It might be 500,000 years or five years, but the Central Valley of Costa Rica will definitely experience major volcanic activity again, according to Phillip B. Gans, professor of geology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He presented a study of volcanic rocks of Costa Rica in his recent talk at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America.
"The Costa Ricans were not around for the last big one, but its inevitable," said Gans. "Another pyroclastic flow like the last one big one in Costa Rica will make the Mount St. Helens eruption look like nothing." Pyroclastic flows are high-speed avalanches of hot ash, rock fragments, and gas that roar down the sides of volcanoes during explosive eruptions or when the steep edge of a dome breaks apart and collapses. These pyroclastic flows, which can reach 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and move at 100-150 mph, are capable of knocking down and burning everything in their paths.
Volcanoes are unpredictable beasts, said Gans. However, the eruption of Mount St. Helens gave us a four-month warning. Due to careful monitoring of the small earthquakes inside the volcano, and the bulging of the surface of the volcano, the residents of the area were prepared. (Although 25 people died in this eruption, it is still considered a success story in terms of evacuation.)
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