Cumbre Vieja

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Cumbre Vieja
View to Cumbre Vieja, in the foreground the Aridane Valley

View to Cumbre Vieja, in the foreground the Aridane Valley

height 1949  msnm (as of 2020)
location La Palma , Canary Islands ( Spain )
Coordinates 28 ° 34 '9 "  N , 17 ° 50' 14"  W Coordinates: 28 ° 34 '9 "  N , 17 ° 50' 14"  W.
Cumbre Vieja (Canary Islands)
Cumbre Vieja
Type Stratovolcano
Last eruption 2021
The northeast trade wind is blowing clouds against the Canary Islands. La Palma is on the top left.
Signpost on the Ruta de los Volcanes (Volcano Route)

The Cumbre Vieja ( German : Age ridge ) is a 2000 meters high and about 14 km long volcanic chain in the south of to Spain belonging Canary Island of La Palma . Parts of the Cumbre Vieja form the nature park of the same name .


The ridge extends approximately in a north-south direction and, together with the Cumbre Nueva, which adjoins the Refugio El Pilar to the north, forms the central mountain range on the southern half of the island. Contrary to what the name suggests, the Cumbre Vieja is geologically younger than the Cumbre Nueva. A popular hiking trail, the Ruta de los Volcanes ("Volcano Route", GR 131) runs over the Cumbre Vieja . The path offers wide views of La Palma and the three neighboring islands of Tenerife , La Gomera and El Hierro .


The mountain range has a significant influence on the island's climate. Together with the even higher Caldera de Taburiente in the north, it divides the island into a more humid east and a drier west half: the prevailing northeast trade wind drives air masses against the mountain slopes. The air rises and forms clouds, the upper limit of which is higher in summer and lower in winter. These clouds donate enough moisture to allow extensive deciduous and pine forests to thrive on the slopes . The summit region, on the other hand, is already in the area of ​​influence of the counter passat. It is therefore drier and often free of clouds. Due to the altitude, the temperature in the summit region can sometimes drop below freezing point in the winter months.


The Cumbre Vieja is of volcanic origin. It consists of lava, tuff and volcanic ash. Numerous craters are lined up, the highest point is the 1949 meter high mountain Deseada .

outbreak Art Height ( msnm ) Coordinates Remarks image
Outbreak Sep. 2021 approx. 900 28 ° 37 ′  N , 17 ° 52 ′  W.
July 8, 1949 circa 1270 28 ° 36 '  N , 17 ° 51'  W. near Llano del Banco, fissure eruption
summit Art Height ( msnm ) Coordinates Remarks image
Pico Birigoyo 1807 28 ° 36 ′  N , 17 ° 50 ′  W. Pico Birigoyo 001.JPG
Montaña la Barquita 1809 28 ° 36 ′  N , 17 ° 50 ′  W.
Pico Nambroque 1922 28 ° 35 ′  N , 17 ° 50 ′  W. Pico Nambroque La Palma 20080606.jpg
Deseada I 1949 28 ° 34 ′  N , 17 ° 50 ′  W.
Deseada II 1937 28 ° 34 ′  N , 17 ° 50 ′  W. RK1112 9065 Deseada II.jpg
San Martín 1563 28 ° 32 ′  N , 17 ° 50 ′  W. Last eruption: 1646 RK1403 0133 San Martin.jpg
San Antonio 677 28 ° 29 ′  N , 17 ° 51 ′  W. Last eruption: 1676 to 1678 10 - San Antonio volcano.jpg
Teneguía 439 28 ° 29 ′  N , 17 ° 51 ′  W. Last eruption: 1971 VolcánTeneguía.jpg
San Juan 28 ° 28 ′  N , 17 ° 51 ′  W.
The La Malforada lava field with the Montaña del Fraile and the Duraznero crater, in the background the Deseada crater

La Palma has been the most volcanically active island in the Canaries for several centuries. Seven of the Cumbre's approximately 120 craters erupted over the past 500 years. Around 1470 to 1492, the Montaña Quemada (Eng .: burned mountain ) erupted at the north-western end of the Cumbre Vieja. The Spaniards had not yet fully conquered the island by this time, so more precise data is lacking. Documented eruptions were:

  • 1585: the Tajuya , whose name comes from the Guanche and whose lava covers a large area of ​​today's municipality of El Paso ,
  • 1646: the 1598 meter high San Martín , which formed the Monte la Luna to the east ,
  • 1676 to 1678: the 657 meter high, about 3000 year old San Antonio south of the town of Fuencaliente (today Los Canarios)
  • 1712: the El Charco (German: the puddle ) near El Paso.

On June 24, 1949, a crack opened above the town of San Nicolás , the lava of which flowed to the west. The old crater Duraznero (1820 m) also erupted, but poured its lava eastward on the same day. At the beginning of July of the same year, the old crater Hoyo Negro (English: black pit ) spat ash. Until September 1949 , a lot of lava flowed from the San Juan , which was named after his birthday, which gave rise to new land on the west coast. This lava flowed around the town of San Nicolás , but still buried some courtyards and houses. People didn't die.

In 1971, the 438-meter-high Teneguía erupted on the southern tip of La Palma. The name of the volcano comes from a sacred rock of the Guanches , the Roque Teneguía , where there was a hot spring that was buried during the eruption of San Antonio in 1676. At the beginning of its eruption, the Teneguía formed six openings below the San Antonio near Fuencaliente, from which hot sulfur vapors still emerge today.

South of Teneguía , the Cumbre continues below sea level. Submarine volcanism shows that the most active part of the Cumbre is still in the sea.

Panoramic view from the highest point of the Cumbre Vieja

Possible risk of tsunami

During the eruption of the San Juan volcano in 1949, a two-kilometer-long crack formed in the mountain flank, and the western half of the Cumbre slid a few meters towards the west coast. Some geologists fear that in a further eruption, rising magma could penetrate into water-bearing rock layers of the cumbre. Explosive evaporation of the water could make the mountainside unstable. As a result, up to 500 billion tons of rock could slip into the sea. Such a massive landslide would trigger a megatsunami in the Atlantic .

According to studies by the Technical University of Delft , such a landslide is unlikely in the next 10,000 years, since the Cumbre is not yet high and not steep enough. A flank slide would only be possible at all if extremes collide, such as very heavy rain with an extraordinarily strong volcanic eruption at the same time. Calculations by the university state that forces of up to 28 trillion Newtons would have to act.

Outbreak on September 19, 2021

An intense swarm of earthquakes occurred in September 2021 , which was interpreted as an indication of a possible outbreak. Authorities set the warning level to yellow and instructed residents in the south of Palma to prepare for an eventual evacuation. The volcano erupted on September 19 at 4:12 p.m. CEST above Las Manchas . Six cracks initially formed and lava fountains could be seen. After an hour, an ash cloud formed above the first eruption point, which reached a height of 1,500 meters. Several lava flows rolled through the lightly forested area towards the Atlantic. Before that, the tremor had risen sharply; in the morning there was a magnitude 3.8 earthquake. After the outbreak, the authorities set the warning level to red and began evacuating the endangered areas.

The Spanish Ministry of Tourism announced on September 20 that there were no restrictions on air traffic or on holidaymakers traveling to Palma in the next few days.

Nature park of the same name

The Cumbre Vieja Natural Park is 7500 hectares in size. It extends over the high altitude regions in the southern center of the island and includes (from east to west) parts of the municipalities of Breña Alta , Breña Baja , Mazo , Fuencaliente de La Palma and El Paso . In addition to the volcanic cones, the pronounced lapilli and lava fields of the mountain range are also worth mentioning. The vegetation consists of alpine shrubbery at the top, further down from the pine forest characterized by the Canary Islands pine and to a lesser extent also from tree heather bush forest and laurel forest .

Individual evidence

  1. Hazard map of lava flows
  2. ↑ On-site inspection in 2005
  3. Document from the University of California Santa Cruz on a possible landslide and tsunami (English) (PDF; 768 kB)
  4. ^ The day the world ended. Delft University of Technology, archived from the original on March 10, 2014 ; accessed on August 5, 2012 .
  5. Volcano erupted on La Palma . Daily News. September 19, 2021. Accessed September 20, 2021.
  7. Canary Island La Palma threatens volcanic eruption. In: Bayerischer Rundfunk / BR24, September 16, 2021, accessed on September 18, 2021 .
  8. La Palma is preparing for a volcanic eruption. In: Der Tagesspiegel, September 15, 2021, accessed on September 18, 2021 .
  9. La Palma volcano (Canary Islands (Spain)) activity update: Yellow alert for Cumbre Vieja declared. In: VolcanoDiscovery GmbH, September 13, 2021, accessed on September 18, 2021 .
  10. The lava devours houses
  11. Brief description (LaPalmaBiosfera)

Web links