On This Day
1985 – The volcano Nevado del Ruiz erupts and melts a glacier, causing a lahar (volcanic mudslide) that buries Armero, Colombia, killing approximately 23,000 people.
The Nevado del Ruiz (Spanish pronunciation: [neβaðo ðel ˈrwis]), also known as La Mesa de Herveo (English: Mesa of Herveo, the name of the nearby town) is a volcano on the border of the departments of Caldas and Tolima in Colombia, about 129 kilometers (80 mi) west of the capital city Bogotá. It is a stratovolcano composed of many layers of lava alternating with hardened volcanic ash and other pyroclastic rocks. Volcanic activity at Nevado del Ruiz began about two million years ago, since the Early Pleistocene or Late Pliocene, with three major eruptive periods. The current volcanic cone formed during the present eruptive period, which began 150,000 years ago.
The volcano usually generates Vulcanian to Plinian eruptions, which produce swift-moving currents of hot gas and rock called pyroclastic flows. These eruptions often cause massive lahars (mud and debris flows), which pose a threat to human life and the environment. The impact of such an eruption is increased as the hot gas and lava melt the mountain’s snowcap, adding large quantities of water to the flow. On November 13, 1985, a small eruption produced an enormous lahar that buried and destroyed the town of Armero in Tolima, causing an estimated 25,000 deaths. This event later became known as the Armero tragedy—the deadliest lahar in recorded history. Similar but less deadly incidents occurred in 1595 and 1845, consisting of a small explosive eruption followed by a large lahar.
The volcano is part of Los Nevados National Natural Park, which also contains several other volcanoes. The summit of Nevado del Ruiz is covered by large glaciers. The volcano continues to pose a threat to the nearby towns and villages, and it is estimated that up to 500,000 people could be at risk from lahars from future eruptions.
Today, the Nevado del Ruiz volcano is constantly monitored by the Volcanic and Seismic Observatory of Manizales.
Born On This Day
1908 – C. Vann Woodward, American historian, author, and academic (d. 1999)
Comer Vann Woodward (November 13, 1908 – December 17, 1999) was a Pulitzer-prize winning American historian focusing primarily on the American South and race relations. He was long a supporter of the approach of Charles A. Beard, stressing the influence of unseen economic motivations in politics. Stylistically, he was a master of irony and counterpoint. Woodward was on the left end of the history profession in the 1930s. By the 1950s he was a leading liberal and supporter of civil rights. His demonstration that racial segregation was a late-19th-century invention rather than some sort of eternal standard made his The Strange Career of Jim Crow into “the historical Bible of the civil rights movement”, said Martin Luther King Jr. After attacks on him by the New Left in the late 1960s, he moved to the right politically.
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