1 August 2014

Help the IVM-Fund replace monitoring equipment at the Santiaguito Observatory

Posted by Jessica Ball

You may remember that back in May the Santiaguito lava dome complex (specifically the Caliente dome) experienced a pretty large collapse, which produced those pyroclastic density currents you all saw in the videos Erik Klemetti highlighted, and also created significant lahars. The PDCs were dangerous enough, but in the weeks since the collapse the rainy season in Guatemala has made the lahars even worse, and now it turns out they’re encroaching on the grounds of the observatory. One particularly unfortunate one washed away some of the equipment the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory (OVSAN) uses to monitor the domes, which is why I’m writing on behalf of the International Volcano Monitoring Fund (IVM-Fund) to help replace it.

The Caliente dome (site of the recent collapses)

The Caliente dome (site of the recent collapses). Image courtesy of Gustavo Chigna (OVSAN/INSIVUMEH).

The IVM-Fund exists to assist volcano observatories with the smaller expenses that may not make it into a grant or a large instrumentation campaign, but which are nonetheless crucial to the day-to-day work of the scientists. In the last few years, they’ve been able to supply OVSAN and INSIVUMEH (the Guatemalan geologic survey) with a variety of pieces of field equipment – things like GPS units, digital cameras, thermal sensors, and rangefinders. They’ve also assisted the observatory in getting an internet connection hooked up (that’s how you get those lovely dome pictures on their webcam every day – and on the INSIVUMEH Twitter account!) But that kind of equipment, especially in a harsh environment with lots of moisture and volcanic ash, needs replacing every few years.

To give you a better idea of what conditions have been like recently, here are some of the images of the recent collapses and PDCs from OVSAN/INSIVUMEH:

Pyroclastic flows viewed from the Finca La Florida, not far from the observatory

Pyroclastic flows viewed from the Finca La Florida, not far from the observatory. Image courtesy of Gustavo Chigna (OVSAN/INSIVUMEH).

Damage from the lahars

Damage from the lahars to the Nima I river channel and bridges. Image courtesy of Gustavo Chigna (OVSAN/INSIVUMEH).

More lahar damage at the Observatory

More lahar damage at the Observatory (before and after). No more sign! Image courtesy of Gustavo Chigna (OVSAN/INSIVUMEH).

Lahars eroding the Nima river channel

More lahar erosion in the Nima I River channel – very close to the observatory! Image courtesy of Gustavo Chigna (OVSAN/INSIVUMEH).

A computer or a digital camera may not seem like a large purchase overall, but in the case of OVSAN they are difficult for the observatory to replace on short notice. As someone who’s recently been a grad student (with the kind of subsistence-level salary that entails), I can vouch for how frustrating it is not to be able to replace broken equipment or supplies when you need to.That’s why I’m referring you to the IVM-Fund’s webpage, where you can see the kind of equipment that’s been lost or worn out by the rough environment and contribute a little to help get it replaced.

As always, the link for the IVM-Fund’s donation page can be found here and on the “Donate to Santiaguito” tab of the blog. Even a relatively small donation can help a lot, and if you’re willing to go in for $20 or so, you can get one of their spiffy t-shirts or a mug.