Guatemala volcano eruption sparks pyroclastic flow – the phenomenon that DESTROYED Pompeii

Monday, June 4, 2018
By Paul Martin

GUATEMALA’s Fuego volcano has claimed the lives of at least 25 people with many more injured and thousands of others forced to evacuate as a result of fast-moving pyroclastic flows – but what does the term mean?

Mon, Jun 4, 2018

Professor David Rothery, Professor of Planetary Geosciences at The Open University, was first keen to clear up a misconception.

He said: “The cause of most deaths at the current eruption of Fuego (Guatemala) is being widely reported as a ‘river of lava’.

“This is probably an inexpert description or a mistranslation.
“Fuego does not characteristically produce long fluid lava flows like those currently erupting from Kilauea in Hawaii.

“They are unlikely to reach inhabited areas, and are not the main hazard at this volcano.
“A lava flow (molten rock) rarely travels fast enough to engulf people, and bodies are unlikely to be traceable afterwards.

“The videos and still images that I’ve seen suggest instead one or more pyroclastic flows.

“This is when a violently erupted mass of rock fragments and hot gas finds itself too dense to rise as an ash column, and instead cascades down the volcano’s slopes.”

Professor Rothery said pyroclastic flows could move at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour, and were hot enough to glow like molten lava.

He added: “They can travel further, as well as much faster, than lava flows.

“This is the phenomenon that claimed many lives during the famous AD 79 eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii.”

Professor Rothery said Fuego had been erupting since 2002, and was continuously active in 2017.

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