Mt. Popocatepetl (El Popo for short) is one of the most well known volcanoes in the world. If you have been paying attention, you would know that it is located in Mexico, about 40 miles southeast of Mexico City (the world’s largest city, population over 20,000,000), and about 30 miles southwest of Puebla (population 1,400,000). Popocatepetl means smoking mountain, a name given to it by the native Aztecs. This adds credence to the fact that it has been active for a long period of time. In addition to this, Popocatepetl is the second tallest volcano in North America. Popo is a 13,776 ft. stratovolcano, (a volcano composed of both lava flows and pyroclastic material), which is built upon an already existing volcano of 12,464 ft., which brings its’ total elevation to 26,242 ft. (Mooser, 1958) Stratovolcanoes, or composite cones, are usually made up of what they have thrown up over time. They have steep summits, and then gently sloping, less steep sides. It has been known to produce pyroclastic flows as well as lahars (mudslides) (Tapia, 2002). Its’ proximity to such a large number of civilians, combined with the fact that it has exploded as recently as 2000, makes this volcano a highly researched creation. In December of 2000, Popo exploded, causing officials to request that the approximately 40,000 inhabitants within a 6-mile range evacuate, however many refused to. More than 1 million people live within a 19 mile radius of Popo. Before this, the last evacuation was in 1994, when Popo spewed over 5000 tons of volcanic ash into the air. Before 1994, Popo had been dormant since 1927 (CNN.com). Although Popocatepetl has not had a catastrophic explosion in almost 800 years, the recent activity after a 70-year dormant period has many scientists concerned. Popo has recently been exhibiting signs of pyroclastic (mainly ash) explosions, which raise issues of air pollution for the many people living in the immediate area. The reason so many people continue to live in an area of such danger, is that the surrounding basin provides fertile soil for planting, as well as an abundant water supply. Popo has erupted over thirty times in its’ history, with the earliest recorded explosion occurring in 1347. Since Popo has been actively erupting since 1994, worried observers cannot help but wonder what the future holds for this scenic Mexican landmark. Click on the Trouble Ahead for Popocatepetl? Link below for further information.
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