Popocatépetl, the 17,900 foot volcano 50 miles to the southeast of the capital, Mexico City has starting to expand on Friday.
Popo, as the mountain is known as, had seven exhalations overnight Saturday and through the day Sunday, sending vapor, smoke and gas into the sky. The most serious exhalation occurred just after 9 a.m. Sunday which sent a vapor cloud a mile into the air.
Mexico’s National Disaster Prevention Center raised the alert level to yellow phase three from yellow phase two, which indicates a possible magma expulsion and explosions of increasing intensity. This is the third-highest warning on the center’s seven-step scale.
Strong incandescence can be seen at night, suggesting that fresh magma is arriving, building up a new lava dome.
The service issued a warning saying, “moderate exhalations, some with ash, sporadic low to moderate explosions with likely burning fragments emitted close to the crater, and flaming magma within the crater visible at night.”
A seven-mile perimeter exclusion zone was declared around the Mexico volcano and the Puebla government has asked residents to limit travel between cities near the volcano. The local government closed schools near the volcano and advises residents to close windows and avoid outdoors.
Popocatepetl is one of Mexico’s highest peaks and had it’s last major eruption in 2000.
USGS notes Popocatépetl is routinely active and previously has experienced strong activity, enough to evacuate the area in both 1994 and 2000. It also had an eruption in 2010 and, if a major eruption occurs, it would be a serious situation for residents and those flying through Mexico City international airport.
Scientists say, Popocatepetl is a fairly active volcano, with such exhalations occurring regularly. Events like Sunday’s serve to prevent more dangerous pressure from building inside the volcano.
It is located in a national park southeast of Mexico City and the full name means ‘Smoking Mountain.’