Guest Videos: Laguna del Maule Volcanic Complex

This July 2018 blog post has a June 19, 2020, update at the bottom.

First off, here’s a skiing video, without a single mention of volcanoes. But everything they are travelling over, under, around and through is part of the Laguna del Maule volcano complex on the Chile-Argentina border.

Yes, it’s an active volcano. In fact, until last year it seemed the most likely candidate for the world’s next supereruption.

Volcanologists are trying to learn as much as possible about Laguna del Maule, so they can predict when it will erupt again.

Over the last eight years or so, the volcano has been swelling up rapidly (in geologic terms), but that just slowed down, which decreases the likelihood of an imminent eruption.

And it might not be “loaded” for a supereruption, either.

In 2017, an international research team decided not only is there not enough magma available down there for a supereruption but also the structural roof of the complex is unlikely to give way all at once.

This, plus the slow-down in deformation, is very encouraging, though any eruption is hard on people living nearby. El Maule hasn’t erupted in thousands of years, and with any luck it will remain peaceful enough to ski for millennia to come.

Here is a video (there are a couple of segments in English) about the 2017 report; it also shows what the complex looks like without snow:

And here is a machine-translated version of the 2017 report by Sernageomin, the agency that monitors (Spanish) Laguna del Maule.

More information: I’m still working through this new paper from late June 2018, which offers another authoritative view on eruption risks at Laguna del Maule: Singer, B. S.; Le Mével, H.; Licciardi, J. M.; Córdova, L.; and others. 2018. Geomorphic expression of rapid Holocene silicic magma reservoir growth beneath Laguna del Maule, Chile. Science Advances, 4(6): eaat1513.

Update, June 19, 2020: They’ve raised the alert level to Yellow because of increased seismicity southwest of the lake. Here is the SERNAGEOMIN Laguna del Maule page with all the latest information (Spanish).

Per their June 18th REAV (the equivalent of a USGS Volcano Activity Notice, I think), the quakes this week are small, low-energy ones, but back in March field researchers found a CO2 anomaly in the same area. The combined data led to the change in status. Of note, no eruptive activity is imminent.

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