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Slumbering Volcano Erupts for First Time in a Century

Nicaragua’s Momotombo spews fire and ash high into the air.

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Momotombo emits lava, gas, and ash on December 2.


A quiet giant sleeps no more. This week, the Momotomo volcano in Nicaragua is erupting for the first time since 1905, spitting lava and a huge plume of ash and smoke over nearby Lake Managua. Schools have been closed in the area as a safety measure.

According to local reports, people began feeling tremors about two weeks ago. Such seismic activity often presages eruptions as large quantities of magma shift beneath the surface. The visible eruption began in earnest on Monday, though it has since slowed (see a live video stream of the mountain).

Momotomo has shown some minor seismic activity over the past decade but has otherwise been quiet over the past century. In the early 1600s the volcano had a major eruption that caused the abandonment of the prominent city of Leon Viejo (Old Leon). The surviving residents moved about 30 miles (48 kilometers) west to establish the present-day city of Leon.

The volcano also erupted ten times between 1849 and 1905. (See more eruption photos.)

The stratovolcano has an elevation of 4,225 feet (1,290 meters). Due to its symmetrical, conical shape, it has long been a popular tourist attraction and is well known in Central America. Its southern flank hosts a major geothermal energy field.

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Lava pours out of the top of Momotombo.


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Another view of the erupting stratovolcano.


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