Is Mount Pinatubo About to Erupt Again?

826 earthquakes were detected around the volcano in January.

Prior to its impending eruption in 1991, nobody knew Mt. Pinatubo was a volcano. It had been dormant for centuries, its last eruption occurring 1,500 years earlier. Volcanologists only suspected it could blow up when a series of earthquakes and changes in the landscape suggested it was time for another cataclysmic event.

Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption was the second most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history. Only Krakatoa’s eruption in 1883 was more powerful. 

Now, the volcano is once again showing signs of unrest. 

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) recorded 826 earthquakes in January, prompting the agency to intensify monitoring of the volcano. Although it is normal to have earthquakes around active volcanoes, the 826 earthquakes detected this year is an unsettling figure. 

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), an attached agency of the DOST, said there is no threat of eruption at the moment, but nevertheless alerted local communities of more earthquakes and volcanic hazards, such as powerful releases of steam. 

Mt. Pinatubo severely crippled surrounding provinces when it erupted in 1991, with Pampanga bearing the brunt of its destruction. Towns were buried in feet of volcanic ash. Days after the cataclysmic eruption, a powerful typhoon swept Central Luzon, sending lahar to the lowlands killing more people than the eruption itself. 

Although Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption was the strongest in the 20th century, it was also a textbook example of the best practices in predicting a volcanic eruption, resulting in the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. 

Mt. Pinatubo’s 1991 eruption was so powerful, it sent ash so high up in the atmosphere that it partially blocked sunlight and cooled global temperatures by 0.6 degrees Celsius. Ashfall occurred in countries as far as Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Vietnam.


Regional Ash Fallout from Mt Pinatubo's 1991 Eruption

Photo by Public Domain.

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