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WVU expert: Deadly Guatemalan eruption highlights dangers, differences in volcanic activity

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WVU's Graham Andrews can offer comment on volcanic activity.

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Sunday's deadly eruption of Volcan Fuego in Guatemala highlights the dangers of volcanoes and the differences between them, according to Graham Andrews, West Virgnia University volcanologist. Unlike the relatively peaceful, if still devastating, eruption on-going on Hawai'i, yesterday's eruption of Fuego was very violent and overwhelmed the areas surrounding the volcano, including residential areas. 

Graham Andrews
Assistant Professor of Geology
Dept. of Geology & Geography

“Rather than lava flows like on Hawai'i, Sunday's eruption produced pyroclastic flows, avalanches of boiling-hot gas, and magma and rocks fragments that travel down the slope of the volcano at 100s of meters per second. Pyroclastic flows are the most dangerous volcanic hazard, responsible for deadly eruptions like Vesuvius that devastated Pompeii. People can out-run a lava flow, they cannot out-run a pyroclastic flow. Hopefully, Sunday's eruption, the largest at Fuego since 1994, is a one-off, but even if there isn't a new eruption in the coming weeks, the flanks of the volcano and the newly erupted ash are liable to produce hot mudflows (lahars) whenever it next rains, producing a second pulse of inundating, potentially deadly, floods in already impacted communities.”

Graham Andrews audiofile (2:00)

Contact information: 304.293.2192;

West Virginia University experts can provide commentary, insights and opinions on various news topics. Search for an expert by name, title, area of expertise, or college/school/department in the Experts Database at WVU Today.



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