LOOK: Volcanic ash isn't just ash but broken rock and glass

MANILA, Philippines – Areas surrounding Taal Volcano, nearby cities and even Metro Manila are now experiencing ashfall brought about by the phreatic eruption of the volcano.
Volcanic ash isn't just ash but broken rocks and glass

Tagaytay covered in ashfall
Tagaytay covered in ashfall | Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Jerome Abuan

Volcanic ashes that have blanketed roads, houses and infrastructures seem like ordinary dust but a closer look into them revealed that they are actually broken volcanic glass and rocks.

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of an ash particle, collected following the volcanic eruption of Mount Redoubt in Alaska on March 22, 2009 showed how jagged and abrasive it actually is.

Volcanic ash looks jagged, abrasive and hard
Volcanic ash looks jagged, abrasive and hard | Photo Courtesy: Facebook/ Daniel Rothaid

Volcanic ash is made of rock, mineral, and glass fragments as small as 4 microns (μm) each. It is hard, corrosive, and does not dissolve in water.

During a volcanic eruption, magma rises from beneath the Earth. The gasses inside the volcano expands and escapes, shattering solid rock and shredding magma fragments up into the air.

Microscopic look at ash particles
Microscopic look at ash particles | Photo Courtesy: Pavel Izbekov and Jill Shipman, University of Alaska Fairbanks

As these tiny, rock and glass particles solidify in the air, they are easily blown away by wind thousands of kilometres. These ashfall can block the sun and even cause acid rain. It can also pose serious health hazards to some people.

Ash particles can be so fine that they can be breathed deep into the lungs. Those exposed for a long time will experience chest discomfort and coughing.

The International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN) said that the best way to protect ourselves from health concerns brought about by ashfall is to reduce our exposure to it. Children, infants and people with respiratory diseases are especially advised to stay indoors.

State seismology bureau Phivolcs advised affected populations to use N95-grade facemasks or wet cloth or towel when going outdoors.

READ: Everything you need to know about the use of facemask against ashfall

— Sally, The Summit Express

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