Chaitén Eruption - LEDC

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Chaitén Eruption - Facts

  • Eruption began 2nd May 2008 - still ongoing
  • First eruption in over 9000 years
  • Shallow angle of subduction
  • 1122m above sea level
  • Obsidian rhyolitic lava dome in crater of Chaitén
  • Caldera 3km wide
  • Chaitén is a plinian volcano (erupts columns of gas and ash high into the stratosphere)
  • Eruption was category 4/5 on the Volcanic Expolsivity Index (VEI)


  • South Chilean Andes
  • 10km north-east of the town of Chaitén 
  • Occurs where the Nazca plate is subducting under the South American plate
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Chaitén Eruption - Effects

  • Huge ash cloud (20-30km) travelled into Argentina 
  • Thunderstorms triggered
  • 90% of Chaitén flooded due to pre-existing crater lakes
  • Livestock killed due to suffocation
  • 80-90% of Chaitén reported damage
  • Ashfall up to 15cm deep led to water contamination - also mixed with heavy rainfall and generated lahars 
  • Only 1 death - stress related
  • Damage to airport/marine facilities hindered rescue
  • Chaitén airport closed and some flights cancelled but minimal damage to aircraft
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Chaitén Eruption - Management/Responses

  • Real-time monitoring set up by USGS May 16th (none before as volcano was dormant)
  • 4000 people needed evacuation, 3900 had been by the next day
  • Drinking of local water prohibited
  • Fresh water and face masks were distributed
  • 50km exclusion zone
  • Financial aid supplied from around the world
  • 90 day freeze on loan payments for those affected
  • Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) aided monitoring 
  • Eruption helped to model future explosive rhyolitic eruptions 
  • Chilean volcanic society set up
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