When Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés was asked to describe Mexico in the early 1500s, he is said to have crumpled up a piece of paper and set it on a table, demonstrating Mexico’s mountainous landscapes, sprinkled with volcanoes and plagued by frequent earthquakes. Most of the country’s volcanoes are situated within the 950-kilometer Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt ( Eje Neovolcánico) that runs east to west across the country and includes Mexico’s highest peak, Pico de Orizaba as well as Popocatépetl, Iztacc íhuatl, and the Nevado de Toluca volcano. For those whose interests are piqued by Mexico’s volcanic peaks and seismic underbelly, the Web offers some exceptional resources that showcase the country’s dynamic geology.
XP Mexico bills itself as the “Mexican Mountaineering and Exploration Portal,” and it delivers! The site has little serious competition. It provides a terrific introduction to Mexico’s mountains, with news, access information, topography, and information on backpacking, mountain biking, and rock-climbing. Some, but not all, of the information is translated into English.
The site features an index of Mexican mountains ( www.xpmexico.com/bimo01.html) that links to the main inactive volcanoes preferred by mountaineers. The Iztaccíhuatl section ( www.xpmexico.com/iztaccihuatl/index.html) provides more information than most books about the third-highest mountain in Mexico and sixth-highest in North America. XP Mexico is the brainchild of Rodulfo Araujo, who has used valuable feedback from his climbing partners in Mexico’s mountaineering clubs Grupo de los Cien and Club de Exploraciones de México to add to the site. Visitors will also find a discussion forum aptly titled “Xtremers”: www.xpmexico.com/xtreme.html.
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Servicio Sismológico Nacional
Run by the Geophysical Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), this is a highly recommended site for those interested in Mexico’s seismic activity. The information is only available in Spanish, but non-Spanish speakers will find the site extremely useful for its up-to-date information and maps. This is the best place on the Web to find the latest information on recent seismic activity in Mexico. Odds are you didn’t feel the latest tremor.
Volcano World: Mexico
This page is a good introduction to the topic of Mexican volcanoes and part of the larger, award-winning Volcano World website. It profiles 22 of the major volcanoes in Mexico and provides short descriptions and some photos. The Mexico map clearly shows the Trans-Mexican Volcanic belt. Additionally, volcanoes are grouped by type, from the stratovolcanoes to rhyolite caldera complexes and monogenetic fields. Updates to the site are listed in the “What’s New” section: volcano.und.nodak.edu/vwdocs/whats_new.html. On the downside, this site does not provide many links to related websites.
Mexico Volcanoes and Volcanics
Sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Mexico page profiles only a few of Mexico’s volcanoes. The highlight of the site is a map of Mexico’s most important volcanoes: vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Mexico/Maps/map_mexico_volcanoes.html. There are plenty of photos, links to volcano cams, and a useful links page. Unfortunately, the site does not provide any details about Pico de Orizaba or many of the now inactive volcanoes, which would make for an interesting read.
National Disaster Prevention Center (CENAPRED)
– Monitors the Popocatépetl volcano; this site was featured in our March column.