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Evacuations remain as Mount Mayon continues to spew ash, lava amid violent eruptions

By Eric Leister, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
By Adam Douty, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
January 28, 2018, 11:37:50 AM EST

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Nearly 90,000 people were impacted in the Philippines as Mount Mayon continues to spew ash and lava.

Wind patterns will influence the dispersal of ash, which can cause irritation to individuals in the path. Meanwhile, showers will add to the dangers of flooding and debris flows due to volcanic ash.

A large eruption on Monday raised the situation to Alert Level 4 where it remains following more violent eruptions through Saturday.

Due to the Alert Level 4 status, the danger zone stands as an 8-kilometer (5-mile) radius from the volcano, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.

Mayon AP 1.24

Mayon volcano spews red-hot lava in another eruption as seen from Legazpi city, Albay province, around 340 kilometers (200 miles) southeast of Manila, Philippines, Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)


People are being advised to remain outside the danger zone, despite having to leave their homes and animals behind.

In an attempt to keep local villagers from returning to their homes to check on farm animals, officials have planned to set up evacuation areas for animals, including water buffaloes, cows, pigs and poultry, according to the Office of Civil Defense.

Nearly 90,000 people have already been impacted due to the eruptions, according to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. Of those impacted, over 69,000 have taken refuge in 74 evacuation centers.


That number may continue to rise as new eruptions force the evacuation zone to expand.

On Saturday, the volcano spewed lava as high as 400 meters (about 1,300 feet), the institute reported. Ash plumes reached up to 5 km (3 miles) above the crater during eruptions last week.

As of Saturday, lava has flowed up to 3 km (1.9 miles) from the summit crater.

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When the volcano emits ash through the beginning of the week, winds should generally direct it to the west and southwest of the volcano.

While some ash briefly streaming over Legazi City cannot be ruled out, the majority of any ash is expected to target the communities of Ligao, Camalig and Pio Duran through the beginning of the week.

Volcano


Additionally, daily showers are expected across the area. While rainfall will not be as heavy as over the weekend, showers may still heighten the risk for flooding and mudflows, also called lahars, due to volcanic ash buildup.

On Saturday, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported sediment-laden stream-flows coming from the volcano due to heavy rain.

Mount Mayon 1/22

Lava cascades down the slopes of the Mayon volcano seen from Legazpi city, Albay province on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Dan Amaranto)


Schools were closed for several days last week due to the recent volcanic activity and were forced to close early on Monday as the volcano spewed ash thousands of feet into the sky. Many schools remained closed on Friday in 17 municipalities within Albay and Camarines Sur provinces that have been impacted by falling ash.

Ash shrouded several villages in darkness at times this week as officials made pleas for assistance, according to the Gulf News.

“It was like nighttime at noon; there was zero visibility in some areas because the ash fall was so thick,” Albay provincial disaster response officer Jakes Nunez said.

Mayon Ash 1/22

Residents, wearing masks, go on their daily business as Mayon volcano's eruption plunge some townships in darkness Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 in Legazpi city, Albay province. (AP Photo/Dan Amaranto)


While not currently emitting ash high enough into the atmosphere to cause impacts outside the Philippines, a larger eruption could have more far-reaching implications.

When a volcano erupts, it emits many different types of materials, including sulfur dioxide, which will sometimes pass into the stratosphere, according to Brian Toon, a professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

The sulfate aerosols block the sun’s energy and instead of passing through the Earth’s atmosphere, the energy will be reflected back out to space.

As a result, there is a decrease in the sun’s energy reaching the Earth’s surface, which creates a lowering effect on temperatures. The more sulfur dioxide that is emitted from a volcano, the more sunlight will be blocked out, thus resulting in a greater impact on the climate.


Another factor determining impact on climate is the location of the volcano. Volcanic eruptions that take place closer to the equator will have a more significant impact on climate. At the equator, there is more sunlight to reflect, so sulfur aerosols will have a bigger impact.

Mount Mayon sits between 13 and 14 degrees north latitude, which is relatively close to the equator and could result in more significant cooling if a large enough eruption occurs. Ash reaching heights of 15 km (50,000 feet) would potentially cause global cooling effects.

Despite being a popular tourist attraction, Mount Mayon has erupted around 50 times in the past 500 years. Most recently, an ash eruption in 2013 killed five climbers who had ventured near the summit despite warnings. An eruption in 1814 killed 1,200 people and buried an entire town in a volcanic mudflow.

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