Volcanic Tsunamis – January 15, 2020


Just a few days ago, on January 12, 2020, the Taal volcano erupted, sending ash 9 miles into the sky and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. The steam-driven eruption was followed by a gushing lava fountain and the volcano is still emitting large amounts of toxic sulfur dioxide into the air. Volcanic activity remains at a level 4 (out of 5), meaning another explosive eruption could occur in the next few days.

According to the Smithsonian’s volcanism website (https://volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=273070), Taal has been quiet for over 40 years. It experienced frequent eruptions from the mid-1960s until 1977, and nothing major until now.

The Taal volcano sits on a large lake. The worry is that another sudden eruption could create a dangerous “volcanic tsunami”, swamping nearby towns and villages. According to the International Tsunami Information Center, tsunamis like these happen rarely and can be caused by “a volcano’s slope failure, or more likely by a phreatomagmatic explosion and collapse/engulfment of the volcanic magmatic chambers.” Meaning, it would take something major. But, it has happened before.

Arguably the largest and most destructive was the explosion and collapse of Krakatoa in Indonesia on August 26, 1883. Waves that reached 135 feet destroyed coastal towns and villages in both Java and Sumatra, killing almost 40,000 people.


photo: MALIZ ONG has released this “Taal Volcano In The Philippines 3” image under Public Domain license, CC0 Public Domain