Eruption of the volcano in the Canaries: is the cloud that will fly over France and Occitania dangerous?

the essential The eruption of Cumbre Vieja, on the Spanish island of La Palma, produced significant fumes of sulfur dioxide, creating a cloud. This one is heading towards France and should reach the Pyrenees during the day of Friday.

This Sunday 16 September, the Cumbre Vieja volcano, placed under close surveillance, erupted on the Spanish island of La Palma, in the tourist archipelago of the Canaries. This eruption caused the formation of a cloud of sulfur dioxide, potentially dangerous for the populations.

Is the cloud reaching Europe?

According to the observations of scientists, the cloud would already be present in France on Thursday 19 in the south of France, in very weak concentration. It is between Friday 23 and Monday 25 that the clouds of sulfur dioxide should actually arrive in the country. Sulfur dioxide is likely to “promote acid rain and degrade stone”, details the Ministry of Ecology on its site.

To read also: After the volcanic eruption in the Canaries, “the inhabitants face in serenity”

According to Pascal Boureau, former meteorologist of Météo France, a “rise to the southwest, which arrives on Spain, then France on the side of the Pyrenees” will take place during the day of Friday 24 September. A plume of gas has already been sent to Morocco, to the east, without “direct problem”, informs Ludovic Leduc, volcanologist for Objectif Volcans.

Should we be afraid the fallout from this cloud?

This cloud that was created after the eruption of Cumbre Vieja is notably composed of sulfur dioxide, a magmatic gas. Sulfur can become problematic the moment it comes into contact with water, present in the atmosphere. “It then forms drops of acid, called an aerosol, which can refract the sun’s rays if they are in large quantities” reports Ludovic Leduc. For him, a “gas plume” could “pass over” our home, but “the amount of gas coming out of this eruption is not large enough to cause problems”. Thus, the gas plume will be too diluted to be perceived by the French.

To read also: Eruption of the volcano in the Canaries: a toxic cloud will fly over the region

This sulfur dioxide will therefore form an aerosol in the atmosphere, which “can be taken in the streams” and arrive in the region, according to Pascal Boureau. “You have to watch your concentration, but it will be very diluted, especially with the altitude, there will be no real impact, this cloud can give the sun a little veil, but that’s all for the moment. . ” However, the European Institute has been monitoring the movements of this component in the air since Sunday.

In La Palma, however, the risks are very real, as sulfur dioxide remains a harmful gas. “Locally, the concentrations can be high and cause respiratory problems” informs Ludovic Leduc. Also, an acidity problem, due to the rains, may arise in the coming days in La Palma. Itching, corrosion on some tin roofs may be felt. The vegetation is also at risk of being “burned out”.

Was such an eruption foreseeable?

“It is a well-known volcano”, assures Jacques-Marie Bardintzeff, volcanologist and author of the Volcanmania blog. With a rate of about one to two eruptions per century, on average. Since the 16, six eruptions have indeed occurred, in 27, 1646, 1678, 1712, 1949 then in 1971. “You should know that this is the most active area of ​​the Canaries, so an eruption there is not surprising” informs Ludovic Leduc.

Despite the predictability of this eruption, no notion could be given as to its precise location. “It is a volcano which is 24 km by km, which is kind of a ridge, a volcanic ridge, the eruptions there are monogenic, that is, there is not a single exit point, they can go out almost anywhere in the central sector of the volcano, “continues the volcanologist. So the people of La Palma couldn’t prepare more than that.

To read also: Canaries: why the Cumbre Vieja volcano woke up

However, “the lava is advancing slowly, the inhabitants can therefore be evacuated” specifies Jacques-Marie Bardintzeff. “It is a volcano which unfortunately causes great material damage but we must prioritize the risks: for the moment there are no deaths or injuries”.

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