This will probably become one of the most famous wedding pictures in history. I fear that this accidental picture will create a fashion and that people will try to recreate it at ever more dangerous volcanoes.
In this case it was accidental, this wedding was most likely planned for weeks, if not months, prior to the onset of eruption.
Since I know Taal quite well, and know how dangerous it can be, I would probably just have screamed “I do!”, picked up my new wife and galumphed as fast as I could towards higher ground.
Now let us take a look at this eruption in regards of what we can expect in the near future.
The history is the future of Taal
First of all, I would like to point for an in-depth analysis of the past of Taal to Henrik’s (Rest in Peace) eminent article in the New Decade Volcano Program series. All you need to know about the historic eruptions is there:
I will just rehash three things that is pertinent for the future of Taal. The first part is that Taal enjoys producing series of eruptions of variably sized eruptions. In these series there seems to be no pattern to the sizes of the intra-series eruptions.
In the historic annals we have 5 series of eruptions ranging from VEI-2 up to the 1754 VEI-5. This means that it is likely that what we are seeing is the onset of a new series of eruptions from Volcano Island in Lake Bombon inside the Taal Caldera.
The second thing is that this is a volcano amply able to produce large caldera extending eruptions. The last one of these occurred 5380 BP. I should perhaps explain the BP moniker. As we learned how to date carbon isotopes, we needed a reference date that was prior to the world becoming polluted by atmospheric nuclear explosions, and that at the same time did not signify anything.
So, that is how 1950 was decided to forever be locked down as present. The drawback to this is that we thusly need to perform a bit of mathematics to understand what BP is. In 2020 that formula looks like this 5380+70=5450 years ago, or in more common vernacular 3450BC.
This eruption was a medium sized caldera extending eruption, and there is no evidence at all that the caldera-forming period of Taal has ended, quite the opposite, since the central magma reservoir seems to be remaining, and there is no ring-fault volcanoes that is so typical of caldera-volcanoes in their post (or intermediate) periods.
The third thing to remember is that Taal is amply able to throw out a wide variety of deadly eruptive styles. The list is quite frightening.
Columnar collapse pyroclastic base surges, pyroclastic flows, lahars, volcanic tsunamis, seismic seiches, phreatic eruptions (almost impossible to predict), phreatomagmatic explosive eruptions, Plinian eruptions, Peléan eruptions, and so on.
Obviously, this makes for a very deadly volcano, so far it has killed 1300 people in a single eruption (as far as historic sources know). But it is amply able to outpace that during an unexpected larger eruption since population density has increased in the area.
The current eruption
First of all, I would like to properly state that DOST-PHIVOLCS did stellar work on this eruption, they noticed that something was coming months in advance and raised the alert-level as appropriate leading up to the eruption.
This makes me think about the White Island eruption, the authorities there also saw the signals of unrest, but they did not take it as serious as they should. The similarities are high, but the resulting decisions was quite different. As I said, biggie up for DOST-PHIVOLCS for taking a water-logged volcano seriously in regards of the possibility for a phreatic or phreatomagmatic eruption down the line.
Judging from the pictures and initial reports of ash-fall this seems to be a small to mid-sized VEI-3. No columnar collapse base surge occurred, and no tsunamis or seiches took place. As such this was about as well-behaved as Taal can be. At least so far.
Initial reports from DOST-PHIVOLCS names this as a phreatic detonation. This means that no fresh lava was involved, and that instead water came into contact with hot material and this in turn caused a steam driven detonation hurling old cold fractured rock upwards.
I am not entirely sure that this will hold up, since there were clear signals for quite some time prior to the onset of eruption, I would say it is far more likely that this was a phreatomagmatic eruption. Phreatomagmatic eruptions are what happens when water comes into direct contact with hot magma causing fresh magma to fragmentize in a steam driven fresh material eruption.
I hope that everyone heeded the eruption warnings and calls for evacuation, and that nobody was on Volcano Island as it erupted. If anyone was there, they are quite sous vide cooked by now.
The eruption will most likely abate or stop in the next few hours, most often Taal has short eruptions.
It is quite likely that Taal will go into a brief period of dormancy lasting from a few months to a few years before the next eruption in the new sequence occur. The next eruption could be anything from a VEI-2 all the way up to a VEI-5.
A caldera extending VEI-6 is not likely from Volcano Island for two reasons. The first is that the volcano conduit has no problem opening to release excess pressure, and the second thing is that the deep reservoir associated with caldera-extending eruptions is situated at 18km depth under the northern caldera rim. There are no signs at all of an eruption of this size and type being around the corner. Anyone believing that something like that is likely to happen without very noticeable precursor signs is an idiot, and there are no such signs visible.
Now cue tourists going to Volcano Island in droves to take their wedding pictures so that they can get mortally mortadella steam-baked posteriors for posterity.