Rising smoke from Arenal Volcano caught the attention of tourists and area residents this week, but while the volcano’s misty top might be nice to look at, experts assure that the famous colossus is not waking from its slumber.
“Sometimes at Arenal water vapor and gas will combine to create these clouds,” Maria Martínez, a vulcanologist with the Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (OVSICORI) told The Tico Times. “When there are periods of heavy rain, large amounts of water will enter into parts of the volcano where there is a lot of heat and evaporate, but the clouds do not contain any magma.”
In 1968 Arenal awoke from a 500-year slumber with a devastating eruption and became one of the most visibly active volcanoes in the world. The volcano’s explosions and lava flows were a premier tourist attraction in Costa Rica for more than 40 years until 2010, when the volcano suddenly stopped its dramatic displays. Though Arenal is still considered active, it has fallen into what scientists expect to be a long slumber. For five years OVSICORI has not registered any magmatic gasses or internal seismic activity.
In 2013, the volcano showed vapor clouds for the first time since the lava stopped flowing. The smoke clouds set off rumors that the volcano would begin erupting again, exciting tourism operators that had relied on Arenal’s showmanship for decades. Despite optimism from many in the area, vulcanologists say there are no signs that the volcano will wake up anytime soon.
Still, scientists have admitted that there’s no way to know for sure.
“We don’t have any way to tell how long the volcano will be in this lower activity level,” Martínez said. “It could be days, decades or it could be centuries.”