Fuego volcano erupts thick plume of ash 7.3 km into the air, Guatemala


Fuego volcano, Guatemala, erupted on January 3, 2016 sending a plume of thick ash 7 315 m (24 000 feet) into the air, INSIVUMEH reported. On December 31, 2015 the volcano activity was increasing, possibly building up toward a new paroxysm.

Volcano's eruption has caused new lava flows and loud explosions, however, the nearby population has not been affected so far, and no evacuations have been ordered, according to media reports. Also, no flights at the main international airport have been canceled due to eruption event.

Video credit: Pedro Ruiz

Volcano Discovery reported the activity at Fuego might be picking up toward a new paroxysm on December 31, 2015. A team of experts observed mild to strong strombolian explosions occurring at intervals between 1 and 10 minutes with the strongest explosion sending incandescent material to heights of about 500 m (1 640 feet). One especially intense volcano explosion was accompanied with a very strong shock wave on the occasion.

Fuego volcano strombolian eruption, December 31, 2015. Image credit: Volcano Discovery

A pyroclastic flow was observed around 10:15 (local time) reaching the length of 7 km (4.3 miles) which seemed to mark the start of the 14th volcano paroxysm observed in 2015. The brownish ash plume spread around the southern slopes and caused fine ash fall in the area, about 2 hours long, blanketing the local vegetation.

During January 1, Fuego activity retained similar levels with strombolian explosions between small and strong intensity ejecting abundant incandescent bombs in all directions from the summit vents. The upper SE volcano flank was reported to produce continuous glowing rockfalls traveling about 1 km (0.6 miles) towards the Las Lajas ravine. In overall, the activity seemed to be slowly decreasing.

Ash plume from a starting pyroclastic flow on the southern slope (view from SW), December 31, 2015. Image credit: Volcano Discovery

Frequent, intense explosions and ash plumes accompanied with loud shock waves were observed on December 14, 2015, marking the 13th paroxysmal episode of the 2015 Fuego volcano activity.

On December 16, 2015, the activity at Fuego volcano decreased, although lava flows remained active in the Las Lajas (SE), Trinidad (S) and Santa Teresa (SW) drainages, INSIVUMEH reported. According to Global Volcanism Program (GVP), ash plumes from weak explosions drifted 15 km (9.3 miles) SW, S and SE.

Between December 15 and 17, 4-5 explosions per hour were reported, producing ash plumes 650-750 m (2 132-2 461 feet) high and drifting 8-12 km (4.9-7.5 miles) W and SW.

In the period between December 20 and 22, volcano produced ash plumes rising between 550 and 950 m (1 804 and 3 116 feet) high and drifting 8-10 km (4.9-6.2 miles) W. During this activity period incandescent material was ejected up to 150 m (492 feet) high which landed on the volcano's flanks and then formed small avalanches in the Santa Teresa (SW), Taniluyá (SW), Trinidad and Ceniza drainages.

Geological summary

Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between 3 763 m (12 345.8 feet high Fuego and its twin volcano to the north, Acatenango. Construction of Meseta dates back to about 230 000 years and continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene. The collapse of Meseta may have produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km (31 miles) onto the Pacific coastal plain.

Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. In contrast to the mostly andesitic Acatenango, eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

Featured image: Fuego volcano eruption, January 3, 2016. Image credit: Pedro Ruiz

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