Thursday, August 16, 2007

Yikes! 3000 volcanoes in Mexico

The picture at the left is of Pico de Orizaba, the third highest peak in North America and at 18,700 feet the highest peak in Mexico. You can read much more detail about this extinct volcano and indeed about many other Mexican volcanoes in this article published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The author, Christine Delsol, is a freelance writer and former Deputy Travel Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Christine's article is where I got the volcano count of 3,000, and if you really want to appreciate this number, launch Google Earth and turn on the program's ability to mark geographic features. Fly to Mexico and navigate to a spot about 2/3 of the way down the country. You will see a broad band of volcanoes that sweep across the lower waist of Mexico from the Caribbean to the Pacific. Some of these volcanoes are still active, notably the monster Popocatéptl that threatens Mexico City and is in the news now due to the shrinkage of her (his?) glaciers attributed to global climate change. "Popo" is now considered active and is off limits to climbers, but if you're feeling frisky, you can go climb Pico de Orizaba instead.

If you have not gotten around to using Google Earth you will be amazed at how our home planet looks from a satellite image. I believe most of the images in Google Earth were taken by a Keyhole satellite, which was the nearly miraculous "eye in the sky" the United States Air Force used to spy on the Soviet Union -- and probably other countries they are not telling us about. Ok, I am getting off topic here, but I have a personal connection to the Air Force Keyhole satellite project because I worked at a tracking station on Mahe, Seychelles that was part of the program. And as a further digression, I just saw on CNN that our government, led by George Bush, is going to be using this technology in defense of the homeland. If you plan on doing anything against the law, make sure you do it in your house from now on, big brother will be watching and that is no joke.

To get a free copy of Google Earth (and finally get to the bottom of exactly what your neighbor is doing in his back yard) go here:

I took the high resolution telephoto shot at uppper left from a bedroom window of my apartment in Xalapa. Pico de Orizaba and another extinct volcano, Cofre de Perote dominate the western horizon and are usually free of cloud cover early in the morning, but by noon they start to take on a frosting of clouds and usually by 4:00 PM they are completely lost in clouds. By this time, the notorious and dependable Xalapa afternoon rain storms have desended on the area.

You'll find the Google Earth database has many photographs and detailed descriptions for Mexican volcanoes and that the database is tightly integrated with the visuals. Very helpful. Actually, the volcano data comes from a database that belongs to the Smithsonian Institute. Scanning through this database you will possibly discover your hidden geologist child. Go here:

Happy exploring!