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Paricutín Volcano, Mexico

December 9th, 2005 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Paricutin is a volcano in the Mexican state of Michoacán, close to the village of the same name. It appears on many versions of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World list, although none of these lists are by any means authoritative.

Prior to 1943, this volcano did not exist. During the first several weeks of that year a number of strange thunderings were heard by the inhabitants in and around the small village of Paricutín, in spite of clear weather. These turned out to be caused by tremors occurring deep beneath the village. Seismic activity intensified until 20 February, when local farmer Dioniso Pulido witnessed the opening of a volcanic fissure in the middle of his cornfield. According to some accounts, villagers attempted to close the fissures by filling them with rocks and soil before small explosions and violent tremors began to shake the area. The residents of the nearby villages fled as pyroclastic activity began that day, and within 24 hours of the initial fissure the volcano had already built into a 50 metre high cone. Within a week this height had doubled.

By March the activity of the newborn volcano intensified, shooting columns of ash kilometers into the air and beginning to settle over the town of Paricutín and nearby San Juan. On June 12 a large lava flow had begun to advance upon the village, which was evacuated the following day. Nearby San Juan would evacuate some months later, and by August of that year the towns had been abandoned, largely buried with lava and ash.

Much of the volcano's growth occurred during the first year, while it was still in the explosive pyroclastic phase. At the end of this phase after roughly one year the volcano had grown 336 meters tall. For the next eight years the volcano would continue erupting, although this was dominated by relatively quiet eruptions of lava that would scorch the surrounding 25 square kilometers of land. The volcano's activity would slowly decline during this period until the last six months of the eruption, during which violent and explosive activity was frequent. In 1952 the eruption ended and Paricutín went quiet, attaining a final height of 424 metres above the cornfield it was born from (and 2774 metres above sea level). The volcano has been quiet since.

Paricutín is one of two known volcanos to have developed in recent history. The other, born about 183 years ealier, is known as El Jorullo. El Jorullo is about 50 miles southeast of Paricutín.

Volcanism in Mexico is not unusual. Paricutín is merely the youngest of more than 1,400 volcanic vents that exist in the Trans-Mexican volcanic belt, which stretches through the region including Michoacán and Guanajuato. The volcano is unique in the fact that its formation was witnessed from its very conception. Amazingly not one recorded death was caused by the eruption, although three people did die as a result of lightning strikes associated with it.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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