Seismic activity of Colombia’s Nevado del Ruíz intensifying warns SGC

View of the Nevado del Ruíz volcano taken on April 11. Photo: FAC

Almost two weeks since the Colombian Geological Service (SCG) raised the alert level of the Nevado del Ruíz volcano to orange, and highest recorded in over a decade, the stratosphere volcano located 220 km west of Bogotá continues to release gas and ash plumes from the Arenas crater. According to the SCG’s most recent bulletin, a plume on Thursday, April 13, rose 1500 meters from the summit, and seismic activity associated with rock fracturing inside the volcanic edifice continues to increase.

The bulletin also confirms that earthquakes continue to be located at depths between 2 and 4 km, and between 2 and 6 km in distance from the crater. On Thursday, the strongest 1.3 M volcano-tectonic earthquake was registered at a depth of 3 km.  The increase in seismic activity could signal a possible eruption within days. “The parameters indicate a higher level of activity of the volcano with respect to previous weeks, and which must be permanently and specially monitored,” highlights SCG.

In the event that the volcano erupts the SGC would declare a Red alert.

An eruption would affect four departments in Colombia, including Cundinamarca. At least 22 communities in Caldas and Tolima are under threat of a volcanic eruption. The Nevado del Ruíz is covered in a glacier and extends more than 200 square-km along the Magdalena River valley and across the coffee-growing highlands of the Central Cordillera.

The 1-km-wide, 240-m-deep Arenas crater last erupted in 1985 resulting the country’s worst natural disaster. Eruptions have been observed since 1570.  Colombia’s Disaster Risk Agency (UNGRD) has identified some 2,500 families living in high-risk areas and has requested the national government expedite preventive evacuation.