Colombia’s Institute of Geology and Mining (Ingeominas) permanently monitors this country’s most active volcano – Nevado del Ruíz. Currently at Orange Level 2, a major eruption has the capacity to impact some 500,000 people who reside within the volcano’s range, including the coffee region’s main cities of Armenia, Pereira and Manizales. According to researchers, the summit’s ice cap is melting at a rate of 4% every year and has been reduced to just 7,33 square kilometers.
At the base of the Nevado del Ruíz is the small, conically shaped Machin volcano disguised as a grass-covered hillock. Dormant for thousands of years it is located near the main road that unites Ibagué in Tolima and Armenia in Quindío. Last month, Ingeominas recorded activity placing Machin on a yellow alert. The volcano’s crater has a diameter of 2,4 km.
Nevado del Huila
The Nevado del Huila is graced by three peaks that tower above the department it is named after, and can be seen on cloud free mornings from Bogotá. Just as the Nevado del Ruíz, Huila’s glaciers are also retreating, losing an average of 2% of its total 7,5 km surface every year. The peaks are off limits to hikers given dangers posed by avalanches and dangerously steep rocky terrain. The last registered seismic activity was recorded in 2008.
As one crosses overland between Colombia and Ecuador, the Cumbal volcano dominates the landscape and its ice cap is sought after by “snow merchants” who daringly climb above the clouds to pack millennial ice to be sold in local markets. With a small crater of 600 meters, this composite volcano last erupted in 1926, blanketing Ecuador’s capital Quito in ash.
Visible from the capital of Nariño, Pasto, Galeras been erupting frequently since the Spanish first began recording its activity. Known as Urcunia by the indigenous groups that inhabit these high plains of the southern Andes, this stratovolcano has been active for at least a million years and is considered the most active volcano in all of Colombia, followed by the Nevado del Ruíz. The last major eruption took place on August 25 2010, forcing Ingeominas to declare an emergency and enacting contingency plans for the evacuation of Pasto and nearby Sandoná. Around 8,000 people live in the high risk zone of Galeras National Park.
With three craters and rising 4,580 meters, the Sotará volcano is close to the colonial city of Popayán in Cauca. With an irregular shape, this little known stratovolcano called Cerro Azafatudo by locals has never erupted, yet is still considered active by geologists.
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