The U.S. Government provided the Geophysical Institute volcanic surveillance equipment to monitor the Cotopaxi Volcano

Michael J. Fitzpatrick, U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador, and Dr. Florinella Muñoz, Rector of the National Polytechnic School, at the donation event of volcanic surveillance equipment to monitor the Cotopaxi Volcano.

The equipment, valued at approximately $190,000, will be installed on the near and outer sides of the Cotopaxi Volcano. 

Quito, May 2, 2023.  The U.S. Government invested approximately $190,000 in volcanic monitoring equipment to monitor the Cotopaxi Volcano. In an official ceremony, Michael J. Fitzpatrick, Ambassador of the United States in Ecuador, donated the following equipment to the Geophysical Institute (IG), which is part of the Polytechnic School of Ecuador: 

  • Seismic sensors to detect earthquakes produced by the volcano, 
  • Inclinometers to measure changes in formation of the volcano, 
  • Gas monitoring instruments to detect and measure sulphur dioxide (SO2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in emissions, and 
  • Instruments to detect infrasound generated by soft and loud explosions emitted by the central vent of the Cotopaxi volcano. 

This contribution is part of a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) program, in partnership with the United States Geological Survey, that has provided technical support to Ecuadorian geologists and the IG for more than 30 years, including training in risk assessment, development of early warning systems, as well as installing and updating volcanic monitoring equipment. 

The equipment provided by the U.S. Government will be installed on the flanks of the Cotopaxi volcano, which, despite currently having a low chance of eruption, could quickly intensify and pose a serious threat to more than 200,000 people living in the surrounding valleys. 

For Ambassador Fitzpatrick, this investment is yet another example of U.S. support in the early detection and prevention of a possible natural disaster: “The Government of the United States has maintained a relationship for more than three decades with the Geophysical Institute of the National Polytechnic School, studying the behavior of volcanoes, exchanging and analyzing information, developing workshops, adopting new technologies, and conducting scientific studies and exchanges. We will work with Ecuador to be better prepared for the possibility of natural disasters and protect the lives of all.” 

According to the vulcanologist and head of the IG, Patricia Mothesel, thanks to the contributions of the United States, the Cotopaxi volcano is probably the best monitored volcano in Latin America. This latest contribution of surveillance equipment by the U.S. Government comes after a significant uptick in volcanic activity in Cotopaxi since October 2022, characterized by almost daily emissions of gas, steam and ash, sometimes emitting ash clouds up to 2,000 meters above its summit that have reached the southern tip of Quito. 

The U.S. Government remains committed to working with the community before, during, and after potential natural disasters.