UCL News


UCL in the News: There she blows ...

18 April 2007

With lava flowing seawards every couple of years from fractures in its flanks, the Piton de la Fournaise volcano, on the French island of Réunion, can always be relied upon to greet any visiting volcanologist with a view of the red stuff.

While the volcano has oozed lava on more than 170 occasions over the past 350 years or so, it has excelled itself this month by producing one of the most spectacular firework shows ever seen in this quiet part of the Indian ocean. Some have called it the eruption of the century. …

So rapidly was the lava expelled that the entire summit of the volcano was quickly undermined, leading to a spectacular collapse and the formation of a chasm 300m deep. …

Despite its ferocity, its legacy is minor: damage to the coast road and a few properties. Following such a paroxysmal blast, it is likely that La Fournaise will keep a low profile for the next few years, but any respite will be short-lived. Maybe next time - as last happened some 5,000 years ago - new magma will lever off a gigantic chunk of the eastern flank and plunge it into the ocean. Now that really would be the eruption of the century.

Professor Bill McGuire, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre, 'The Guardian'