In what could be a great sigh of relief for many, American expert researcher from USF Ian Godfrey, during his several exploratory ascents to the summit of the Irazú Volcano from 2017-2019 confirmed that the national park is safe for visitors. By using the PerfectPrime IR0005 thermal camera at Costa Rica’s highest volcanic peak Ian showed there was no real present or imminent danger to the thousands of visitors from all over the world who are drawn to this park each year.
For centuries the Irazú Volcano, a stratovolcano which at 11,260 feet (3,432 m) above sea level stands as the tallest of the six active volcanoes in the country.
Thanks to the IR0005 thermal camera which fits Ian’s pockets to a T, the images taken from key points of the volcano’s multiple craters showed no alarming thermal anomaly whatsoever - giving the 31-year-old Spanish-speaking American and his team of experts assurances of a safe journey ahead and of tons of information that’s valuable material for his new book entitled “Investigating the Volcanoes of Costa Rica”.
The Irazú Volcano – One of Central Americas most active volcanoes
Main Crater of Irazú Volcano photographed on February 11th 2019 by Ian Godfrey.
The Irazú Volcano is one of the most closely watched volcanoes in Costa Rica due to the close proximity to the capital city San José. Any eruption of ash and gases like sulfur dioxide has the possibility of creating direct impact on the main metropolitan area of the country due to the wind direction which will carry the ash west directly over the city. Still lahars pose the greatest risk to the close by towns.
Diego De La Haya Crater of Irazú Volcano photographed in February 11th 2019 by Ian Godfrey
All the ashes, lahars and pyroclastic material that spewed out of the Irazú Volcano into neighboring towns over the years is proof of this volatile volcano’s appetite for destruction. Not to mention the 400 houses and that it took in its eruption which started on March 19, 1963 - a day that nearly coincided with the official visit of late John F. Kennedy to this diminutive Central American nation welcoming the American president with significant ashfall in the capital city which gave him an itchy nose.
The Main Crater of the Irazú Volcano holds a color-shifting lake which is the main reason people visit the park as it attracts the attention of every visitor. The lake inside the Main Crater of the Irazú Volcano dried up briefly in 2017 and then reformed later that year with the increasing rain. Volcanologists scanned the crater floor with thermal imaging technology and found no significant heat signature. After the lake reformed it was a vibrant light aqua blue, as rainwater continued to wash down rocks, dirt and other organic materials like plants, the color became dark blue. Sometimes small bubbles can be seen rising up from the depths of the lake, these gases prove the volcanic system is in fact very active and it’s important to respect that. In 2019 due to increased rainfall the western wall of the Main Crater collapsed adding a massive portion of volcanic minerals to the body of water changing the overall composition of the lake and in turn made the water look turquoise green.
Main Crater of the Irazú Volcano after the rock fall - May 11th 2019 photographed by Ian Godfrey.
But this time around, Ian Godfrey came prepared. In this exploratory trip in the heat of the summer of 2019, the researcher from Florida who first visited Costa Rica as a student-scholar in 2014, had one ace up his sleeve: A PerfectPrime IR0005, an instrument that helped Ian measure the surface temperature of the crater lake.
Ian Godfrey explained, “I really want to monitor the entire environment and scan the active crater for thermal anomalies. So it´s exciting to go up an active volcano with all this equipment, Its simple to just pull it out and validate what we see and save the image for future reference.
Studying volcanoes is never for the fainthearted. America learned this the hard way as the May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens eruption took the life of government agent David a Johnston, manning a USGS (the United States Geological Survey) observatory post six miles away. Along with him 57 other lives.
But Ian Godfrey is the right man for the job. To boot, he has both the experience and expertise - not to mention the right tools. Ian obtained a double major, a B.S. in Management and a B.A. in Global Business from the University of South Florida - St. Petersburg and with a special expertise in horticulture and lightning science, this 31-year-old American has worked extensively with the Costa Rican Volcano Observatory (OVSICORI) and a string of other volcanologists and application scientists.
More importantly, Ian had a passion. Right from the get-go, Costa Rica mesmerized him. The heavily-rainforest country which has one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems has caught Ian’s attention so much he’s writing not just 1 but 3 books about it.
And true enough, PerfectPrime’s IR0005 delivered. Commanding a 35,200 pixel-quality, this powerful thermal detector comes in small bites - with a 208 gram weight that is just light to bring about just about anywhere on Earth. Whether it´s in your home or at the summit of an active volcano, portable thermal cameras are changing how we see and perceive our environments we live in and the IR0005 is a perfect tool to begin capturing this information.
When asked about the changing colors of water inside the Main Crater, Ian affirms, “With the thermal camera, Ian found out the lake surface temperature ranged from 51°F to 53°F. Despite being located inside the crater of an active volcano the water temperature was fairly cool, which without this thermal camera we would have had to enter the crater putting researchers at risk. Everything is very safe. So in a sense, it made us all relaxed. It’s pretty interesting to have that material.”
Further, he stipulates, “Also, when people ask me “is that water down there hot?” or “is it cold?” when referring to the lake. All I have to do is pull out my thermal camera and I can give them a definitive answer. Best of all, I can show the camera image to them.”
Such pronouncements definitely put Costa Rica in great light. But it just shows why this small nation is the most visited nation in Central America, attracting 2.9 million foreign visitors in 2016 alone (up by 10% from the year before). And raking in up to $3.4 billion in 2015 or 5.8% of its total GDP.
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