Aug 21 2011

Volcano News – Ecuador, South America


Ecuador is not only home to the world’s highest point away from the center of the earth (Mount Chimborazo), but to numerous other active and extinct volcanoes. In fact, Ecuador has one of the world’s highest densities of volcanoes in one given country. There are 30 volcanoes on mainland Ecuador and some 14 in the Galapagos Islands.


Note: For a complete list of all the volcanoes (active & extinct) in Ecuador & Galapagos Islands, see Wikipedia link.

A Night (Time-lapsed) of typical volcanic activity of Tungurahua

Useful site (in Spanish) is the Geophysical Institute EPN (Instituto Geofísico de la Escuela Politécnica Nacional) that monitors seismic and volcanic activities in Ecuador.


DATE: August 21st, 2012



  • Follow the evacuation order issued by authorities and evacuate immediately from the volcano area to avoid flying debris, hot gases, lateral blast, and lava flow.
  • Be aware of mudflows. The danger from a mudflow increases near stream channels and with prolonged heavy rains.  Mudflows can move faster than you can walk or run. Look upstream before crossing a bridge, and do not cross the bridge if a mudflow is approaching.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas.
  • Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance – infants, elderly people, and people with disabilities.

Watch for falling ash…

  • If you have a respiratory ailment, avoid contact with any amount of ash.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use goggles and wear eyeglasses instead of contact lenses.
  • Use a dust mask or hold a damp cloth over your face to help with breathing.
  • Stay away from areas downwind from the volcano to avoid volcanic ash.
  • Stay indoors until the ash has settled unless there is a danger of the roof collapsing.
  • Close doors, windows, and all ventilation in the house (chimney vents, furnaces, air conditioners, fans, and other vents). Place towels under doors and in other gaps.
  • Avoid running car or truck engines. Driving can stir up volcanic ash that can clog engines, damage moving parts, and stall vehicles
  • Avoid using electronic devices where there is still airborne ash, as it can short circuit electronics.
  • Once airborne ash has completely cleared, ash should be vacuumed, not wiped, to prevent scratching on surfaces like porcelain, enamel, glass, painted surfaces and appliances. A damp cloth may be used after initial vacuuming.
  • Change vacuum filters frequently, and be careful your vacuum is not redistributing ash through the air discharge.
  • Clothing exposed to ash should be shaken out and put through a rinse and pre-soak cycle before machine washing. Use extra detergent. Laundry additives can help adjust the pH level and make detergents more effective.

There have been 16 major eruptions in the past 100 years, occurred as follows:

  1. TUNGURAHUA (mainland Ecuador) – currently in activity
  2. FERNANDINA (Galapagos Islands) in 2009
  3. CERRO AZUL (Galapagos Islands) in 2008
  4. REVENTADOR (mainland Ecuador) in 2007
  5. SANGAY (mainland Ecuador) in 2007
  6. SIERRA NEGRA (Galapagos Islands) in 2005
  7. GUAGUA PICHINCHA (mainland Ecuador) in 2004
  8. GALAPAGOS RIFT (Galapagos Islands) in 1996
  9. ALCEDO (Galapagos Islands) in 1993
  10. MARCHENA ISLAND (Galapagos Islands) in 1991
  11. WOLF (Galapagos Islands) in 1982
  12. COTOPAXI (mainland Ecuador) in 1940
  13. CHILES (mainland Ecuador) in 1936
  14. SUMACO (mainland Ecuador) in 1933
  15. PINTA ISLAND (Galapagos Islands) in 1928
  16. SANTIAGO ISLAND (Galapagos Islands) in 1906

Although several volcanoes have figured in the news over the past decade for their explosions and eruptions of ash or lava (including Reventador, Pichincha etc), the Tungurahua volcano seems to get the most coverage for its continuous activity.

REUTERS/Carlos Campana


After almost 6 months of relevate calm, Mount Tungurahua seems to be reawaking in the first days of 2010.

DEC.30 2009 – long-period earthquake followed by fumarolic activity with a steam plume reaching 300 metres above the crater.

JAN.01 2010 – beginning of emissions with low ash content, accompanied by rumbles that have gradually increased their intensity.

JAN.03 2010 – crater glow visible, lava fountaining begins, with the projection of incandescent material onto the upper slopes and intense rumbling sounds

JAN.04 2010 – increased ash emissions with eruption columns reaching as high as 2 km above the crater, ash fall reported to the west.

(Photo by Cecilia Puebla/AFP/Getty Images)

COTALO, ECUADOR – The Tungurahua volcano spews ashes and lava on January 11, 2010, in Cotalo, Ecuador, 135km south of Quito.

MAY.31 2010 – explosion (see photo series below)

Tungurahua volcano eruption process last night (May 31). Photo credits: Armando Prado/El Comercio

NOV.22 2010 – A sudden eruption of the Tungurahua volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes sent a column of ash more than 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) into the sky.

DEC.02 2010 – Volcanic activity has been reported in the Tungurahua (Throat of Fire) volcano in Ecuador, the second case sighted in the past few weeks.  The volcano spewed molten rocks and large clouds of gas and ash near Banos, south of Quito, Reuters reported on Tuesday.  The Tungurahua’s volcanic activity follows last month’s eruption, when a column of gas shot up seven kilometers into the sky.  No casualties have been recorded so far, but flight re-direction is being considered.  Tungurahua is located approximately 150 kilometers southeast of Ecuador’s capital, Quito.

Tungurahua explosion April 2011

APR.27 2011 – A significant explosive eruption occurred, prompting evacuations  near the volcano.  The volcano produced a 7 km / 23,000 foot ash plume.  The last report from Instituto Geofisico in Ecuador from January 2011 reported “activity at Tungurahua continued to decrease and ash was absent from plumes.”  Hugo Yepes, a geologist from the IG, was quoted as saying (Spanish) this eruption was one of the largest at the volcano in the past 11 years and that the IG expects that this eruption might gone on for “several days”.  The Ecuadoran government placed the volcano on Orange Alert status, meaning mandatory evacuations for a number of villages near Tungurahua.

Tungurahua volcano spewing ash on April 27th 2011

Pyroclastic activity - April 28, 2011

Tungurahua April 28, 2011 / Photo via @nathalytoledo

APR.29 2011 – Apparently the current situation is complicated.  One reason is the accumulation of volcanic material in the internal crater.  The other reason is due to a possible collapse of one of the superior crater edges. Last night there was significant volcanic activity involving multiple pyroclastic explosions, with rocks and lava thrown out of the crater mouth.  Reports of volcanic ash falling directing in Banos.

Tungurahua on April 28th, 2011

According to the Geophysical Institute report, at approximately 17h00 on April 28th there were two small blocks of accumulated material that collapsed in the crater border area. This material descended about 1km down the north & north-west flanks of the volcano.

Tungurahua (via El Comercio) on April 29, 2011

13h00 The province of Los Rios (to the west of the volcano) is starting to feel the effects of Tungurahua’s volcanic activity. A moderate quantity of ash is starting to fall throughout the province.

The National Geophysical Institute report (in Spanish) classifies the activity level as “moderate to high” with ash reaching 2km high.  At 01h00 this morning there was a tremor and at 04h00 activity reached it peak, throwing pyroclastic material up to 1200 m below the crater level.  The smallest ‘blocks’ are the size of a car while the largest are the size of trucks, which impacted the flanks of the mountain causing craters up to 10m in width. (original Spanish source)

Tungurahua spitting out cars & trucks

The National Geophysical Institute (IG) is not eliminating the possibility of a “major explosion” from the Tungurahua volcano, which is maintaining a constant emission of ash and magma. This morning they detected an increase in the internal vibration of the volcano. (Orginal Spanish source ‘La Hora’)

APRIL 30, 2011 – Tourism in Banos is reported to have dropped in contrast to other weekends.  Traditional vendors of sugar cane (juice) & melcocha (a bit like taffy) prefer to close their operations due to the lack of tourists and the significant amount of ash in the air.  The presence of bathers in the thermal baths are almost nill. (Spanish source ‘El Universo)

Absence of tourist in 'El Salado' thermal bath in Banos (via El Universo)

MAY 1, 2011 – Local news reports focus mainly on the heavy volcanic ash falling in surrounding area, including Latacunga, Salcedo, Saquisili, Ambato and Banos.

Current course of volcanic ash

MAY 2, 2011 – IG (Instituto Geofisico) reports that in the past 24 hours no new explosions have been registered. However, the volcano is continuously spewing out a column of gas with high percentages of volcanic ash up to 4 km high.  According to experts, the activity at the moment is moderately high with a constant expulsion of ash.  In addition, due to climatic reasons, an observation of the crater is not possible due to the cloudy weather.

In the meantime, people in Riobamba are coping with the ash falling in the city.

Most recent video footage (comentary in Spanish) of Tungurahua eruption in April 2011

Video footage (comentary in Spanish) of Tungurahua activity in April 2011

Cleaning up the ash / Photo by LA PRENSA/AP/ Dolores Ochoa

MAY 3, 2011 – Volcani ash causing problems for local communities, including direct effects on human health, water quality, crops & livestock.  The government authorities are handing out aprox. 50,000 face masks to inhabitants of the area, while aid and assistance is apparently being provided in terms of food & water rations for inhabitants and their livestock. In addition, reports indicate that about 470 families in high risk zones in the province of Chimborazo and Tungurahua have moved to temporary refuge.

IG (Instituto Geofísico), in their latest report [link to Spanish report] indicate that the intensity has diminished moderately, but ash emission usually last several hours at a time.  Satellite imagery seems to indicate that the ash is reaching the Pacific coastal city of Manta. In addition, monitoring equipment seem to indicate a build up of pressure inside the volcano. Calculations of accumulated ash fall in regions near Tungurahua indicate that between 1.6 and 3 million cubic meters have fallen with an average accumulated thickness of 15.5 mm.

MAY 4 2011 – NASA has published two satellite images of the ongoing eruption of Tungurahua, clearly showing the extent of the ash plume [original article here] – taken on April 30, 2011.

NASA natural-color satellite image

NASA natural-color satellite image of Tungurahua Ash Plume

Local reports of ash falling in Guayaquil and toward the Amazon rain forest (at least Pastaza).  The last time the volcano was about the same as current activity levels was in 1999.

Tungurahua on May 16 2011 (Photo by Wilson Pinto)

MAY 18, 2011 – After almost 15 days of relative calm, the Tungurahua volcano returned to activity on Monday (May 16) around 22h30.  Ash, sulfur and pyroclastic material were observed.  Current wind directions (north & northeast) carried ash to Rio Verde.

Tungurahua activity on May 16, 2011 (Photo La Hora)

No significant developments or news for June, July & August.

NOVEMBER 28th, 2011:  An eruptive reactivation has forced local authorities to increase the alert level back to orange for the affected areas surrounding the volcano.  The Geological Institute stated that they registered a quick process of eruptions followed by explosions, pyroclastic flow and the emmission of lava & ash on Sunday evening and during the night.

Photo credit: Carlos Campaña/EL COMERCIO

The Geological Institute characterize the volcano as currently in a constant state of eruptive activity accompanied by seismic activity at a “high level”.

09h00 Three small pyroclastic lava flows observed on the south flank of the volcano.  A column of volcanic ash reaching approximately 3km high and travelling in variable directions (north-east, south-east and east).

13h48 Ash falling in surrounding areas, including Manzano, Bilbao, Cusúa, Pillate, Cotaló. Sporadic but intense explosions occurring (heard in Ventanas and Cusúa).

Photo credit: Glenda Giacomettti/ EL COMERCIO

15h50 Emergency Message from the U.S Embassy (Quito, Ecuador)

Volcano Tungurahua EruptsCaution Advised when Traveling in the Area

November 28, 2011

The U.S. Embassy in Quito advises U.S. citizens living or traveling in Ecuador that the Tungurahua volcano, located near the tourist community of Baños in central Ecuador, had an eruption on Sunday, November 27, and remains in a state of heightened activity. Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reports that the volcano continues to discharge lava and boulders up to a kilometer down from the crater, ash has reached three kilometers in altitude, and there have been numerous small earthquakes in the area. Residents in the immediate area around the volcano are on voluntary evacuation and authorities have closed the Baños-to-Penipe road as a precaution.

Due to the heightened risk, the Embassy encourages U.S. citizens to consider limiting travel to the area until the volcanic activity diminishes. If you travel to the area around Tungurahua and the town of Baños, familiarize yourself with evacuation plans, monitor news outlets, use good judgment, and take all appropriate safety measures as volcanic conditions can change rapidly.

Past eruptions have affected air travel in Ecuador. U.S. citizens planning to fly to, from, or within Ecuador should monitor news outlets and have a plan in the event of flight cancellations.

Because Ecuador is in a region of frequent volcano eruptions and earthquakes, U.S. citizens residing in Ecuador should keep extra food and water at home, and consider purchasing dust masks and heavy gloves to protect hands during ash clean-up.

For more information on current activity, visit the website of the Geophysical Institute <http://www.igepn.edu.ec/> which monitors volcanoes and earthquakes

Photo credit: EFE

Photo credit: EFE

November 29th, 2011 After four months of relative calm, Tungurahua volcano started another eruptive cycle on Sunday, November 27th.  Local farmers are once again worried about the consequences in the surrounding areas of the province of Tungurahua and Chimborazo.

The tourist town of Banos maintains a yellow alert status (for the moment) and normal activities continue.

Last night, incandescent material – being thrown some 300 m above the crater border – was observed coming out from the sides of the “colossus” (Tungurahua volcano).  Clear weather conditions allowed for the observation of the “continuous flow of lava,” said the Geophysical Institute in its latest report.

Tungurahua ash & lava explosions during the night of November 28th, 2011. (Photo credit: Glenda Giacometti / EL COMERCIO)

This morning the IG (Instituto Geofisico) informed of an ash emission column up to 4 km in height, blowing in a westerly direction.

Tungurahua (top right) with Banos (left) / Photo source: www.larepublica.ec

To give readers a visual notion of the relative location of the tourist town of Banos relative to the Tungurahua volcano. Note: You cannot see the volcano while directly in Banos (as it sits too low down) … you have to go towards Amabato (northeast) or towards Rio Verde (due east) to see the crater.

Banos location relative to Tungurahua volcano (Photo credit: http://gerdbreitenbach.de)

15h00 The IG (Instituto Geofisico) reports a 4km high ash column in their latest report. Meanwhile, rocks and pyroclastic flows have descended 1000 m from the summit. Until now (15hoo) the IG has registered 10 explosions of varying magnitude.  At 06h11 today there was an explosion that produced a 500-meter pyroclastic flow on then north-west flank. At 09h55 another western flank lava flow of up to 1 km was reported.

23h59 Continual activity, with lava flows reported some 400 and 500 meters from the crater mouth.  Constant changing wind directions is carrying ash in various directions, with reports of light ash fall in Riobamba.

November 30th, 2011 Volcanic activity remains constant and at high levels, including steam and vapor emissions, lava flows and ash columns between 2 to 3 km in height.  Strong northerly and northwesterly winds have carried volcanic ash to Banos and Rio Verde.  Seismic activity today saw a slight decreased in intensity.

December 2nd, 2011 According IG (Geophysical Institute of Ecuador) last night they registered a marked increase volcanic activity – in contrast to the past couple of days (which have seen relative calm).  Due to poor visibility no recent visual observations have been made, but numerous explosions have been heard (up to 1 km range) and registered.

Approximately 03h00 local time today an increase in seismic tremors have been registered in conjunction with frequent and moderately strong explosions. Several reports from Banos have come in of windows shaking.  Late this morning a column of moderate ash was observed up to 1.5 km in height and travelling in an easterly direction.

December 28th, 2011 – No major developments in the month of December 2011.


August 16th, 2012 – “Mama Tungurahua” seems to be waking up once again.  The volcano began erupting volcanic ash reaching up to 4km in height and generally blowing in a westerly direction.

Tungurahua volcano observed on August 19th, 2012.  Source: S. Hidalgo (OVT/GEPN)

Tungurahua volcano observed on August 19th, 2012. Source: S. Hidalgo (OVT/GEPN)

August 21st, 2012 – Pyroclastic activity was observed on the flanks near Cusua and La Piramide.  With this elevation in activity, the alert level has been raised from yellow to orange. Tremors and rumbles can be heard and felt as far as Ambato and Riobamba. Almost constant ash fall is effecting local farmers and their crops and cattle.

According to the National Seismology & Volcanology Institute the activity level is maintaining at a moderate to high level. Earlier this morning, vapor, ash and incandescent material reached regions up to one to two kilometers from the crater mouth.


3 pings

  1. blaine


  2. Morgan

    Amazing! Good information and brilliant pictures

  1. Ecuador Tungurahua volcano re-erupts « Galapagos Islands and Ecuador Travel Blog

    […] UPDATES 2011 NOW FOUND HERE […]

  2. Top Travel Tips & Advise for Ecuador, South America : Ecuador Guide

    […] As Ecuador has a number of volcanoes that are relatively active, keep informed and follow necessary safety tips (associated news on Tungurahua volcano activity) […]

  3. Galapagos

    10 Interesting posts you should read……

    [Browsing Internet, i came across this post …]…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *