Huaynaputina is a strato-volcano situated in the Andes range in the south of Peru and is part of the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire. Its name translates as ‘new volcano’ and this huge, irregular crater, 2.5 km (1.5 mi) in diameter, has been formed over time from stratified layers of lava and other deposits. Its current shape was formed during the cataclysmic eruption which took place in 1600 – one of the largest volcanic explosions South America has ever witnessed. The previously dormant volcano spewed forth its deadly ballast of ash, rock and molten lava for two weeks, during which it is estimated that some 12 cu km (2.9 cu mi) of ash were released into the atmosphere.
The eruption was preceded and accompanied by a series of earth tremors and quakes, the most severe of which measured over 8.0 on the Richter scale. These were responsible for the obliteration of large parts of Arequipa, Peru’s second city, whereas it was the lahars (volcanic mudflows) from the eruption which engulfed several entire villages as they made their lethal way down to the coast, 120 km (75 mi) away.
Survivors of the catastrophe started to rebuild their lives with their customary resilience, although the region’s agriculture was a write-off for the next two years.
Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Huaynaputina eruption, however, was its impact on global weather patterns. Recent studies by geophysicists in the USA have suggested that the unusually harsh winters experienced by many parts of the northern hemisphere in the years immediately following the eruption were caused try the large amounts of sulphur it released into the atmosphere; the resulting droplets of sulphuric acid acted as barriers to sunlight, with a consequent lowering of temperatures.
When did the Huaynaputina eruption happen: February 19 1600
Where did the Huaynaputina eruption happen: Near Arequipa, southern Peru
What was Huaynaputina’s eruption death toll: Unknown, but its indirect consequences may make it one of the deadliest natural disasters of all. Scientists now believe that the extreme weather conditions in Russia which caused progressive harvests to fail at the start of the 16th century and led to the famines of 1601-1603, in which some two million people died, were due to the Huaynaputina eruption.
You should know: Arequipa is known as the ‘white city’ because of the distinctive white volcanic rock called sillar from which many of its buildings are constructed.