Costa Rican Volcano Spews Ash Sky-High

ENVIRONMENT

Turrialba in Costa Rica has rumbled to life in what may be its strongest eruption in years, diverting flights and choking San José with ash and fumes. (Nat Geo News)

What is volcanic ash? Why is it such a hazard? Check out our great encyclopedic entry to find out.

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit, including today’s MapMaker Interactive map.

Turrialba is considerably more active today than it was in this gorgeous photo, taken in September 2011. Photograph by Bernal Saborio, courtesy Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Turrialba is considerably more active today than it was in this gorgeous photo, taken in September 2011.
Photograph by Bernal Saborio, courtesy Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Discussion Ideas

  • Turrialba, a volcano in central Costa Rica, is ejecting volcanic ash more than a mile into the atmosphere. What is volcanic ash? Read through our encyclopedic entry for some help.
    • Volcanic ash is made of tiny fragments of jagged rock, minerals, and volcanic glass. Unlike the soft ash created by burned wood, volcanic ash is hard, abrasive, and does not dissolve in water.
    • Ash is a product of explosive volcanic eruptions. When gases inside a volcano’s magma chamber expand, they violently push molten rock (magma) up and out of the volcano. The force of these explosions shatters and propels the liquid rock into the air. In the air, magma cools and solidifies into volcanic rock and glass fragments—ash. Eruptions can also shatter the solid rock of the magma chamber and volcanic mountain itself. These rock fragments can mix with the solidified lava fragments in the air and create an ash cloud. Check out this amazing video of an ash cloud emitted from the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull, a glacier-covered volcano in southern Iceland.

 

 

 

  • The Nat Geo News article reports that hundreds of people have gone to the hospital with breathing difficulties associated with Turrialba’s ash cloud. How might volcanic ash impact human health? Check out our encyclopedic entry for some help, or ask the people of Pompeii.
    • If inhaled, volcanic ash can cause breathing problems and damage the lungs. Inhaling large amounts of ash and volcanic gases can cause a person to suffocate. (Suffocation is the most common cause of death associated with a volcano.)
    • Carbon dioxide and fluorine, gases that can be toxic to humans, can collect in volcanic ash. The resulting ash fall can lead to crop failure, animal death and deformity, and human illness.
    • Ash’s abrasive particles can scratch the surface of the skin and eyes, causing discomfort and inflammation.

 

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: This Volcano Is Spewing Ash Nearly Two Miles High

Nat Geo: What is volcanic ash?

Nat Geo: Where is Turrialba? map

Smithsonian Institution: Global Volcanism Program—Turrialba

Nat Geo: Eyjafjallajokull’s Volcanic Ash

Nat Geo: What is a pyroclastic flow?

 

One response to “Costa Rican Volcano Spews Ash Sky-High

  1. Pingback: Costa Rican Volcano Spews Ash Sky-High — Nat Geo Education Blog – Welcome to the World of Ekasringa Avatar!·

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