The Guatemalan Santa Maria volcano has erupted regularly over November, according to INVISUMEH, the country’s institute for volcanology. The organisation reported eruptions at the mountain’s summit as much as three times per hour over one week.
According to INVISUMEH, explosions surfaced at Santa Maria one to three times per day from November 20 to 26.
The eruptions sent “avalanches” of material descending towards the east, west and southwest flanks of the mountain.
Explosions also coughed out a billowing plume of smoke into the sky, reaching 1,698-2,952 metres above Santa Maria’s 12,000-foot height and drifting towards the west and southwest.
Some of this ash fell locally, around El Faro, Santa Maria, and Viejo Palma.
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The Santa Maria volcano from above
At the Pacaya volcano, to the southeast of Santa Maria, activity was much quieter.
During the same six-day period, officials detected only weak strombolian activity, defined by mild blasts and incandescent cinders.
According to INVISUMEH, lava flows are still active to the northwest of the mountain and reach 400 metres.
Material which caused avalanches at the site was ejected 75 metres above the volcano’s summit.
The El Fuego volcano when it erupted last year
INVISUMEH reported more violent activity at Guatemala’s infamous El Fuego volcano.
From November 20 to 26, the organisation recorded six to 15 explosions per hour ash El Fuego’s crater rim, which generated ash clouds rising 3,600 feet.
INVISUMEH also noted “incandescent“ material ejected from the site to heights of 100 to 450 metres, which caused avalanches of material travelling long-distances.
Lava flows also remain active at the site, and as of November 24, are 300 to 800 metres long.
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A map of Guatemala's main volcanoes
El Fuego is Guatemala’s most dangerous volcano, and its most recent eruption cycle began in 2002.
The volcano made headlines last year when it violently erupted with little warning.
On June 3, 2018, the volcano sent ash rocketing nearly four miles above its summit and generated a super-heated pyroclastic flow which cascaded down the mountain and into local communities.
Some 200 people are thought to have died in the chaos, as the sudden nature of the eruption left little time for evacuation.
Eddy Sanchez, the director of Guatemala’s seismological, volcanic and meteorological institute, warned the most deadly aspect of the eruption was the resulting pyroclastic flows.
He said: “Temperatures in the pyroclastic flow can exceed 700 degrees [Celsius] and volcanic ash can rain down on a 15km (nine-mile) radius.
“That could cause more mud flows and nearby rivers to burst their banks.”
The volcano erupted for a second time in November the same year, resulting in evacuations of nearly 4,000 people.