January 2020 would not be forgotten soon in the Philippines as the day when people of Luzon were given a comparatively mild reminder of the fiery power of nature, at least compared to 1991 and Mount Pinatubo. The harsh lesson this time was from Taal Volcano, which erupted in steam and volcanic ash since the 12th of last month which spurred mass evacuations while neighboring communities were blanketed in gray. While the significant period of activity has not ended yet, people have at least begun filtering back to their homes. To the east however, another potential concern is under observation.
CNN Philippines has it that the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology has determined that the strange glow having been observed from the crater of Mayon Volcano in Albay since earlier this week is not being caused by the volcano itself. Rather, the mouth of the crater is being affected by the color interaction of various gases in the atmosphere, presenting the illusion of a red glow at the peak. PHIVOLCS however is keeping its alert level of 2 over Mayon, which has been in place since certain changes in its conical shape were recorded as early as February 2019.
According to the PHIVOLCS update, rather than the telltale sign of magma rising up its main vent the glow from the Mayon crater was due to gas from the magma deeper underground which has significantly heated the atmosphere, easily reachable due to its elevation of 2,463 meters. However the magma itself remains under the edifice of Mayon, and has not undergone any new “intrusion” events that might cause lava flows. Nevertheless, with alert level 2 still in place over the volcano, entry within its danger zones (6km-radius permanent and 7km-radius extended) will remain strictly prohibited.
Mount Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines. Its last notable eruption, phreatic in nature, occurred in January of 2018. It spewed ash on several barangays of the surrounding municipalities of Guinobatan and Camalig, while lava flows came down the slopes nearly breaching the permanent danger zone limit.
Image from Bombo Radyo News