Popocatepetl Volcano - Update 005

Date:         Sun, 1 Jan 1995 14:26:02 MST
From: Curtis Manley AGCRM%ASUACAD.BITNET@ARIZVM1.ccit.arizona.edu
Subject:      USGS to Popo

In response to a request for assistance from the National Disaster Prevention
Center of Mexico, four scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will
arrive in Mexico by Sunday, January 1, 1995 to assist scientists at the
National University of Mexico and the National Disaster Prevention Center to
monitor and assess hazards at Popocatepetl volcano, near Mexico City.

Randall White, a volcano seismologist from Menlo Park, California arrived in
Mexico on December 27th with seismic-monitoring equipment to assist Mexican
scientists to locate and evaluate earthquakes in the vicinity of Popocatepetl.
Thomas Murray, a geophysicist and instrumentation specialist at the USGS
Cascades Volcano Observatory, flew to Mexico City on 29 December with computer
equipment to assist in rapid evaluation of earthquake activity. Dan Dzurisin
and John Ewert, geologists and volcano deformation experts at the Cascades
Volcano Observatory, plan to arrive in Mexico City on 1 January with equipment
to measure ground movements at the volcano.

Popocatepetl is a steep-sided volcanic cone located 35 miles east of Mexico
City and 25 miles west of the Puebla metropolitan area. More than 30 million
people live within view of the volcano and many tens of thousands of people
would be endangered by an explosive eruption of the volcano. A major eruption
would have serious consequences for people living in communities on the flanks
of the volcano, and ash from such an eruption could also endanger aircraft
using Mexico City international airport. Popocatepetl, a volcano that has
erupted more than 30 times during historical time, began erupting on 21
December following increased earthquake activity and gas emissions that began
early in 1994.

This first stage of USGS assistance will focus on installing instruments to
monitor earthquakes and ground movements that usually precede and accompany
eruptive activity. The USGS assistance in Mexico will be very similar to USGS
assistance in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea in September and October 1994, where
USGS scientists installed monitoring equipment during eruptions that heavily
damaged the town of Rabaul. More than 50,000 people were safely evacuated
during those eruptions. The USGS also sent a team of scientists to the
Philippines prior to and during the devastating eruptions of Mount Pinatubo in
June 1991. USGS assistance helped prevent the loss of thousands of lives;
however, the eruptions damaged and led to the eventual closing of the U.S.
Clark Air Base.

The U.S. scientists are part of the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Disaster
Assistance Program, VDAP, which is jointly supported by USAID Office of
Foreign Disaster Assistance and the Geological Survey. "We're not only going
to Mexico to help our Mexican colleagues," said Dan Miller, head of the VDAP,
"we are also going there to learn more about how this type of volcano works."
Miller said that Popocatepetl is geologically similar to volcanoes in the
Cascade Range in Washington, Oregon, and California, where future eruptions
will threaten nearby  communities. According to Miller, the USGS scientists
may come back from Mexico with knowledge that they can apply in the U.S. to
mitigate the effects of future eruptions here.