Science

A 'hot spot' under the Canaries feeds the La Palma volcano and will create new islands

“The La Palma eruption is undoubtedly the most destructive in the history of Spain”, says Juan Carlos Carracedo, a Riojan geologist from 79 years that he has spent most of his life studying volcanism in the Canary Islands. Since the Castilians conquered La Palma in 1493 there have been seven other volcanoes whose lava washed away houses, crops and even ports. But its impact was less because the island was much less populated and there were no economic engines such as tourism or banana greenhouses. “Not even the Timanfaya on the island of Lanzarote in 1730 caused so much damage ”, adds this professor emeritus from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

Lava tongue

Todoque

Altitude

110 m

90 m

Lava advance updated with data from October 1

0 m

– 19 m

– 60 m

Lava tongue

Todoque

Altitude

110 m

80 m

0 m

Lava advance updated with Copernicus data from October 1

– 19 m

– 60 m

The video above shows the eruption of the Cabeza de Vaca volcano, on La Palma, of the 21 from September to October 1. The washes have destroyed or damaged more than 1. 00 0 buildings, much more than recorded in other eruptions. It is the latest chapter in a history of volcanism that began more than 19 millions of years. It is a phenomenon that is both destructive and creative, because without volcanoes none of the Canary Islands would exist.

In the last five centuries, all the volcanoes of La Palma have arisen in Cumbre Vieja, a spectacular mountain range marked out by almost 30 craters that are extends to the south of the island. This is probably the only place in Spain where in just a few hours you can touch stones born in the last five centuries, the youngest land in Spain.

Like today, lava tongues Most of the historical eruptions advanced along the western slope of Cumbre Vieja. Many of them reached the sea and created platforms that expanded the surface of the island.

More active in the south

The volcanic mountain range that extends south of LaPalma is the youngest and most active area. The most recent eruptions have occurred in that area.

5 km

La Palma

Caldera de Taburiente

1585 Tahuya

1730 The puddle

1646 Martin

1971 Teneguía

The Park Natural Cumbre Vieja is a succession of craters and active volcanoes.

Cumbre Vieja

El Rivero

Plus active in the south

The volcanic mountain range that extends south of LaPalma is the youngest and most active area. The most recent eruptions have occurred in that area.

5 km

La Palma

Caldera de Taburiente

1585 Tahuya

1730 The puddle

1646 Martin

1971 Teneguía

The Park Natural Cumbre Vieja is a succession of craters and active volcanoes.

Cumbre Vieja

El Rivero

More active in the south

The volcanic mountain range that extends south of LaPalma is the youngest and most active area. The most recent eruptions have occurred in that area.

5 km

La Palma

Caldera de Taburiente

1585 Tahuya

1730 The puddle

1646 Martin

1971 Teneguía

The Park Natural Cumbre Vieja is a succession of craters and active volcanoes.

Cumbre Vieja

El Rivero

More active in the south

The volcanic mountain range that extends south of LaPalma is the youngest and most active area. The most recent eruptions have occurred in that area.

The Cumbre Vieja Natural Park is a succession of active craters and volcanoes.

5 km

La Palma

Caldera de Taburiente

1585 Tahuya

1712 The puddle

1646 Martín

Summit Old

1971 Teneguía

El Rivero

“The eruption that gained the most new ground from the sea was that of 1949 ”, explains Carracedo. “That area was covered with fertile soil brought from another part of the island and banana trees were planted, which is a tropical plant that grows best at sea level, so they are currently one of the most productive on the island,” he says.

Land reclaimed from the sea

The current and recent eruptions 500 years have grown the island to the west leaving lava platforms over the sea.

Todoque

Puerto Naos

Some of the most productive Canarian banana plantations on the entire island today sit on land reclaimed from the sea by the eruption of the San Juan volcano in 1949.

Updated with eruption data

of October 1, 2021 (Copernicus).

Land reclaimed from the sea

The current eruption and those of the last 500 years have made the island grow towards the west, leaving lava platforms over the sea.

Todoque

Puerto Naos

Some of the most productive Canarian banana plantations on the entire island today sit on land reclaimed from the sea by the eruption of the San Juan volcano in 1949.

Updated with data from the eruption

of October 1, 2021 (Copernicus).

Land reclaimed from the sea

The current and recent eruptions 500 years have made the island grow to the west, leaving lava platforms over the sea.

Everything

2125

Cumbre Vieja

The eruption has

cattle to the sea plus

of 30 hectares

by the

moment

Puerto Naos

Some of the most productive Canarian banana plantations on the entire island today sit on the land reclaimed from the sea by the eruption of the San Juan Volcano in 1949.

Updated with data of the eruption of October 1, 2021 (Copernicus)

Land reclaimed from the sea

The current and recent eruptions 500 years have made the island grow towards the west, leaving lava platforms over the sea.

Todoque

2021

Cumbre Vieja

The eruption has

cattle to the sea plus

of 30 hectares

for the moment

Puerto Naos

Some d e the most productive Canarian banana plantations on the entire island today sit on the land reclaimed from the sea by the eruption of the San Juan Volcano in 1730.

Updated with data from the eruption of October 1, 2021 (Copernicus)

One of the biggest questions about the La Palma eruption is where exactly does the magma coming out of the volcano’s mouths come from. Another is if it sprouts instantly or takes millions of years to emerge. Volcanologists think that under the Canaries there is a hot spot, a magma deposit at very high te mperature that continually looks for a way to surface, producing earthquakes and bulging the surface of the islands until it cracks it. It is the same type of volcanism that created the Hawaiian archipelago, in the US

“In the hot spot the magma is about 200 degrees more, which makes it more buoyant ”, details Carracedo. “It’s like if you push a ball to the bottom of a pool and it shoots up to the surface. It is the process that has created all the Canaries and still continues. New islands will certainly appear to the west, but we will not see any of them, because it will happen in millions of years ”, explains the volcanologist. Similarly, the oldest islands, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, are gradually disappearing due to erosion and will eventually disappear under the sea.

Canary Islands

Lanzarote

Atlantic Ocean

Tenerife

La Palma

Fuert.

The daughters

El Hierro

Gran Canaria

La Gomera

Morocco

100 km

The grandmothers

The seabed of the Canary Islands is a string of submerged islands that were emerged. They are extinct volcanoes that some scientists nickname “the grandmothers”

The grandmothers

– 3. 500

Canary Islands

Lanzarote

Atlantic Ocean

Tenerife

La Palma

Fuert .

The daughters

El Hierro

Gran Canaria

La Gomera

Morocco

100 km

The grandmothers

The seabed of the Canary Islands is a string of submerged islands that were emerged. They are extinct volcanoes that some scientists nickname “the grandmothers”

The grandmothers

– 3. 500

Atlantic Ocean

Canary Islands

Lanzarote

Tenerife

La Palma

Fuerteventura

La Gomera

The daughters

-5.00 0 m

Gran Canaria

El Hierro

– 4 . 00 0 m

The grandmothers

Morocco

– 4. 00 0 m

– 500 m

-1.00 0 m

100 km

– 2. 00 0 m

– 3. 00 0 m

The seabed of the Canary Islands is a string of submerged islands that were emerged. They are extinct volcanoes that some scientists nickname “the grandmothers”

The grandmothers

– 3. 500

Atlantic Ocean

Canary Islands

Lanzarote

Tenerife

La Palma

Fuerteventura

La Gomera

The daughters

-5.00 0 m

Gran Canaria

El Hierro

-4.00 0 m

The grandmothers

Morocco

– 4.00 0 m

– 500 m

-1.00 0 m

100 km

– 2. 00 0 m

– 3. 00 0 m

The seabed of the Canary Islands is a string of submerged islands that were emerged. They are extinct volcanoes that some scientists nickname “the grandmothers”

The grandmothers

– 3. 500

The map above shows where the new Canary Islands may be being born. On 2017, a research vessel located an area at 400 kilometers west of the island of El Hierro where they discovered new underwater volcanoes that have had recent activity or could have it even today. They are about 5. 00 0 meters deep. It makes perfect sense that they are to the west as it matches the movement of the crust over the hot spot. “We believe that these are the embryos of the new Canary Islands,” explains Luis Somoza, a marine geologist at the Geological and Mining Institute (IGME) and a member of the expedition that made the discovery.

South of In the area mentioned there are other submerged volcanoes that are now extinct and which some scientists nickname “the grandmothers” of the Canary Islands. They appeared about 120 millions of years due to the action of another hot spot, emerged from the sea ​​and then sank again a few years ago 70 millions of years, more or less when the dinosaurs were becoming extinct.

Many of these submerged islands were discovered just a few years ago by Somoza’s team. The shape of some of them is almost identical to the current Canaries, as if they were a previous test, “some pre-Canaries”, explains the IGME geologist.

This scientist has led several expeditions to study these underwater mountains, both those already known and other new ones baptized by his team: Drago, Bimbache, Ico, Pelicar, Malpaso, Tortuga, Las Abuelas.

The volcanoes of the Canary Islands are essential for Spain to be able to expand its marine borders. The investigations of the Somoza team support an official petition to the UN that maintains that some of the submerged islands are part of the Canaries and therefore the exclusive economic zone that grants our country special rights over those waters should be expanded. If the proposal is approved, a marine territory equivalent to half of continental Spain could be won, according to those responsible for the project.

“If part of the island collapses and falls into the sea, It is a natural extension of the emerged terrain, which would form part of the Spanish borders ”, Somoza details. This happens with the debris that carpets the seabed near El Hierro and that could increase the exclusive economic zone in 60 miles around. As Somoza explains, “another way to grow is for a new island to emerge, as almost happened in 2011 after the underwater volcanic eruption of El Hierro. He was left alone 80 meters from the surface. If it had emerged, this would be the new territorial limit of El Hierro ”, he adds. Somoza acknowledges that if the delta of the Cabeza de Vaca volcano continues to grow and surpasses those created by past eruptions, the borders of Spain will be expanded.

In this history collaborated with Luis Sevillano and Jacob Vicente López.

Sources: Roberto Rodríguez, editor of the geological guides of the National Parks of the Geological and Mining Institute, Copernicus satellite system, Cabildo Insular de La Palma, Geological and Mining Institute, Bing Maps, ‘Canarias: intraplaca volcanic islands’ (Geo-Guides) and Science Direct (‘The geology of La Palma’).

You can follow MATERIA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.

Back to top button