San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Volcanic eruptions

Experts confirm increased activity at Turrialba Volcano

Tall, white columns of vapor and gas on Wednesday morning surprised residents near the Turrialba Volcano, east of Cartago, as the western crater registered increased activity that formed a 1.5-kilometer fumarole, the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI) reported.

María Martínez Cruz, a volcanology and geochemistry expert at OVSICORI, explained that emissions don’t yet include ash, a situation that last year affected residents north of Cartago and as far away as the provinces of San José, Heredia and Limón.

“We haven’t received any reports of ashes being emitted, and the gas and vapor plume has maintained its size. At its peak it reached a maximum height of 4 kilometers above sea level, or some 1.5 kilometers above the crater,” Martínez said.

Reports from both OVSICORI and the University of Costa Rica’s National Seismological Network (RSN) state that activity at Turrialba can be considered within normal parameters and is caused by the large amount of rainfall registered in the area in recent days and an increase in the crater’s temperature.

OVSICORI and RSN experts on Thursday will conduct inspections at Turrialba to take measurements and samples from the crater.

In addition to gas and vapor, experts have not registered any irregular increase in the area’s seismicity, Martínez said.

“At this time activity at Turrialba is lower than that currently registered at Irazú Volcano,” she said. Irazú, also in Cartago, is currently experiencing a series of minor tremors that have ocurred since December.

On Oct. 29, 2014, Turrialba, located 67 km northeast of San José, registered its largest explosions and ash emission in the past 150 years.

At the time, 180 hectares north of Cartago were affected on some level, but the Agriculture Ministry’s director of extension services, Felipe Arguedas, said there was no cause for concern about long-term consequences for human health.

Dairy and crop farming are the primary productive activities in the northeastern region of Cartago, and farmers mostly grow vegetables, tubers and flowers. About 80 percent of potatoes consumed in Costa Rica are produced in this region.

Recommended: TIMELINE: A recent volcanic history of Costa Rica

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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