While eyes are still on the Azores where a volcanic eruption can soon occur, attention is also being paid to the Taal volcano in the Philippines. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, also known as PHIVOLCS, raised the status from Alert Level 2 for “Increasing Unrest” to Alert Level 3 for “Magmatic unrest.” Thousands of people were ordered to evacuate from their homes yesterday and more are fleeing the area today. The volcano is just south of the capital city of Manila, located roughly 20 miles from the city center.
The Philippine Coast Guard is helping evacuate residents away from the area. PHIVOLCS advised the residents of barangays Bilibinwang, Banyaga, Agoncillo, Boso-boso, Gulod and Bugaan East in Laurel, Batangas to evacuate due to possible hazards as the entire Taal Volcano island is declared a permanent danger zone.
Today, PHIVOLCS released a notice of weak phreatomagmatic bursts in the main crater of the Taal volcano. The Taal Volcano Network recorded 7 phreatomagmatic bursts from 3:50 pm – 9:57 pm local time; they were short and only lasted 10 seconds to as long as 2 minutes. These bursts have generated steam-rich plumes that rise up to 3,000 feet in the sky.
Unlike a typical eruption in which pressure or seismic energy ejects magma below the surface to the surface in the form of an erupting lava flow, a phreatomagmatic eruption is one that occurs when magma mixes with water from the ocean or a nearby body of water such as a caldera lake. The Minoan eruption of Santorini, Greece in the 1600s and the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines were also phreatomagmatic eruptions. With a lack of seismic activity hinting of an impending volcanic eruption, phreatomagmatic eruptions can catch some off-guard.
While the seismic episode around the Azores Sao Jorge generated over 20,000 earthquakes over the last 10 days, almost no earthquakes have been recorded around Taal. In fact, according to PHIVOLCS, Taal Volcano island has been experiencing ground deflation since October 2021 based on ground deformation measurements using continuous GPS –all without any seismic signals.
LOOK: Thermal camera footage of the phreatomagmatic events of Taal Main Crater from onset at 4:34 AM to 5:04 AM, 27 March 2022, recorded by the Maria Paz Observation Station (VTMP). The events produced plumes that rose 800 meters and 400 meters, respectively.#TaalVolcano pic.twitter.com/UyKWEaCmwf
— PHIVOLCS-DOST (@phivolcs_dost) March 27, 2022
With the the elevated alert level at Tall, PHIVOLCS is encouraging people to stay away. “Gas-driven eruptions and dangerous accumulation or emission of volcanic gas can suddenly occur and ravage the surroundings of Taal Volcano Island or TVI,” PHIVOLCS warned in a statement released today. “PHIVOLCS strongly proposes to strictly prohibit the entry of anyone into TVI, which is the Permanent Danger Zone or PDZ of Taal Volcano, especially in the case of the Main Crater and the Daang Kastila fissure, and the stay in Lake Language.” They also provided advice to other government officials and agencies: “Local government officials are encouraged to continue to monitor and confirm the readiness of the previously evacuated barangays around Lake Taal in the event of another volcanic eruption. Civil aviation officials should encourage pilots to avoid flying near the volcano because of the flying ash and rock that can be caused by a sudden volcanic eruption.”
Scientists continue to monitor the area for signs of a larger eruption. At this time, it is not clear what will happen next at the Taal Volcano site.