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Anniversary of the birth of the Tagoro volcano on the island of El Hierro

Tagoro submarine volcano in formation. Source: Municipal Council of El Hierro.

On the morning of October 10, 2011, a whole generation of Canary Islanders heard for the first time a word that they would eventually get used to: tremor. 

The islands were facing a volcanic emergency for the first time in 50 years, but not where most expected: not Teide, nor Cumbre Vieja, but under the sea, a kilometre and a half from the island of El HierroTagoro violently devastated the Mar de las Calmas, one of the most important marine reserves in Europe, and shocked the geologically youngest island in the archipelago, plagued with volcanic cones but without any historical eruption. News of the birth of the volcano went around the world and its footprint in the sea was visible from space.

Tagoro, which caused a deformation of the terrain that raised the island 20 centimetres that has been maintained over time, has a diameter at its base of one kilometre and is 370 meters high from its base, like a skyscraper of 90 stories, a very high cone, because it arose at the bottom of a valley and its walls helped it to grow, although it suffered landslides during the five months of eruption, from October 10, 2011 to March 5, 2012. 

Since 2011 there have been around thirty oceanographic expeditions on the volcano, most of them commanded by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) and in which researchers from national and international scientific centers have participated, such as, among many others, the two Canarian public universities, the German Geomar institute or the National Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"The eruption of El Hierro is an unprecedented event for science," explains Eugenio Fraile, principal investigator of the Vulcana project of the IEO of underwater volcanology in the Canary Islands, initiated with Tagoro. "The data from our investigations have served as a world reference to see how a system like this evolves, ships, researchers and instruments have been at the volcano from minute zero until today," adds the oceanographer.

The scientific history of Tagoro continues to be built, and many aspects remain to be studied from the physical or biological point of view. The volcano continues to emit heat and has increased the temperature in its surroundings by almost two degrees, a reason that has helped, along with the nutrients “to increase the biomass of zooplankton in the area affected by Tagoro compared to nearby reference waters, but also a decrease in the diversity of species on the volcano has been verified,” says Fraile. "Today we have a richer and more productive Mar de las Calmas (Sea of ​​Calms), with the volcano emitting an enormous amount of nitrites, phosphates, many silicates and bioassimilable iron that fertilize the water in a natural way", sums up the scientist.

The enormous dimensions of the eruption that is currently underway on La Palma and, above all, its terrible consequences for those who have lost homes, farmland or their work under the lava flows have almost relegated the tenth anniversary of the Tagoro volcano to the background, when, in fact, much of the scientific and emergency deployment of the last three weeks in Cumbre Vieja was tested for the first time in El Hierro. 

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