Third paroxysm of the year in progress at Fuego volcano, Guatemala


A third paroxysm of the year is in progress at the Fuego volcano in Guatemala on February 10, 2016. Pulsating lava fountains and well-alimented lava flows followed the strombolian and effusive activity unfolding over the last couple of days.

The lava flows are mostly observed at the southeastern volcano flank where they travel into the Las Lajas canyon reaching about 2 km (6 561.7 feet) in length. Another flow is most likely active on the volcano's southern slope, moving toward the Trinidad drainage, Volcano Discovery reports.

Fuego volcano, February 10, 2016, 14:27 UTC. Image credit: INSIVUMEH/US AID/Michigan Tech 

Lava fountains observed at Fuego on February 10, 2016, 01:17 UTC. Image credit: INSIVUMEH/US AID/Michigan Tech

The observed activity will probably result in pyroclastic flows as parts of the lava flows on the steep slope tend to collapse.

In the period between January 14 and 15, 1-2 explosions were detected at the Fuego volcano every four hours, INSIVUMEH reported. Ash plumes were observed to rise 450-650 m (1 476.4 and 2 132.5 feet) above the crater and drift N and NE. Between January 16 and 17, 4-5 explosions per hour were reported with ash plumes rising 750 m (2 460.6 feet) and drifting 12 km (39 370 feet) NE.

Block avalanches descended the flanks in multiple directions, according to GVP. 26 explosions were recorded between January 18 and 19, some of which generated shock waves and jet engine sounds. Ash plumes rose 550-850 m (1 804.5-2 788.7 feet) and drifted 10-12 km (32 808-39 370 feet) S, SW and W. Three lava flows in the Trinidad, Las Lajas, and Santa Teresa drainages were 2 km (6 561.7 feet) long, at most.

Fuego volcano, MODIS thermal signal, February 10, 2016. Image credit: MIROVA

INSIVUMEH reported that white fumarolic plumes rose as high as 350 m (1 148.3 feet) above Fuego during January 7 to 12. Three weak explosions detected between January 9 and 10 generated low ash plumes that drifted SE.

A significant increase in activity at Fuego volcano was reported on December 30, 2015. A series of pyroclastic flows descended the Las Lajas and El Jute drainages on the SE flank, and a dense ash plume rose 5 km (16 404 feet) and drifted 20 km (65 616.8 feet) W. Ashfall was reported in multiple communities on the flanks, including Panimache I and II, 8 km (26 246.7 feet) SW, Morelia, 9 km (29 527.6 feet) SW, and Santa Sofía, 12 km (39 370 feet) SW.

Image credit: INSIVUMEH

In another special report issued on 4 January, INSIVUMEH noted that dense ash plumes rose as high as 7 km (22 966 feet) and drifted over 40 km (131 234 feet) W, SW, S, and SE. Some explosions generated shock waves that vibrated nearby houses. Ash fell in Panimache I and II, Morelia, Santa Sofía, El Porvenir, 8 km (24 246.7 feet) ENE, La Rochelle, and Osuna.

Lava fountains rose 400-500 m (1 312.3-1 640.4 feet) above the crater and fed 2.5-km-long (8 202 feet) lava flows in the Santa Teresa (SW), Trinidad (S), and Las Lajas (SE) drainages. Collapses of parts of the cone generated pyroclastic flows that descended the Las Lajas, El Jute, and Trinidad drainages. By the next day, activity had decreased; explosions produced ash plumes that rose 550 m (1 804.5 feet) and drifted 12 km (39 370 feet) S, SE, and SW. The lava flows were no longer active.

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. (GVP)

Featured image: Fuego volcano, February 10, 2016, 14:27 UTC. Image credit: INSIVUMEH/US AID/Michigan Tech

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