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A sleeping giant – volcano division – comes back to life


The Chaparrastique volcano in eastern El Salvador is experiencing its first major eruption since 1976. (Efe.)

Let’s all say “Welcome back” to the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern region of the smallest country on the mainland of the Americas, otherwise known as El Salvador.

Chaparrastique (pronounced roughly like this: “Chaw-paw-raw-STEE-kay”) is acting up again.

According to a Reuters report, the volcano began heaving vast columns of smoke and ash into the blue Central American sky late last month, after having been mostly quiet since its last major eruption in 1976.

Located in a coffee-growing region about 140 km. east of the capital San Salvador, Chaparrastique towers above the surrounding tropical landscape, maxing out at a height of 2,130 metres above sea level. It has erupted about 30 times since the Spanish conquest of the Americas or, in other words, since the early 1500s.

For those keeping track of such details, this particular volcano’s typical “eruption style” involves phreatic and phreatomagmatic summit explosions.

Currently, Salvadorans are moving out of the area  of the volcano because of the clouds of ash descending from the high mountain peak. Meanwhile, local coffee-growers are checking their plantations for possible damage.

Chaparrastique in mellower times.

Are active volcanoes a common phenomenon?


According to the Volcano Discovery website, there are about 1,500 active volcanos located on dry land on the Planet Earth. (No one knows how many others rise above the ocean floor.) That sounds like a lot, but vulcanologists set a pretty low bar when they define the word “active.” The term describes any volcano that has erupted at some point in the past 10,000 years, or around the time that the Toronto Maple Leafs last won the Stanley Cup. The number of volcanoes that are erupting right this very minute is a good deal less menacing. About 20.

According to one list, the “most active" volcanoes in the world include two from Italy (Stromboli and Etna), two from Latin America (Sangay in Ecuador and Santa María in Guatemala) and one from the South Pacific (Yasur in Vanuatu).

Oakland Ross is a foreign affairs reporter for the Toronto Star.


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