New Eruptions of Jorullo and Parícutin Volcanoes Ahead? More Than 1,800 Earthquakes Hit Michoacán-Guanajuato Volcanic Field, Mexico

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The Michoacán–Guanajuato volcanic field contains 1400 vents, mostly cinder cones, spread over an area of 200 kilometers (120 miles) x 250 kilometers (160 miles) in Mexico. So it’s huge!

Over the last month, 1824 tremors were measured along the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt near Uruapan, Michoacán. This could indicate magma intrusion and a imminent eruption of the well-known Jorullo and Parícutin volcanoes.

earthquake swarm Michoacan-Guanajuato volcanic field 2020
Earthquake swarm hits Michoacan-Guanajuato volcanic field. More than 1800 earthquakes between January 5 and February 3, 2020. Earthquake map via UNAM

The largest earthquakes of the swarm, two M4.1 tremors, hit on January 23, 2020 and on February 2, 2020.

In the meantime, it is still too early to say if there is a link between the enhanced seismic activity and a magmatic intrusion under the volcanic area. But read below and learn why a new volcanic eruption is very plausible.

earthquake swarm Michoacan-Guanajuato volcanic field 2020
Epicenter of one of the largest earthquake of the seismic series rattling a volcanic region in central Mexico right now. Picture via UNAM

Geologic Setting of the Michoacán-Guanajuato volcanic field

The Michoacán-Guanajuato volcanic field lies on and was produced by the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt, linking the west to the east coast of central Mexico.

trans mexican volcanic belt, trans mexican volcanic belt mexico, earthquake swarm mexico
The Trans-Mexican Vocanic belt links the east coast to the west coast of Mexico. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikipedia

The 40,000 square kilometers (15,000 sq mi) field includes the Sierra Nevada mountain range (some instinct volcanoes) and is filled with small shield volcanoes, maars, tuff rings and lava domes.

The volcanic activity is triggered by the subduction of the Rivera and Cocos plates along the Middle America Trench and has created the Central Mexican Plateau, rock deposits up to 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) deep and extremely fertile soils.

Major Volcanoes of Mexico. From west to east, volcanoes part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic belt are Nevado de Colima, Parícutin, Popocatépetl, and Pico de Orizaba.
Major Volcanoes of Mexico. From west to east, volcanoes part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic belt are Nevado de Colima, Parícutin, Popocatépetl, and Pico de Orizaba. Public Domain via Wikipedia

The Parícutin volcano is the youngest of the approximately 1,400 volcanic vents of the eruptive field. It’s immediate predecessor, El Jorullo, also in Michoacán, erupted in 1759.

Previous eruptions in the Michoacán-Guanajuato volcanic field

El Parícutin: 1943-1952

The Parícutin volcano began as a fissure in a cornfield, but grew very quickly, reaching five stories height in just a week and 336 meters (1,100 ft) after a year. At the end of the eruption in 1952, it reached 424 meters (1,391 ft).

The nearby villages of Paricutín and San Juan Parangaricutiro were both buried in lava and ash and the residents relocated to nearby lands.

While no deaths were attributed to lava or gas asphyxiation, three residents died from lightnings triggered by the eruptions.

El Jorullo: 1759−1774

The eruption (VEI-4) of the El Jorullo volcano – 1,320 meters (4,331 ft) – began on September 29, 1759, following a swarm of earthquakes.

The phreatic and phreatomagmatic activity ended 15 years later in 1774 after a huge area of fertile area was covered with sticky mud flows, water flows and ash falls. This is the longest cinder cone eruption known .

The following eruptions (cinder cones can explode several times) were magmatic and led to the formation of four smaller cinder cones on its flanks.

Eruption ahead?

Cinder cones are believed to be monogenetic volcanoes. This means that once it has finished erupting, it will never erupt again. So this would mean that any new eruptions in the Michoacan-Guanajuato volcanic field will erupt in a new location.

Again El Jorullo just shows the opposite behavior as it erupted multiple times in the past. And it seems that Parícutin is still hot, and continues to emit steam from the cone. Althought qualified as extinct by scientists, the forces that created the volcano are still active:

  • A powerful earthquake swarm (230 earthquakes and five >M3.9) hit the volcano in 1997.
  • Rumbling and black steam were reported in 1995 and 1998.
  • Another series of more than 200 quakes occurred in 2006, indicating magma movement. However, no eruption was reported then.

So if we take into account that this time more than 1800 earthquakes hit the area, this is more than serious. And this enhanced seismic activity just shows that this volcanic region isn’t extinct at all! More volcanic and seismic news on Strange Sounds or Steve Quayle. [UNAM, EarthofFire]

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