The eruption at La Cumbre Vieja de La Palma has once again reminded everyone of the the volcanic origin of the Canary Islands. "Sometimes we forget that we live in a country with active volcanoes," says Raúl Pérez, a scientist at the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain.
In October 1971, some 50 years ago, the Teneguía eruption happened on La Palma, and it was also the last terrestrial eruption in Spain. More recently, in 2011, there was the underwater eruption of El Hierro.
In Spain there are several volcanic areas, such as the Canary Islands, the region of La Garrotxa (Girona), Cabo de Gata (Almeria), Cofrentes (Valencia), the Columbretes Islands (Castellón) and Campos de Calatrava (Ciudad Real).
But only in La Garrotxa and in the Canary Islands have volcanic eruptions occurred during the last 10,000 years, according to the National Geographic Institute.
However, "right now the only site with eruptive potential was La Palma," explains Jesús Ibáñez, professor at the University of Granada and researcher at the Andalusian Interuniversity Institute of Geophysics and Seismic Disaster Prevention.
And La Palma is the location which has had the most eruptions in history, some seven to date, not including this Sunday. Practically, all of those were registered on the ‘Old Summit’ that has reawakened this 2021.
"There was the potential for this to happen," says Ibáñez. "A year ago it was warned, but no attention was paid."
After La Palma, Tenerife has registered five eruptions since the 15th century, the last recorded in 1909 in El Chinyero. Then Lanzarote and El Hierro, each have two volcanic episodes. But the place that holds the record for the longest eruption in Europe, is Lanzarote’s Timanfaya with 2,055 consecutive days of eruption.
However, the death toll from these volcanoes is low. Only 24 people have died as a result of volcanic eruptions recorded in Spain since the 15th century.
"At any moment they can wake up," explains Pérez. His colleague from the University of Granada has the same opinion: "Except for La Gomera and, probably, Fuerteventura, which are the oldest, all the others could still, potentially, have eruptions."