Two Mexican Volcanoes Are Erupting

Two big Mexican volcanoes that are sending mile-high columns of ash and soot into the sky. Continue reading →

Popo and Colima might sound like characters in a children's show. But they're actually two big Mexican volcanoes that are erupting right now, and sending mile-high columns of ash and soot into the sky.

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Mexico's coordinator of Civil Protection of the Ministry of the Interior, Luis Felipe Puente, tweeted on Tuesday that Popo - full name Popocatepetl - recorded an explosion at 7:10 a.m., generating a soot and ash column of about 1 1/4 miles. The Colima volcano spewed a column nearly a mile high about 15 minutes later.

A video posted on YouTube captured this spectacular view of Popo's eruption:

click to play video

Here's a Mexican government website that provides up-to-date scientific data on Popo's eruption.

The 17,000-foot volcano, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, was dormant for nearly 50 years in the mid-to-late 20th Century. It suddenly awakened in 1994, and since then has erupted numerous times, including several times earlier this year.

UPI reports that officials have warned nearby residents to avoid the area around the volcano, and that falling ash may affect nearby towns.

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In 1522, Spanish invader Hernán Cortés's men were the first non-natives to scale the volcano. They did it in an effort to find sulfur for the manufacture of gunpowder.

Colima, which is directly to the west of Popo, has erupted more than 40 times since 1576. Though it shares a name with the Mexican state of Colima, most of its surface area actually lies in the neighboring state of Jalisco. It erupts frequently, and a 2014 eruption sent ash about 3 miles in the air.

NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image of the plume from Popocatépetl on March 7, 2013.

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Mount St. Helens, which exploded catastrophically in 1980, could reawaken violently and spew a 30,000-foot plume that would ground air traffic, wreak havoc upon farming, water and power, and dump ash upon Portland and Seattle.

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In the centuries before the Spanish colonization of Mexico in the 1500s, Popocatepetl erupted and buried Aztec pyramids in lava. It reawakened in 1994, and could pose a hazard to 25 million people who live in Mexico City and other communities in the region.  

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Mt. Fuji in Japan hasn't erupted in the past 300 years, which has led scientists to warn that it is overdue. The volcano is just 70 miles from Tokyo, and a study in the mid-2000s estimated that a major eruption could endanger 30 million people and cause $21 billion in property damage.

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Nevada del Ruiz in Colombia is the highest and northernmost active volcano in that country. It erupted catastrophically in 1985, killing an estimated 23,000 people, and it's estimated that an eruption today could put 500,000 inhabitants of the region at risk.

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Nyirangongo towers over the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the city of Goma -- population 1 million -- at its base. It's one of the least-studied volcanoes in the world, which increases anxiety about what will happen if it eventually erupts.

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