Some 40 miles to the southeast of Mexico City towers the Popocatépetl volcano, or “El Popo,” as it is affectionately known to residents. The volcano is one of Mexico’s most active—and last Thursday, it spewed out a powerful eruption that sent ash hurtling 20,000 feet into the sky, reports NPR’s Vanessa Romo.
The jaw-dropping display was captured on video by Mexico's National Center for Disaster Prevention, or CENAPRED; footage shows a flaming explosion, followed by a huge column of ash swirling out of the volcano. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also provided a nifty view of the eruption from space, captured by its GOES 16 satellite. The NOAA noted that sulfur dioxide was detected in the plume—one of many gases continuously emitted by volcanoes, and the easiest one to track from space.
According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program, Popocatépetl’s current eruptive period began in January 2005, and the volcano has “since been producing frequent explosions accompanied by ash plumes, gas emissions, and ballistic ejecta that can impact several kilometers away from the crater.” Reuters reports that the most recent explosion shot incandescent rock about a mile down Popocatépetl’s slopes, and ash fell on four towns within the vicinity of the crater. Fortunately, officials say no one was hurt due to the eruption.
As of Monday, CENAPRED had set its warning level to Volcanic Traffic Light Yellow Phase 2, meaning that there is no immediate danger, according to Romo. Still, the center noted that Popocatépetl continues to emit “minor exhalations,” and cautioned that people should stay away from the volcano, particularly the crater, because of the danger posed by ballistic fragments.
The situation is more severe in the Philippines, where some 30,000 people have fled their homes due to threats from the Taal volcano, located around 40 miles away from Manila. Taal shot a tower of ash into the sky on Sunday, reports Vox’s Umair Irfan. Several nearby areas were blanketed in ash, according to the BBC, and masks to protect against dangerous breathing conditions quickly began to sell out. Lightning flashed around the volcano—a spectacular and foreboding natural phenomenon that can occur both in ash clouds near the ground and higher up as the plume reaches the stratosphere.
A “weak flow of lava” began seeping out of Taal on Monday. Officials have raised alert levels from Level 1 to Level 4, meaning that an “hazardous eruption” is imminent; Level 5, the highest alert, designates a hazardous eruption in progress.
According to Eather’s Dharna Noor, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has called for the complete evacuation of the nearly 500,000 residents who live within a 10.5 mile radius of the volcano. The government of Batangas, where Taal is located, have declared a “state of calamity” in the province.