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  Geotimes Videocast - Chaiten eruption
Geotimes Videocast Monday, May 12, 2008

Chaitén eruption

After nine thousand years of slumber, Chaitén volcano in southern Chile awoke violently last week. On May 2, the volcano began erupting clouds of hot white ash. The eruption sent the clouds tens of kilometers into the sky and across the Andes into Argentina.

On May 6, Chaitén's eruption became more intense. It erupted dense, destructive flows — a mix of super-hot gases and rock fragments. Those flows can sweep quickly down a volcano's slopes, burning everything in their path.

Chilean officials say the volcano may also be erupting lava. They have ordered an evacuation of two nearby villages.

Chile sites on the border between two tectonic plates. The country has many active volcanoes, but until last week Chaitén wasn't one of them. It last erupted about 7,400 B.C. Ancient lava flows thousands of years old from the volcano are evidence of its past explosive nature.

Scientists aren't sure why Chaitén was quiet for so long — or why it suddenly burst back into life. A huge, slowly cooling magma chamber beneath the volcano may be the source of eruptions, scientists say. But what the volcano will do next remains a question.

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