Authorities in Guatemala have evacuated a number of villages close to Mount Pacaya after lava began issuing from several vents on the flank of the mountain and flowing downhill. The volcano, which roughly 30 km to the southwest of Guatemala City, is one of the most active in Central America, and has been erupting intermittently for much of the past year, typically producing fountains of incandescent lava that reach up to 50 m above the summit several times a week. As well as evacuating nearby villages, local authorities have also temporarily closed the volcano to tourists.
Lava flowing down a trail on Mount Pacaya. CONRED.
The volcanoes of Guatemala, and Central America in general, are fed by the subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate along the Middle American Trench, which runs roughly parallel to the southwest coast of the isthmus. As the Cocos Plate sinks into the Earth, it passes under Central America, which lies on the western margin of the Caribbean Plate. As this happens it is heated by the friction and the heat of the planet's interior, causing the sinking plate to partially melt. Some of the melted material then rises through the overlying Caribbean Plate as magma, fueling the volcanoes of Central America.
The approximate location of Mount Pacaya. Google Maps.
See also Magnitude 6.6 Earthquake in southwest Guatemala causes at least one death, Pyroclastic flow and ash column on Mount Fuego, Guatemala, Eruptions on Santa María Volcano, Guatemala, Magnitude 6.2 Earthquake beneath Guatemala and Eruption on Mount Pacaya.
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