Activity at the Cotopaxi volcano intensifies but officials say it could be weeks, or even months, before an eruption occurs

Oct 11, 2015

After two relatively quiet weeks in which only steam and gas rose above the Cotopaxi volcano, internal explosions sent plumes of ash a kilometer and half above the crater late last week.

An ash plume rises from Cotopaxi three weeks ago.

An ash plume rises from Cotopaxi three weeks ago.

Geologists say that internal pressure continues to build under the mountain and that magma appears to be rising toward the central vent. They estimate that the magma is one to two kilometers below the volcano.

A spokesman for the Geophysical Institute repeated an earlier prognosis of three possible scenarios for Cotopaxi. The first is for a relatively small eruption that would primarily affect the area within 15 kilometers of the volcano, mostly restricted to the National Park. A second possibility is an eruption on the order of the 1877 event, that caused widespread devastation and loss of life. The third scenario is that eruptive activity would subside, which he said was very unlikely at this stage.

The Institute says a small eruption is the most likely scenario but admits that it is only “educated speculation.” It also said that an eruption could be weeks or even months away.

Residents in the danger area of a 1877-magnitude eruption can only wait and prepare for the worst. Evacuation drills continue on a daily basis in communities near the volcano and at schools within a 40 mile radius.