The Most Dangerous Volcano in North America

By on July 26, 2013
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When you live in Mexico, you get used to people in other countries thinking you are in a war-zone sort of apocalypse state. If it’s not narcos, it’s earthquakes, kidnappers, or chupacabras. These days, the thing for Americans to fear in Mexico is the volcano Popocatépetl, lovingly called Popo, which is chucking ash all over the place. Notice that many reports find it necessary to give Mexico City’s population alongside reports that it’s active. As if that number might drop significantly, very soon.

Now, for those who live here, it all seems silly. I didn’t even notice the ash—though some of these reports make you think it is piling up on the sidewalks. I have noticed the air quality is a little off for the middle of the rainy season (when afternoon showers clean the skies). But all in all, the rumbling of our hulking neighbor hasn’t affected me. Far more annoying is the whole since-you-live-in-Mexico-you’ll-probably-be-dead-tomorrow attitude from friends and family.

It’s really terrible and borderline racist. But that’s not to say I won’t use it to get a story. The last time Popo was spewing ash, I decided it was a great chance to write a story tentatively called “Popo: The Most Dangerous Volcano in North America.” The story came out of a drunken conversation with a geologist at a Bob Dylan concert near the heart of the city. A few beers in, he gave me the impression Popo was about to level the city.

So I called up Robin Lloyd at Scientific American and told her I had a story for her.

“Great,” she said. “I’ll take it, presuming it works out as you say it will.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Well, I mean, is Popocatépetl the most dangerous volcano in North America?”

“What kind of question is that?” I thought. Of course it is. It’s in Mexico, and everything in Mexico is dangerous. Popo will blow, and millions of people will die. Cut. Print.

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