July 3, 2021

Taal Volcano has produced the highest amount of volcanic SO2 gas ever measured

The greatest amounts of volcanic sulfur dioxide (SO2) gas emission and towering, steam-rich plumes from the Taal Main Crater were reported on Saturday, according to the Philippine volcanological service.

According to a Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (DOST-PHIVOLCS) update issued at 8 p.m., SO2 emissions averaged 14,699 tonnes per day – the highest level ever recorded in Taal – and upwelling in the Main Crater Lake generated steam plumes that rose 2,500 meters above Volcano Island, according to the update.

A spike in SO2 emissions, the report continued, could be followed by eruptive activity at the main crater on the same scale as the increases in SO2 flux of 14,326 tonnes/day on June 28 and 13,287 tonnes/day on the morning of July 1, 2021, which preceded the short-lived phreatomagmatic eruption at 3:16 p.m. on July 1.

Based on data from the Taal Volcano Observatory and Volcano Island’s All-Weather Stations, increased SO2 in combination with high relative humidity of 79-91 percent and wind velocities of 0 meters/second over Taal Lake will likely result in the formation of volcanic smog, also known as vog, over the lakeshore communities of Batangas Province, according to the National Weather Service.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PHIVOLCS) reminds the public that the Taal Volcano is now at Alert Level 3, and current SO2 values suggest that magmatic extrusion is continuing at the Main Crater, which may further fuel further explosions.

Taal Volcano Island and high-risk barangays of Bilibinwang and Banyaga, Agoncillo and Buso-buso, Gulod and eastern Bugaan, Laurel, Batangas Province should remain evacuated due to the potential hazards of pyroclastic density currents and volcanic tsunami if stronger eruptions occur in the future, according to the Philippine Volcano Observatory.

The general public is also reminded that the whole Taal Volcano Island is a Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ), and that entrance onto the island, as well as the high-risk barangays of Agoncillo and Laurel, must be strictly forbidden.

All activities on Taal Lake should be prohibited during this time period. Communities along the Taal Lake beaches are urged to maintain vigilance, take preventive steps against the possibility of flying ash and vog, and calmly prepare for the possibility of evacuation should disturbance escalate further.

Aside from conducting health checks on communities affected by vog to assess the severity of SO2 impacts on their constituents, local government units are also advised to consider temporary relocation of severely exposed residents to safer areas due to the unprecedentedly high SO2 degassing from Taal Main Crater. Pilots should avoid flying above Taal Volcano Island, according to civil aviation officials, since airborne ash and ballistic pieces from abrupt explosions and pyroclastic density currents such as base surges may pose a threat to aircraft.

The Department of Science and Technology-PHIVOLCS continues to closely monitor the Taal Volcano, and any new developments will be reported to all parties involved.

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