After 110 Dormant Years, Momotombo Volcano Erupts

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Momotombo Volcano close to Leon in Nicaragua

Image: Shutterstock/LMspencer

After 110 Dormant Years, Momotombo Volcano Erupts

There’s no telling why a volcano suddenly erupts after more than a hundred years of silence, but the last time Nicaragua’s Momotombo Volcano erupted was in 1905. Though Momotombo erupted on December 1, the volcano is still emitting massive amounts of smoke. Before 1905, there had been ten eruptions since 1858. And even earlier in the 1600s and 1700s several volcanic eruptions are noted.

The cone-shaped volcano, also called a stratovolcano, is composed of layers of lava and ash. Momotombo is located near Leon, Nicaragua, and the volcano powers a nearby geothermal plant.

Momotombo is located in a seismically active spot, where the Cocos Plate runs under the Caribbean Plate. This process is known as subduction. The volcano’s present cone is young. It began forming about 4,500 years ago, and before the eruption occurred just a few days ago, the cone stood 4,255 feet tall.

Perhaps the volcano erupted because the subdued Cocos Plate allowed for magma to escape to the surface, but this is just one theory of many. Geoscientists study crystals in the lava to predict how long the cooked rock was at a given temperature, which provides clues about how long the magma took to reach the surface after its formation. Unfortunately, these scientific studies differ in time from hours to centuries.

Nicaragua wasn’t the only place that experienced sudden eruptions this week. Fuego and Santiaguito in Guatemala had mild eruptions, while (also in Nicaragua) a small ash plume was spotted earlier in November from Telica. This Central American activity isn’t noticeably connected in any way, but they are all in the same tectonic setting, where the Cocos Plate is subducting under the Caribbean Plate.

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Kate Wilke is the content manager at 301brands, and she's the editor of, and the lifestyle editor at When she's not paddle boarding or skiing, she's informing someone about global warming (or cats) over a local double IPA. Follow her on Instagram — @kateewilke

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