Increased Level of Alert as Popocatépetl Volcano, Mexico, Erupts

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Mexico’s Volcanoes: Tectonic Setting

Mexican volcanoes spread all over the map, the result of large-scale subduction of oceanic crust. Image credit: USGS

Popocatépetl is one of almost 50 volcanoes in Mexico and is associated with many more which erupt along the western coasts of the Americas, from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. These volcanoes are the result of large scale subduction of oceanic crust beneath the continents: the crust is forced downwards where it is subjected to high pressures and temperatures. As a result it melts and the hot, buoyant magma rises to erupt at the surface as volcanoes, forming new continental crust.

In Mexico, it is the subduction of the Cocos plate beneath the continent which produces the chain of volcanoes so evident from the maps. The volcanoes form at a distance behind the subduction zone itself which varies according to the angle of descent: where the angle is low the volcanoes are further from the plate boundary.

Popocatépetl Eruption

Evacuations in the area are ongoing, in anticipation of further developments. The current eruption of Popocatépetl may have no major impacts, but with the volcano’s history of potentially devastating eruptions, the authorities are wise to take precautions.

Sources

CENAPRED. Bulletin May 13 10:00 h (May 13, 15:00 GMT). (2013). Accessed 14 May 2013

Smithsonian Institute Global Volcanism Program. Popocatepétl. (2013). Accessed 14 May 2013

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