Video footage shows white steam rising from the beach in Playa Nueva, as lava flowed into the sea. And experts have previously warned of the possibility of explosions and emissions of toxic gases if the lava reaches the sea.
What happens if lava ends up in the sea?
The lava ends up in the water and then a lot of white steam can be seen in the first place. At that time, hydrochloric acid (harmful) gases are also released. In addition to the occurrence of a thermal explosion due to the sea temperature rising very quickly. Finally, volcanic glass can form and end up in vapor clouds.
Why is it dangerous?
Once the lava flow enters the sea water, the sea water will evaporate. In this way salts of MgCl2 are formed. These in turn dissolve in seawater, releasing hydrochloric acid (HCI) gas, our science expert Martin Peters explains.
Hydrochloric acid gas is particularly irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract. Especially in people with respiratory problems and asthma, this substance can cause a lot of inconvenience. Nearby (dozens of meters from where the lava enters the sea) people must wear protective clothing to protect their bodies from permanent damage.
To whom is it dangerous?
“The main danger area is the immediate vicinity – a few dozen meters from where the lava flows into the sea,” Peters said. There, the concentration of hydrochloric acid gases is especially high, which can cause damage to the body.
And after a few hundred meters, the concentration of hydrochloric acid gases has already fallen “below a point that is harmful.” A few kilometers away, and certainly on the neighboring islands, no one should be afraid. There the concentration of acids became so small that there was no obstruction at all.
The lava flow is not immediately harmful to marine life, at least not in the long term: “You won’t find life in the immediate vicinity anymore. The water is very hot and there is some pollution. But it will not affect biodiversity in the long term. Sometimes it can be useful.”
Scientists continue to monitor the volcano. For example, they look at the amount of sulfur dioxide that is released and lava. Based on this, they can tell if the volcano is strengthening and activity is increasing or quenching. “At the moment, there are no indications that the volcano is extinguishing. It could take anywhere from a few weeks to months.”
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