Strong explosion, pyroclastic flows observed at Santa Maria’s Santiaguito, Guatemala

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A strong eruption occurred at Santa Maria's Santiaguito lava-dome complex in Guatemala at 12:29 UTC on August 14, 2016 (06:29 local time). The eruption generated a column of ash and smoke that rose up to 6 km (19 685 feet) above sea level, according to CONRED.

The activity was accompanied by pyroclastic flows on the eastern flank of the complex.

Volcanic ash was spotted in satellite imagery moving southwest at 18.5 km/h (11.5 mph) near 4.2 km (14 000 feet) and extending 30 km (18.6 miles), the Washington VAAC reported at 14:15 UTC.

Ash is moving in various directions, mainly to the south and southwest and is present in San Felipe, Mazatenango, and Retalhuleu, INSIVUMEH reported.

The agency reports the volcano can continue generating such events and warned residents to take the necessary precautions, cover their water sources and avoid staying near the volcano.

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: Santiaguito erupting on August 14, 2016. Credit: CONRED

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