The Cotopaxi volcano is situated near the Ecuadorian capital Quito, making the situation close to dramatic in cases of a full blown eruption. The volcano has been spewing ash at irregular intervals since Friday, as authorities were forced to evacuate some of the nearby towns and villages.
The measure will not restrict life in the capital or in other parts of Ecuador, but was enacted more as a preventive measure in the case of a disaster, so that the government could easily manipulate bigger funds to be used in eventual rescue operations. The volcano has not had a major eruption for almost 140 years since its 1877 eruption.
Cotopaxi is just one of the active volcanoes which showcased activity in the near past. Indonesia’s Raung volcano and Japan’s Sakurijama have both had ash emissions and shallow explosions happening, joining a list of volcanoes that seemed to wake up in 2015 in Alaska, Iceland, Italy and Hawaii.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, which cites a 2014 study published in the Terra Nova journal, a change in Earth’s rotation rate could be the culprit, as past periods of intense volcanic activity seem to have been related to this. One of the study’s authors explains that even a slight change in the Earth’ rotation releases an excessive quantity of energy, which is absorbed into the atmosphere and subsurface and starts stirring up our planet’s volcanoes.
“Altering the spin of a planet, even by a small amount, requires a huge amount of energy. It has been estimated that changes in the Earth’s rotation rate dissipate around 120,000 petajoules of energy each year – enough to power the United States for the same length of time. This energy is transferred into the Earth’s atmosphere and subsurface” is said in the study.
Researchers are also considering a wide range of other possible causes for increased volcanic activities, amongst which a popular theory is that they are related to climate change. A 2012 study claims that glacier melting due to higher temperatures will act to increase pressure on Earth’s crust and fuel volcanic activity; however, it isn’t entirely clear whether human-caused warming could do the same.
While none of these theories have solid evidence to back them yet, it is clear that something is stirring up volcano activity on Earth, and due to its global scale it could be only be something which presents global effects.
Image Source: SBS