There’s no question that Guatemala’s Volcán de Fuego is a deadly mountain. Beginning June 3, the volcano sent chaotic avalanches of rock and gas down its sides, and as of June 13 the eruptions had taken 110 lives, with some 200 people still missing.
Since those initial scorching avalanches — known as pyroclastic flows — local resident Jozef Stano used a drone, which can be operated from more than 4 miles away, to circle the still ominously steaming volcano.
The footage is from June 10, a day that provided Stano a good opportunity to view the eruption’s aftermath.
At times it was relatively clear, with little ash in the air, and he didn’t smell any pungent gases, Stano said via email.
Flying around ash, he noted, is a poor idea because the tiny volcanic fragments can collect in the motor, dooming the expensive drone.
That appears to be easier said than done, however. Stano’s drone does have an unexpected close encounter with a dark, ashy burst at about 1 minute and 15 seconds into the video.
After Stano brought the drone back down from one of its flights, he found rocky ash caught in a rotor, causing it to stick. He blew it away but said that he was lucky the drone didn’t stop flying and topple into to the fuming mountain.
The kind of convective cloud we do not want to see: a pyroclastic flow – from yesterday’s major eruption of Fuego volcano, Guatemala. Numerous fatalities reported, over 200 people missing. Report via Red Climática Mundial pic.twitter.com/GbncLMfBRM
— severe-weather.EU (@severeweatherEU) June 4, 2018
Stano’s aerial footage captures quite a few captivating results from Fuego’s earlier violent eruptions, including the remnants of pyroclastic flows (the scorching avalanches, not lava) that ate away at the volcano’s side, leaving a prominent red-tinged gash that you can see at about 15 seconds into the video.
The hot avalanches were composed of a torrid mixture of volcanic rocks.
This included freshly-made golf ball-sized rocks, blob-like lava “bombs” 10 centimeters or larger in diameter, and blocks of mountain literally torn from Fuego’s summit, Stanley Mertzman, a volcanologist at Franklin and Marshall College, said over email.
Just after the one minute mark, the drone looks outward, down the volcano’s flank. Here, the destructive path of a pyroclastic flow — which can travel hundreds of miles per hour — can be seen.
“If you’re in the path of a pyroclastic flow, you’re dead,” volcanologist Jess Phoenix said in an interview last week.
The drone also flies over the volcano’s summit, and peers into Fuego’s crater. Molten rock brews under the rocky floor, releasing mostly steam, said Mertzman, but also common volcanic gases like carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.