Increased eruptive activity at Pacaya volcano, heavy ashfall reported, Guatemala

Increased eruptive activity at Pacaya volcano, heavy ashfall reported, Guatemala

Strong strombolian activity is taking place at Guatemalan Pacaya volcano on March 3, 2021, with incandescent material ejected up to 500 m (1 640 feet) above the Mackenney crater, strong ash emissions and two new lava flows.

The southwest flank now has three active lava flows, with lengths between 800 and 1 000 m (2 620 - 3 280 feet).

Strong emissions of ash were also observed today, rising up to 5.5 km (18 000 feet) above sea level and dispersing in W and SW directions up to 25 km (15 miles) away.

Heavy ashfall has been recorded in the villages of El Patrocinio, El Rodeo, Los Jazminez, El Cedro, San Francisco de Sales, Calderas y San Vicente Pacaya and several millimeters in Palin y Escuintla.

Geological summary

Eruptions from Pacaya, one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, are frequently visible from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. This complex basaltic volcano was constructed just outside the southern topographic rim of the 14 x 16 km (8.7 x 9.9 miles) Pleistocene Amatitlán caldera. A cluster of dacitic lava domes occupies the southern caldera floor.

The post-caldera Pacaya massif includes the ancestral Pacaya Viejo and Cerro Grande stratovolcanoes and the currently active Mackenney stratovolcano.

The collapse of Pacaya Viejo between 600 and 1 500 years ago produced a debris-avalanche deposit that extends 25 km (15 miles) onto the Pacific coastal plain and left an arcuate somma rim inside which the modern Pacaya volcano (Mackenney cone) grew.

A subsidiary crater, Cerro Chino, was constructed on the NW somma rim and was last active in the 19th century.

During the past several decades, activity has consisted of frequent strombolian eruptions with intermittent lava flow extrusion that has partially filled in the caldera moat and armored the flanks of Mackenney cone, punctuated by occasional larger explosive eruptions that partially destroy the summit of the growing young stratovolcano. (GVP)

Featured image credit: CONRED

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