The Cornfield Volcano


I’ve always wanted to own my very own volcano, I think it would be very chic for a volcanogeek to have her own volcano, but I doubt I’ll ever have the means to acquire one, all the best ones have already been snapped up, and new volcanoes don’t come along all that often, but it does happen occasionally, and if you are very lucky one might just pop up on your land. It’s happened before.

Some time before I came into the world, back when the world was young and green and wild poodles roamed the earth,  a farmer in Mexico, Dionisio Pulido, was tending his crops one fine day when a fissure opened in the ground, and hot stuff came shooting up out of it as he, his wife, and son watched in amazement.

I’m pretty sure a volcano was not on Dionisio’s list of wants and needs, and it really didn’t improve his property value or do much for his crops. He really didn’t ask for this at all, and I’m quite sure Dionisio, not being a volcanogeek,  lacked the ability to appreciate his good fortune.

Parícutin in the cornfield

As new volcanoes are wont to do this one grew pretty fast and in no time at all Dionisio had a very handsome scoria cone in his field, replete with ash column and tremors. What a lucky guy! Personally I’d have been very proud of my new volcano. You can’t get these at Walmart and nobody anywhere can install them. Back then they didn’t even have Walmarts.

In about a week the infant volcano, now dubbed Paricutin after a nearby village, was five stories tall and in a month could be seen from far around, so Dionisio really couldn’t sell tickets to see it, nor had it made itself overly popular with the locals after having buried the town it was named after in ash and lava as well as the town of San Juan Parangaricutiro. This resulted in some pretty bad press for the newcomer.

At that time young volcanoes were very much misunderstood, and Paricutin was just  being it’s baby self, growing as it should through it’s pyroclastic cone building stage, which only lasted about a year. At the end of that year Dionisio had himself a fine strapping 1100 foot volcano, and still did not appreciate his marvelous good fortune. The omelet making analogy never occurred to him, but he was, after all, somewhat a victim of the times he lived in.

Paricutin. Photograph by K. Segerstrom, U.S. Geological Survey, September 30, 1948.

Had this happened today he could have had tourism all over it, and made a bundle on it. As it was, he lost a lot of space to grow his corn in, and the neighbors were particularly unhappy. At least he didn’t get sued for having a volcano without an environmental impact survey.

Whatever the locals thought of Paricutin there were those capable of appreciating it. USGS got there as soon as they could and made the most of the very rare opportunity to see the birth of a new volcano, getting all the data they possibly could. The cone continued to grow for another 8 years, adding another 290 ft. and in the process providing quite a bit of entertainment, mostly in the form of effusive eruptions, but occasionally producing violently explosive eruptions in the last stage of it’s cone building phase. No one was directly killed by these eruptions, but three people were killed by the lightning associated with them.

Paricutin area cones

After 1952 Paricutin fell silent, and it’s been quiet ever since. It is not expected to erupt again as it is considered to be what is called a monogenetic volcano, that being one that builds a cone and then just quits on us. If you look around the area there you will see other such cones from much earlier times. This really should have been a clue for the locals, but they knew very little of such things, and were primarily interested in raising crops, and probably thought nothing of all those cones in the area. I wish I’d have been there, but it was before my time. It might happen again there, someday, it’s certainly happened many times before there. Maybe next time I can hop a plane if I’m still around.

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About Martina Vaslovik

Volcano nerd and seismogeek
This entry was posted in Volcanology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Cornfield Volcano

  1. kona coffee says:

    It is not my first time to go to see this web site, i am visiting this site dailly
    and get fastidious information from here all the time.

  2. Raven Wenner says:

    Does anybody know whatever happened to Dionisio Pulido? Do his descendants still own the extinct volcano?

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