Third eruption of the year starts at Piton de la Fournaise volcano, Reunion


A new eruption has started at Piton de la Fournaise volcano, Reunion at around 00:40 UTC (04:40 LT) on December 7, 2020. The first lava poured out around 00:50 to 01:00 UTC.

Three cracks opened on the WSW  flank of the volcano, at an altitude of between 2 300 and 2 190 m (7 545 and 7 185 feet) and a total distance of about 700 m (2 300 feet). 

The three cracks were active during the overflight between 03:00 and 03:30 UTC (07:00 – 07:30 LT), with lava fountains about 15 m (50 feet) high.

Multiple lava flows started descending very slowly down the flanks of the volcano, with the largest descending to an altitude of approximately 2 120 m (6 955 feet).

The location of three fissures and lava front at 03:20 UTC on December 7, 2020. Credit: OVPF, Google

The eruption started after a new seismic crisis accompanied by rapid deformation first detected at 22:28 UTC on December 6.

This is the third eruption of the volcano in 2020. The previous took place in February and April.

Image credit: OVPF/IPGP

Image credit: OVPF/IPGP

Image credit: OVPF/IPGP

Piton de la Fournaise eruption on December 7, 2020. Copyright: OVPF/IPGP

Geological summary

The massive Piton de la Fournaise basaltic shield volcano on the French island of Réunion in the western Indian Ocean is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Much of its more than 530 000-year history overlapped with eruptions of the deeply dissected Piton des Neiges shield volcano to the NW.

Three calderas formed at about 250 000, 65 000, and less than 5 000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping of the volcano. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the floor of the calderas and their outer flanks.

Most historical eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high (1 312 feet) lava shield that has grown within the youngest caldera, which is 8 km (26 247 feet) wide and breached to below sea level on the eastern side. More than 150 eruptions, most of which have produced fluid basaltic lava flows, have occurred since the 17th century.

Only six eruptions, in 1708, 1774, 1776, 1800, 1977, and 1986, have originated from fissures on the outer flanks of the caldera. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory, one of several operated by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris (IPGP), monitors this very active volcano. (GVP)

Featured image: Piton de la Fournaise eruption on December 7, 2020. Copyright: OVPF/IPGP


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