The surface area of Spain’s La Palma island is continuing to grow, thanks to the build up of lava from its volcanic eruption last month. Flowing into the Atlantic Ocean since the September 19 eruption, the lava is solidifying* when it hits the water, European Union scientists said.
The European Union’s Earth observation program Copernicus* confirmed that its satellite imagery showed a D-shaped tongue of molten rock had extended the island’s western shore by 338ha at the start of October.
Now four weeks since the lava river started to flow, there was still no sign of the eruption coming to an end, officials said Sunday.
Part of the Canary Islands archipelago* off northwest Africa, La Palma’s eruption has so far destroyed more than 1800 buildings, mostly homes, though prompt evacuations* have helped avoid casualties* on the island of some 85,000 people. Banana plantations* – the source of income for many islanders – have also been lost or damaged due to volcanic ash.
Canary Islands President Ángel Víctor Torres said scientists monitoring the eruption have seen no indications that the eruption is abating*.
“We are at the mercy of the volcano,” Torres told reporters. “It’s the only one who can decide when this ends.”
Some 7000 people have had to leave their homes, with hundreds more advised to stay home to avoid the possible inhalation* of toxic gases.
The volcano has produced a constant rumble and roar, with dozens of minor earthquakes most days, and has covered a wide area with volcanic ash. The ash plume is several kilometres high.
Airlines have sporadically* cancelled flights to the islands, including 56 flights over Saturday and Sunday, due to the ash.
The latest satellite imagery showed the molten rock has covered 754ha, most of it countryside and farm land. Almost 60km of roads have also been ruined.
The island relies mainly on tourism and banana plantations and the government has pledged millions of euros (dollars) to help rebuild damaged infrastructure*.
Trade winds typical of the region were helping dispel* the plumes of water vapour and toxic gases that result when lava with a temperature of over 1000 degrees meets the ocean, where the water is 22 degrees.
But authorities remained on alert as a change in wind direction could bring toxic plumes toward the shore and further inland.
The hydrochloric acid* and tiny particles of volcanic glass released into the air can cause skin, eye and respiratory tract* irritation.
The direction of the lava flow remained a source of concern. While molten rock coming from the volcano was still running downhill like a river and tumbling over a cliff into the Atlantic, the uneven terrain* could make the lava overflow its current path.
- solidifying: becoming solid, hardening
- Copernicus: named for the Polish Renaissance astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) who correctly theorised that Earth and other planets in our solar system move around the sun
- ha: abbreviation of hectares, a metric unit of a measure of land equal to 10,000 square metres
- archipelago: an extensive collection of islands
- evacuations: emergency departure, urgent egress, removal to safety
- casualties: affected, injured or killed by an event or situation
- plantations: farms, large-scale estates
- abating: lessening, easing off, tapering, letting up
- inhalation: breathing in
- sporadically: occasionally, at irregular intervals
- infrastructure: basic facilities for operating a society, like building roads, power supplies
- dispel: dissipate, scatter, disperse
- hydrochloric acid: strongly acidic solution of gas hydrogen chloride in water
- respiratory tract: breathing organs: nose, throat, larynx, trachea, bronchi and lungs
- What date did the volcano first erupt on La Palma?
- Lava has extended the island’s western shore by how many hectares?
- La Palma is part of which archipelago?
- La Palma is a Spanish territory located off the northwest of which continent?
- What temperature is the lava when it meets the Atlantic?
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1. Erupting volcano
As the volcano continues to erupt, and not knowing when it will stop, what measures do the emergency responders and islanders need to put into place to ensure their safety?
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Science; Critical and Creative Thinking
The environmental impact of this molten lava and volcanic ash is going to be enormous – and there is no end in sight. List the environmental impact this volcano is causing and number them in order of most urgent to least urgent to try and repair.
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Science; Critical and Creative Thinking
Read the article and make a list of five nouns that you come across. Then describe those five nouns with five adjectives.
Add a preposition to those five nouns and adjectives.
Now choose your favourite bundle and put all the words together to make one descriptive sentence.