Strong explosive activity continues at Santa Maria volcano, Guatemala


Strong explosive activity continues at Guatemala's Santa Maria volcano. New explosions at Caliente cone, part of Santa María's Santiaguito lava-dome complex, generated pyroclastic flows on May 2 that descended east and west of the volcanic complex.

This activity generated ash columns that rose 10 058 m (33 000 feet) and moved west and southwest to a distance of at least 40 km (25 miles), INSIVUMEH said. Fine ash movement can reach even greater distances.

Previous eruptions deposited ash in San Felipe Retalhuleu, El Nuevo Palmar, San Marcos, Loma Linda, Palajunoj, Las Marías, Calguache as well as in the El Faro, Patzulin, Monte Claro, El Patrocinio, Monte Bello and other farms in this area.

INSIVUMEH warned Santiaguito maintains high activity which will continue generating this type of similar or larger events.

Extensive pyroclastic flows are also possible.

The agency reminds that rainy season is underway and moderate to strong lahars are possible, mainly in the rivers of San Isidro, Cabello de Ángel, Tambor, Nimá I and tributaries of river Samalá. 

Population affected by ashfall, drinking water contamination and respiratory and eye problems should take precautions.

In a special report published 15:40 UTC on April 23, INSIVUMEH reported that Santa Maria is experiencing the highest level of explosive activity observed in the last two years. Violent eruptions are accompanied by ash columns reaching 4.5 – 5 km (14 760 – 16 404 feet) above sea level.

The eruptions are creating pyroclastic flows reaching 3 km (1.9 miles) to the east and west and are accompanied by rumblings and shock waves. The report noted that during the previous four days explosions had ejected ballistics 2 – 3 m (6.5 – 9.8 feet) in diameter as far as 3 km.

Geological summary

Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa María volcano is one of the most prominent of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rises dramatically above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. The 3772-m-high stratovolcano has a sharp-topped, conical profile that is cut on the SW flank by a large, 1.5-km-wide crater. The oval-shaped crater extends from just below the summit to the lower flank and was formed during a catastrophic eruption in 1902.

The renowned plinian eruption of 1902 that devastated much of SW Guatemala followed a long repose period after construction of the large basaltic-andesite stratovolcano. The massive dacitic Santiaguito lava-dome complex has been growing at the base of the 1902 crater since 1922. Compound dome growth at Santiaguito has occurred episodically from four westward-younging vents, the most recent of which is Caliente. Dome growth has been accompanied by almost continuous minor explosions, with periodic lava extrusion, larger explosions, pyroclastic flows, and lahars. (GVP)

Featured image credit: CONRED

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  1. I live at the base of the Santa Maria Volcano in Quetzaltenango. I bring 1000s of tourist here each year, most to study Total Immersion Spanish and hike volcanos including Santa Maria. It is a hard hike but well worth to effort to see one of the most active volcanos in the world erupt. Contact me if you have questions or want to visit. tom (at) xelapages.com I would be happy to help you or just answer questions. Peace!

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