Tungurahua

kids_Art_Tungurahua

Tungurahua is one of the STREVA Project’s study volcanoes. This beautiful piece of art was drawn by one of the children who live alongside the volcano when we visited the region.

Tungurahua, a large stratovolcano located in the Andes of Ecuador, derives its name from the local language,  meaning ‘throat of fire.’ This is a very fitting name  for a volcano that began erupting again in 1999 and has continued to erupt relatively frequently ever since. It rises majestically above the small town of Banos and has several small communities perched around  its slopes. It is only 140 km south of the capital town of Quito.

Geological Setting

Tungurahua is a classic stratovolcano. It lies in the Cordillera Oriental of the Andes of central Ecuador, a classic ocean-continent subudction related setting Tungurahua owes its magma ultimately to the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the South American plate.

What sort of ‘top trump’ is Tungurahua?

It’s ‘continental setting makes it one of our tallest volcanoes with a height of  5,023 m.

It erupts relatively frequently (with several already in 2014) but larger eruptions are comparatively rare so its explosivity score (max VEI) is 5.

Nonetheless its fertile slopes mean that people have traditionally lived relatively close and so several historical eruptions have had some fatalities. It has a deadliness score of 195.

Tungurahua, in the evening light, pokes our from behind a church in the nearby town of Pelileo.

Tungurahua, in the evening light, pokes our from behind a church in the nearby town of Pelileo.

Wow! Factor 55 for the amazing cinder strewn slopes and fiery Stombolian eruptions of Tungurahua.

Tungurahua can have relatively small scale and fairly larger eruptions so scores 40 for unpredictability. 

Finally, one of its larger eruptions does have the potential to cause widespread damage to some of the nearby towns so it has a devastation potential of 247. Larger than some.

Amazing Fact

The Vigias of Tungurahua during a STREVA meeting describing the hazards in their communities with their colleague and friend from IG-EPN Patricio Ramon.

The Vigias of Tungurahua during a STREVA meeting describing the hazards in their communities with their colleague and friend from IG-EPN Patricio Ramon.

The frequent activity on the volcano has seen the development of an incredible group of volunteer watchers or ‘vigias’ around the volcano. They communicate daily with the volcanologists at the Instituto Geofisico e Politecnica Nacional in their local Observatory (IG-EPN). In association with the STREVA Project and IG-EPN one of our  VTT reearchers (Jon Stone) has studied these remarkable volunteers to understand the many ways in which they have helped the scientists and the local communities. You can read his paper about that work here.

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