NASA Earth Observatory just published this image, acquired via Landsat 8 on January 2, 2021. It’s a plume rising from Popocatépetl volcano in Mexico, whose nickname is El Popo. This volcano is located in central Mexico, just 43 miles (70 km) from Mexico City. Residents of Mexico City can see it on clear days. Kasha Patel of NASA wrote:
Popocatépetl volcano – the name is Aztec for ‘smoking mountain’ – is one of Mexico’s most active volcanoes. The glacier-clad stratovolcano has been erupting since January 2005, with daily low-intensity emissions of gas, steam, and ash …
On January 6, the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reported a volcanic ash plume that rose to around 6,400 meters (21,000 feet) above the volcano. Mexico’s National Center for Prevention of Disasters (CENAPRED), which continuously monitors Popo, warned people not to approach the volcano or its crater due to falling ash and rock fragments. Some ashfall was blown downwind to the city of Puebla, located about 45 kilometers (30 miles) away from the volcano.
At 5,426 meters (17,802 feet) above sea level, Popocatépetl is the second tallest volcano in Mexico (after Citlaltépetl). It is composed of alternating layers of volcanic ash, lava, and rocks from earlier eruptions. The volcano is located around 70 kilometers (40 miles) southeast of Mexico City and more than 20 million people live close enough to be affected by a major eruption. However, most of the eruptions in the past 600 years have been relatively mild.
Bottom line: Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano has been erupting since January 2005. On January 6, 2021, Mexico’s National Center for Prevention of Disasters, which continuously monitors the volcano, warned people not to approach due to falling ash and rock fragments.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.