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Supporting the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory

Can you imagine trying to monitor an active volcano without any GPS? Or radios? Or computers? That is what is happening at the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory in Guatemala. You can help.

An explosion at the Santiaguito dome at Santa Maria in Guatemala.

Now, we’ve been talking recently about funding volcano monitoring – specifically with the threat that KVERT in Russia will close down after today (June 30). Well, Jessica Ball over at Magma Cum Laude has another worthy volcano observatory that needs your help. The Santiaguito Volcano Observatory, run by the INSIVUMEH in Guatemala, is the main station to watch over the activity at Santa Maria and the (very) active Santiaguito domes near the Pacific coast of the country. However, this observatory is run an a shoestring budget if ever I heard it. As Jessica puts it:

The scientists and observers at Santiaguito (and at other volcanoes in Guatemala) don’t have the equipment they need to easily and accurately monitor active volcanoes. It’s not a matter of needing big pieces of high-tech instrumentation; the folks at the Observatory don’t even have the basics that we all take for granted – such as digital cameras, radios, and GPSs. What’s more, even though they have a seismic station collecting data about the Santiagutio domes, there’s no way to receive or process the information at the Observatory, because they don’t have the computers to do it.

Can you imagine trying to make sense out an active volcano without this sort of equipment? It is kind of like trying to diagnose what is wrong with your car while blindfolded and wearing ear muffs. However, this monitoring is vital considering how active Santiaguito is – and its capability to produce dangerous lahars and pyroclastic flows from dome collapse. There is something you can do to help – Dr. Jeff Vitter has set up the International Volcano Monitoring Fund to help in just these situations. He has specifically set up a fund to help the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory and volcano monitoring in Guatemala. Now, I’m not saying you have to donate, but even spreading the word to community groups or other volcanophile can help. If you have any specific questions about this, contact me at

or Jessica Ball (University at Buffalo) at magmacumlaude AT


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