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Mount Pinatubo had likely been dormant for hundreds of years. There had been no historical records of volcanic eruptions. Local residents in this part of the Philippines hardly believed Pinatubo was a volcano, so it was difficult to convince them to evacuate once it began showing signs of an eruption throughout the spring of 1991. When it did erupt explosively on June 15, 1991, it was one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century.

The ash cloud rose 40 kilometers high, and volcanic ash blanketed the region. Making the disaster worse was the arrival of Typhoon Yunya, which hit on the same day. The heavy rains from the storm sent flows of mud and volcanic debris rushing down the mountainside in all directions. Rice and sugarcane fields were smothered. Rooftops collapsed from the weight of ash saturated with rain. Nearly all bridges within 29 kilometers of the mountain were destroyed.

Today, the mountain is relatively quiet, and about 300 meters shorter than it was before the eruption.

Landsat’s historical record reveals the changes and regrowth as it happens, something that can’t be witnessed from the ground. Furthermore, images from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite add more information about the changes to the mountain and surrounding region. Data from these satellites can help us analyze a larger area in a much shorter amount of time than ground surveys, providing valuable information for local decision making.

Pinatubo was the world’s largest volcanic blast since Alaska’s Novarupta in 1912.

Imagery

Every picture has a story to tell
Feb. 18, 1989, Landsat 5 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
July 2, 1991, Landsat 5 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Jan. 26, 1992, Landsat 5 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Feb. 13, 1993, Landsat 5 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Oct. 14, 1994, Landsat 5 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Mar. 25, 1996, Landsat 5 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Apr. 3, 2002, Landsat 7 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Jan. 12, 2022, Landsat 8 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines
Jan. 12, 2022, Landsat 8 (path/row 116/50) — Mount Pinatubo, Philippines

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References

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