Saturday, January 19, 2008

Colima, Mexico '07

May - August 2007

Just after the spring semester ended at MTU (May 2007), I took up an internship at the University of Colima, Mexico. Reminiscent of the good old days at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, I met a great group of people researching various aspects of an active volcano. Volcan de Colima is one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico but is poorly understood. The current foci of study are: infrasound, thermal, gas, and ash. A full-fledged observatory doesn't exist to track changes at Colima, but various groups are working to collect data to monitor the hazards. With time, it should be possible to develop a cohesive program of complimentary research and monitoring that will communicate effectively with Proteccion Civil and decision-makers.

Over the course of the summer, many interns came and went and, in Andrew's words shared: "scars and stories."

Incoming students brought various backgrounds
while semi-permanent interns generously became mentors to lead fieldwork. Regular trips to the temporary radar site at Monte Grande (on the lower flank of Colima) and to the summit of Nevado (the immediate neighbor of Colima, a high peak almost level with the volcano) allowed us to do hands-on fieldwork and monitoring. The station located near the summit of Nevado was a perfect observation site; the Proteccion Civil staff was very welcoming and generous with their support. Not only did they facilitate our trips up the long, often gouged-out road through the park, they lent out space to stay overnight and fill up the common spaces with bulky gear. Muchas gracias a Rojo y los otros Superheroes!

Hoping to build on my experiences of geological mapping, instrument installation, and general volcanic monitoring, I joined as many field trips as possible. This was an important opportunity to compare an andesitic volcano with what I have already learned about Hawaiian volcanoes and Mount St. Helens. One of the
primary differences on my mind was the frequency and impact of lahars at Colima. Having just arrived in Mexico at the end of their dry season, odds were good that I'd be able to investigate fresh deposits. Not a fan of gambling and slowly learning that monitoring efforts were planned a bit differently than expected, my hopes to study active lahars fell through, but late in the summer I witnessed my first lahar while in the field with 5 other students.

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