Author Archives: Martin Mangler

About Martin Mangler

Hi, I'm a PhD student of volcanology at the Department of Earth Sciences here at the Museum. I have a weakness for molten rocks and the smell of sulphur.

#Popo2016: Popo’s circle of life | Volcanology

Popo is up to something: during most of our stay, the volcano calmly and steadily exhaled a faint white plume of gas. At night, this plume reflected an equally faint reddish glow within the crater – a reminder of the power that lies beneath our majestic mountain. But in the last few days, the number and intensity of small explosions has increased, and the colour of the plumes changed from steam-white to ash-grey.

Photo taken at dusk from a balcony showing a row of buildings opposite and the volcano in the background. A plume of ash can be seen rising from the volcano.

A cloud of ash dispersing at nightfall, as seen from Cholula.

This development is not unusual for Popo in the last 20 years of its activity. Let’s have a look at why this happens… Continue reading

#Popo2016: down the rabbit hole | Volcanology

The storm is over. All that is left are some patches of snow on Paso de Cortes, which are being exploited to the very last snowflake by hundreds of people from Mexico City and Puebla – their children have probably talked them into coming here to witness the rare, exciting snow and build small, dirty snowmen on top of their car’s windshields (!). When we pass by Paso de Cortes at nine in the morning, the scenery already resembles a small fun fair, with improvised food stalls, barbecues, policemen with machine guns (they are there to protect the people from bandidos), and snow-capped Popo as a side attraction:

And this is only the beginning of the day. Many more will arrive in the next few hours, but we won’t be around to witness the chaos. We need to dig a hole…

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#Popo2016: the mule diaries | Volcanology

We have only spent a few days in Mexico, but so much has happened already: we have driven 600 km around the flanks of El Popo whilst getting a comprehensive crash course in Mexican music by Hugo; we have casually named previously unmapped lava flows; scared away scorpions with our merciless hammering on rocks; digested 3-cows-worth of Mexican food; and, above all, marveled at snow-covered Popo, which was silent witness and patron of all our endeavours.

Photo showing the snow covered, smouldering volcano

A snow-covered Popocatépetl (aka El Popo) as seen from Paso de Cortes on 5 March

But let’s wind back a bit and take it up at the beginning of our trip, Mexico City…

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Popocatépetl: a song of snow and fire | Volcanology

Dear reader, be aware… the content of this blog may be explosive! As I am writing this, the crater of the Mexican volcano, Popocatépetl, is alight with the glow of the hot lava that is slowly being squeezed out to the surface. Sometimes this happens very calmly, and only a trail of puffs of steam mark the activity.

Smoking Popocatepetl

Smoking Popocatépetl, 24 Jan 2016. © José Arnoldo Rodríguez Carrington via Flickr

But this apparent tranquility can quickly change into something much larger, much more violent, and much more dangerous to the 30 million people living around Popocatépetl. How can the volcano change its behavior so quickly? And what, exactly, does quick even mean in this case? Well, this is what we Volcanologists at the Museum are trying to find out, and that is why we are right now packing our geological hammers, getting ready to take off to Mexico!

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