Vulcanism in the Canary Islands

Volcanic monitoring in the Canary Islands must be constant. Not only because the archipelago is "one of the most interesting active volcanic regions on the planet", according to the IGN, but above all because "volcanism in the Canary Islands poses a potential risk to some two million people" who live on the islands or visit them as tourists.


23/03/2022 - 12:15 CET
Personal del Instituto Geográfico Nacional en La Palma/Instituto Geográfico Nacional IGN

Staff from the Spanish National Geographic Institute (IGN) at La Palma/IGN

1. Why are there volcanoes in the Canary Islands? Origin and age of the islands

The Canary Islands began to be built in the middle of the Tertiary Era “due to the accumulation of volcanic emissions on the oceanic crust of the Atlantic, although there is no unanimous agreement on their origin”, according to the Canariwiki of the Canary Islands Government.

The islands began to emerge from the ocean some 20 million years ago. Fuerteventura and Lanzarote are the oldest; Tenerife, Gran Canaria and La Gomera are between 16 and 10 million years old; La Palma, about five million; and El Hierro, only half a million years old.

 ​​​​​​2. Historical eruptions in the Canary Islands

The historical eruptions in the Canary Islands have not caused personal injury, with the sole exception of the eruption of the Teneguía volcano on La Palma in 1971, in which one person died from inhaling toxic gases. They have, however, caused material damage.

Here is a table from the IGME with historical eruptions on La Palma.

3. Volcanic monitoring in the Canary Islands

Since 2004, it has been the responsibility of the IGN, which has a network of instruments on each island.

4. The Canary Islands Volcanic Emergency Plan (PEVOLCA)

The PEVOLCA is managed by the Directorate General for Security and Emergencies of the Canary Islands Government, of the Regional Ministry of Economy, Finance and Security. It is advised by a Scientific Committee made up of representatives of the IGN (National Geographic Institute); the CSIC (Higher Council for Scientific Research); the AEMET (State Meteorological Agency); the Directorate General for Civil Protection of the Ministry of the Interior; and guests from the following institutions: ULL (University of La Laguna); ULPGC (University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria; IGME (Geological and Mining Institute); IEO (Spanish Institute of Oceanography); INVOLCAN (Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands SL); Other universities. Since 2013, by vote, the spokesperson of the PEVOLCA Scientific Committee has been MªJosé Blanco (IGN).

Once the PEVOLCA has been activated, decisions for the protection of goods and people are taken by the Civil Protection.

For more information

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