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Taal Volcano Eruption History

Introduction to the Taal Volcano

Taal volcano or the Bulkang Taal is the second most active volcano in the big island of Luzon in the Philippines. It is known for being the only volcano that is situated inside a lake. The history of the Taal volcano dates back to 1572, when a phreatomagmatic eruption occurred from within the mountain. From 1591 to 1645, a series of phreatic eruptions shot out from the volcano, which also emitted fragments and rock particles. The volcanic eruption of 1707 resulted in the formation of the Binintiang Malaki, the largest flank cone of the world. An underwater phreatomagmatic eruption occurred on the eastern shore of Volcano Island in 1716. Further eruptions took place in the Binintiang Munti crater in 1709 and 1729. In 1731, yet another phreatomagmatic underwater eruption befell the eastern tip of the Volcano Island. In 1749, the main crater of the volcano had a “very violent” phreatomagmatic eruption, affecting residents on Taal Volcano Island and offshore towns.

Taal volcano’s largest recorded eruption took place in 1754. A violent explosion spewed out rock particles, gas blasts, and bursts of lava. The volcano went on for 7 months, its ash burying four towns. The reported after-effects included acid rain and shock waves.

Several phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruptions occurred at the main crater between 1790 to 1904. A “very violent” eruption took place in 1911, which caused acid rain, shock waves, and the sinking of land. In 1965, yet another violent phreatomagmatic volcano occurred on the island, which resulted in rock fragments, ashfall, and acid rain. In 1967, separate phreatomagmatic eruptions took place in Mt Tabaro, resulting in rock particles shooting out from the volcano.

The only recorded strombolian eruptions from the Taal volcano took place from 1968-69. The eruptions caused fountaining of lava. Further eruptions took place in 1970, 1976, and 1977. They were phreatic eruptions that occurred on Mt Tabaro.

Facts about the Philippines and its volcanoes

The Philippines is located located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which makes volcanic eruptions in this region among the deadliest and costliest in the world. Historically, 13% volcanoes in the region have caused fatalities in the area, while 22% have been the reason for widespread economic damage.

The Philippines is a highly vulnerable volcanic area mainly due to its position in the tectonic setting. The island is positioned on top of several small plates amidst two major tectonic plates that are divided by massive faults. Most volcanoes are located in between the Eurasian and the Philippines plates.

Volcanic activity in the Philippines is often antedated by major tsunamis. While this may not always be the case, the Philippines has always been a hotbed of large seismic activity over a small area. This is primarily due to the unstable location of the country. The group of islands is also susceptible to heavy rains, which causes mudflows or Lahars in the region.

1911 Taal volcano eruption

On the morning of 30th January 1911, people in Manila woke up to what was one of the deadliest volcanoes recorded in the history of the Philippines. The volcano was a result of a phreatic eruption occurring in the mountain, causing fragments and rock particles to shoot out. Volcano Island was completely destroyed, with 1335 people reported dead and 199 injured. The 1911 eruption also caused the creation of a lake measuring 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) in diameter. Ash from the volcano had spread over a 2,000 square kilometer radius (770 square miles). Alongside this, the volcano had resulted in shockwaves, acid rain, and the sinking of land, as Volcano Island and the southern shore of Taal Lake reportedly plummeted three to ten feet. The destructive effects of the volcano went through Manila and reached the west shore of Taal Lake. 702 cattle were killed and over 500 houses were also destroyed in the 1911 eruption.

2020 Taal volcano eruption

The Taal volcano erupted on 12 January 2020 for the first time in 43 years. The eruption raised the Alert Levels of Manila situated 60 km (37 miles) away, to 4 on a scale from 0-5.

Emissions from the volcano reportedly went 55,000 feet (9 miles) in the air, resulting in volcanic ash reaching Alabang, which is situated 45 km (27.96 miles) away. Over 8,000 residents evacuated their homes, with plans underway to remove 200,000 more. Officials closed down the Manila metro and the international airport of the Philippines. However, livestock remains a major concern of people affected by volcanoes. Maralit, a highly affected region neighboring the Taal Lake has deployed troops and police to stop residents from returning to save their animals and property.

While the Taal volcano is not that big, it is undoubtedly dangerous because of its proximity to the people. Over 450,000 people live within a 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) radius to the volcano.

Taal volcano Update:

Taal Volcano Update
As of January 14, 2020 both flora and fauna in the volcano are dead. The plants and wildlife in Taal island are already dead following Taal volcano’s release of ash and lava, according to National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Precursors to volcanic eruptions

The Philippines established the Philippines Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS) in 1982 to assess and reduce the destruction caused by natural disasters in the country, specifically earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and other geographical phenomena in the tumultuous inferno. The PHILVOLCS monitors seismic activity in the country, and issues warning for evacuation if necessary. According to the institute, volcanoes in and surrounding the Taal lake have the following precursors:

  • Increase in the number of earthquakes that are followed by rumbling sounds
  • Old geysers, mudpots, and fumaroles are reactivated
  • An increase in the number of dead fish in lakes, and vegetation drying up
  • The ground develops clefts and faults as it starts heating up
  • In some cases, lakes surrounding potential volcanoes start heating up and bubbling.
  • The air emits a smell of rotten eggs or sulfur.

Many towns surrounding the Taal volcano are favorite tourist spots near Manila that have several hotels, resorts, and amusement parks. The town of Tagaytay is a popular destination for adventure enthusiasts who take boats out to Taal lake and hike up the volcano. Tens of thousands of people rely on the lake and its surrounding areas for their livelihood that includes fishing and agriculture.

The eruption of the volcano and it’s after-effects is surely a cause of grave concern for the citizens of the affected regions. The lava erupting from the volcano is more dangerous now, with the liquid poised to create a “lava fountain” that could easily find its way into nearby towns. The aftermath of the volcano has also created ash that mixed with rain, which created a heavy sludge causing roofs to collapse.

Taal volcano is counted among the smallest, yet the most active volcanoes in the world. Its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire makes it prone to seismic activity. While the region reported minor turbulence over the years, PHIVOLCS states that volcanic activity of this magnitude was sudden and unprecedented.

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Sources:

1. Manila airport suspends flights, thousands evacuate as Taal Volcano in Philippines spews ash | South China Morning Post
2. Taal Volcano Eruption Philippines | Edition CNN 1.12.2020
3. Philippines Volcano Taal Spewed ash prompting evacuations & airport closure | QZ
4. Taal Volcano, Philippines | John Seach
5. TIMELINE: Taal Volcano eruptions since 1572
6. Taal Volcano – Wikipedia
7. Volcano Discovery Philippines
8. 1911 eruption | Batangas History