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  • Fuego is among several volcanoes in the Central American region that remain active.

    Fuego is among several volcanoes in the Central American region that remain active. | Photo: Wikicommons

Published 4 June 2018

Volcanic arcs are formed when two tectonic plates collide in a subduction zone causing one to bend and slide underneath the other.

A series of volcanoes – which runs along the coastline of Central America, parallel to the Pacific Ocean or the western boundary of the Caribbean Plate – form the Central American Volcanic Arc (CAVA) where Guatemala's Fuego lies.

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The CAVA region extends some 1,500 kilometers through Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and into the northern parts of Panama. CAVA includes hundreds of volcanic formations, ranging from major stratovolcanoes to lava domes and cinder cones, that have resulted in major eruptions over the past decades.

Volcanic arcs are formed when two tectonic plates collide in a subduction zone causing one to bend and slide underneath the other, creating a curvature in the Earth's mantle and magma chambers in the crust.

Fuego is among several volcanoes in the Central American region that remain active.

Costa Rica's Arenal, Turrialba, Irazu, Poas and Rincon de la Vieja; Nicaragua's Cerro Negro, San Cristobal and Concepcion; El Salvador's Chaparrastique or San Miguel, Ilamatepec or Santa Ana and Izalco; as well as two others – Santa Maria/Santiaguito and Pacaya – in Guatemala.

The Santa Maria volcano recorded major eruptions in October 1902 after a huge 7.5-magnitude two-minute-long earthquake rocked the country six months earlier.

Multiple minor tremors, as far as three months prior and up to two weeks after, had bookended the earthquake. Reports are that as many as 2,000 people may have lost their lives to the disaster and tens of thousands of others displaced.

The eruption of the Guatemalan behemoth, Santa Maria, is documented among the top-five largest in the last 200 or more years.

Central America's highest volcanoes are also located in Guatemala. The country's Tajumulco and Volcan Tacana both stands more than 4,000 meters tall.

Members of the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) from various government agencies, observatories and universities closely monitor volcanism in the CAVA region.

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