marshall!) (sadly, the pictures have been removed from the site since). For a long time afterwards I still followed “Dr. Dave”‘s blog, and I read the Pamir Times to find out how the 25 000 displaced people were faring. Bad enough it was for them. Even now, for anyone interested in that lovely corner of the world, the Pamir Times is the newspaper to read!


  5. Sinabung:
    It appears that at least 6 pyroclastic flows hit the villages to the S and SE yesterday (13 June), but the lave dome is still up.

    The lava dome in itself is a great source of concern as it has grown to double the size of the previous ones. But that’s not all: apparently new cracks appeared in the rocks beside it which could mean that not only the dome comes tumbling down but also a chunk of the mountain itself.

    For frequent updates I recommend the tweets of Leopold Adam


  6. Pingback: Mount Banahaw, PI The Mystic Mountain |

  7. Mount Pinatubo on Luzon Island Which I think started this thread, has recently started producing hundreds of small earthquakes since since the beginning of March. It has now been officially upgraded from 0 to 1 on the Dost website.


    • Hi Brendan, thanks for the info! Yes, we had noticed the upgrade on 4 March. I don’t think it is a matter of concern, though, since access to the crater is not even restricted yet. Also, they detect very few volcanic earthquakes (VT), no more than is normal background activity. Most of the swarm are due to local tectonic or hydrothermal activity.

      At least that is what I read in the reports, I have no other reliable source to go by.


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s