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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

Facts about... Mount Pinatubo.


CURWOOD: The volcanoes that dot the Pacific Rim from South America to Indonesia are appropriately called the Ring of Fire. The unfortunate jewel in that ring is the Philippines. The island nation is home to some 200 volcanoes, and 5 years ago this summer one of them exploded in the worlds largest eruption in more than a century. Mt. Pinatubo blew as much as 10 cubic kilometers of ash and gas 20 miles into the air. The ash blotted out the sun and coated nearly 8,000 square miles of land. A simultaneous typhoon created a near-Biblical disaster. The combination brought flows of volcanic mud or lahares cascading down mountains, burying 17 villages. A million people were forced from their homes and more than 300 were killed. Five years later mudslides around Pinatubo continue to bury villages, killing dozens of people a year. For scientists, though, Pinatubo was a gold mine. The so-called Pinatubo Effect caused by ash in the atmosphere cooled the Earth for several years after the explosion. It enabled researchers to understand better the chemistry of both global climate change and ozone depletion. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth almanac.



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