Saturday, March 24, 2012

[ Volcano ] Smithsonian/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report 14-20 March 2012

Smithsonian/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report 14-20 March 2012

Smithsonian/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report

14-20 March 2012

Sally Kuhn Sennert - Weekly Report Editor


New Activity/Unrest: | Iliamna, Southwestern Alaska | Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia

Ongoing Activity: | Cleveland, Chuginadak Island | Etna, Sicily (Italy) | Karymsky, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) | Kilauea, Hawaii (USA) | Kizimen, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) | Popocatépetl, México | Puyehue-Cordón Caulle, Central Chile | Sakura-jima, Kyushu | Shiveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Soufrière Hills, Montserrat | Tungurahua, Ecuador | Villarrica, Central Chile

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program. Updated by 2300 UTC every Wednesday, notices of volcanic activity posted on these pages are preliminary and subject to change as events are studied in more detail. This is not a comprehensive list of all of Earth's volcanoes erupting during the week, but rather a summary of activity at volcanoes that meet criteria discussed in detail in the "Criteria and Disclaimers" section. Carefully reviewed, detailed reports on various volcanoes are published monthly in the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network.

Note: Many news agencies do not archive the articles they post on the Internet, and therefore the links to some sources may not be active. To obtain information about the cited articles that are no longer available on the Internet contact the source.

New Activity/Unrest

ILIAMNA Southwestern Alaska 60.032°N, 153.090°W; summit elev. 3053 m

AVO reported that during 9-20 March seismicity at Iliamna was above background levels. Satellite images acquired during 9-16 March showed a plume drifting 56 km downwind that was likely water vapor. The report noted that long-lived fumaroles at the summit of Iliamna frequently produced visible plumes, but the current plume appeared to be more robust than usual. Scientists aboard an overflight on 17 March observed vigorous and plentiful fumaroles at the summit, consistent with the elevated gas emissions. Gas measurements indicated that the volcano was emitting elevated levels of sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. The Alert Level remained at Advisory and the Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow.

Geologic Summary. Iliamna is a prominent, 3053-m-high glacier-covered stratovolcano in Lake Clark National Park on the western side of Cook Inlet, about 225 km SW of Anchorage. Its flat-topped summit is flanked on the south, along a 5-km-long ridge, by the prominent North and South Twin Peaks, satellitic lava dome complexes. The Johnson Glacier dome complex lies on the NE flank. Steep headwalls on the southern and eastern flanks expose an inaccessible cross-section of the volcano. Major glaciers radiate from the summit, and valleys below the summit contain debris-avalanche and lahar deposits. Only a few major Holocene explosive eruptions have occurred from the deeply dissected volcano, which lacks a distinct crater. Most of the reports of historical eruptions may represent plumes from vigorous fumaroles east and SE of the summit, which are often mistaken for eruption columns (Miller et al., 1998). Eruptions producing pyroclastic flows have been dated at as recent as about 300 and 140 years ago (into the historical period), and elevated seismicity accompanying dike emplacement beneath the volcano was recorded in 1996.

Source: Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO)

NEVADO DEL RUIZ Colombia 4.895°N, 75.322°W; summit elev. 5321 m

According to INGEOMINAS, the Observatorio Vulcanológico and Sismológico de Manizales reported that during 12-18 March seismicity at Nevado del Ruiz decreased but gas emissions remained at significant levels. Gas plumes rose 2 km above the crater and sulfur dioxide odors were reported by local people. The Alert Level remained at III (Yellow; "changes in the behavior of volcanic activity").

Geologic Summary. Nevado del Ruiz is a broad, glacier-covered volcano in central Colombia that covers >200 sq km. Three major edifices, composed of andesitic and dacitic lavas and andesitic pyroclastics, have been constructed since the beginning of the Pleistocene. The modern cone consists of a broad cluster of lava domes built within the summit caldera of an older Ruiz volcano. The 1-km-wide, 240-m-deep Arenas crater occupies the summit. Steep headwalls of massive landslides cut the flanks of Nevado del Ruiz. Melting of its summit icecap during historical eruptions, which date back to the 16th century, has resulted in devastating lahars, including one in 1985 that was South America's deadliest eruption.

Source: Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería (INGEOMINAS)

Ongoing Activity

CLEVELAND Chuginadak Island 52.825°N, 169.944°W; summit elev. 1730 m

AVO reported that a small explosion from Cleveland was detected at 1455 on 13 March by distant seismic stations and infrasound arrays. Weather conditions prevented the detection of a possible eruption cloud in satellite images or by visual observation of the summit. No other activity was detected during 14-19 March. The Volcano Alert Level remained at Watch and the Aviation Color Code remained at Orange. No current seismic information was available because Cleveland does not have a real-time seismic network.

Geologic Summary. Symmetrical Mount Cleveland stratovolcano is situated at the western end of the uninhabited dumbbell-shaped Chuginadak Island in the east-central Aleutians. The 1,730-m-high stratovolcano is the highest of the Islands of Four Mountains group and is one of the most active in the Aleutians. Numerous large lava flows descend its flanks. It is possible that some 18th to 19th century eruptions attributed to Carlisle (a volcano located across the Carlisle Pass Strait to the NW) should be ascribed to Cleveland. In 1944 Cleveland produced the only known fatality from an Aleutian eruption. Recent eruptions from Mt. Cleveland have been characterized by short-lived explosive ash emissions, at times accompanied by lava fountaining and lava flows down the flanks.

Source: Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO)

ETNA Sicily (Italy) 37.734°N, 15.004°E; summit elev. 3330 m

Sezione di Catania - Osservatorio Etneo reported that the twenty-second paroxysmal eruptive episode since January 2011 took place at New SE Crater (New SEC) of Etna during the morning of 18 March following two weeks of quiescence. Roaring from high-pressure degassing was heard on 16 March. The next day there was incandescence and multiple vapor clouds with minor ash content that rose from New SE Crater. In the early hours of 18 March the incandescence intensified due to Strombolian activity on the crater floor, and volcanic tremor amplitude rapidly increased. Strombolian activity continued to intensify, and just before 0700 lava flowed through the deep breach in the SE crater rim. At about 0825 the ash content in the gas plume rising from the crater became more significant and pulsating lava fountains from a vent on the crater floor rose about 100 m high. Shortly before 0900 two vents were active within the crater and a jet of lava was emitted from another vent within the breach in the SE crater rim.

During 0900-0915 lava fountaining was essentially continuous from all three vents. An intense shower of coarse-grained pyroclastic material falling onto the N and NE flanks of the cone generated avalanches and clouds of rock and dust, which traveled to the base of the cone. A plume rose 4-5 km above Etna and drifted E. Ash and lapilli fell mainly in the area between the villages of Zafferana Etnea and Sant'Alfio, extending toward the Ionian Sea between Riposto and Pozzillo.

The main lava flow descended the steep W slope of the Valle del Bove. Several lava lobes, however, took a more northerly path to areas covered with thick snow. The interaction of the lava and snow led to rapid melting of the snow, generating small lahars, and strong explosions that produced ground-hugging vapor-and-ash clouds resembling pyroclastic flows, which repeatedly descended on the floor of the Valle del Bove. The vapor-and-ash clouds rose 1-1.5 km above the floor of the Valle del Bove. This phenomenon continued intermittently for some time after the cessation of the lava fountaining and ash emission, until about 1130.

Lava fountaining and strong ash emission continued without significant variations until about 1040; afterwards the activity rapidly diminished in intensity, and the last ash clouds were observed around 1110. Similar to the previous episodes, the lava that flowed through the breach in the SE crater rim advanced for several hours after the cessation of the paroxysmal activity into the upper part of the Valle del Bove. The lava reached a distance of about 4 km from the source, stagnating S of Monte Centenari. A small lava flow, emitted from a fracture on the N flank of the cone, followed the same path as a flow emitted from the same fracture during the 4 March paroxysm, and traveled a few hundred meters.

Geologic Summary. Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily's second largest city, has one of the world's longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 BC. Historical lava flows cover much of the surface of this massive basaltic stratovolcano, the highest and most voluminous in Italy. Two styles of eruptive activity typically occur at Etna. Persistent explosive eruptions, sometimes with minor lava emissions, take place from one or more of the three prominent summit craters, the Central Crater, NE Crater, and SE Crater. Flank eruptions, typically with higher effusion rates, occur less frequently and originate from fissures that open progressively downward from near the summit. A period of more intense intermittent explosive eruptions from Etna's summit craters began in 1995. The active volcano is monitored by the Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Volcanologia (INGV) in Catania.

Source: Sezione di Catania - Osservatorio Etneo

KARYMSKY Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) 54.05°N, 159.45°E; summit elev. 1536 m

KVERT reported that during 9-16 March seismic activity from Karymsky continued to be detected, and indicated that possible ash plumes rose to an altitude of 3.1 km (10,100 ft) a.s.l. on 14 March. Satellite imagery showed a thermal anomaly on the volcano during 10-13 March. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Geologic Summary. Karymsky, the most active volcano of Kamchatka's eastern volcanic zone, is a symmetrical stratovolcano constructed within a 5-km-wide caldera that formed about 7,600-7,700 radiocarbon years ago. Construction of the Karymsky stratovolcano began about 2,000 years later. The latest eruptive period began about 500 years ago, following a 2,300-year quiescence. Much of the cone is mantled by lava flows less than 200 years old. Historical eruptions have been Vulcanian or Vulcanian-Strombolian with moderate explosive activity and occasional lava flows from the summit crater. Most seismicity preceding Karymsky eruptions has originated beneath Akademia Nauk caldera, which is located immediately S of Karymsky volcano and erupted simultaneously with Karymsky in 1996.

Source: Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT)

KILAUEA Hawaii (USA) 19.421°N, 155.287°W; summit elev. 1222 m

During 14-20 March, HVO reported that the lava lake periodically rose and fell in the deep pit within Kilauea's Halema'uma'u Crater. Almost daily measurements indicated that the gas plume from the vent continued to deposit variable amounts of ash and fresh spatter nearby. Incandescence was visible from both a small pit on the NE edge and a small spatter cone on the SE edge of the Pu'u 'O'o crater floor, and on the upper part of the lava-tube system on the E flank. Lava flows continued to advance down the pali and across the coastal plain, and were about 2 km from the coast.

Geologic Summary. Kilauea, one of five coalescing volcanoes that comprise the island of Hawaii, is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Eruptions at Kilauea originate primarily from the summit caldera or along one of the lengthy E and SW rift zones that extend from the caldera to the sea. About 90% of the surface of Kilauea is formed of lava flows less than about 1,100 years old; 70% of the volcano's surface is younger than 600 years. A long-term eruption from the East rift zone that began in 1983 has produced lava flows covering more than 100 sq km, destroying nearly 200 houses and adding new coastline to the island.

Source: US Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO)

KIZIMEN Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) 55.130°N, 160.32°E; summit elev. 2376 m

KVERT reported moderate seismic activity at Kizimen during 9-16 March and a large thermal anomaly that was detected in satellite images. Video and satellite observations indicated both continued effusion of a large lava flow on the E flank and hot avalanches. Strong gas-and-steam activity was observed with the video camera. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Geologic Summary. Kizimen is an isolated, conical stratovolcano that is morphologically similar to Mount St. Helens prior to its 1980 eruption. The summit of Kizimen consists of overlapping lava domes, and blocky lava flows descend the flanks of the volcano, which is the westernmost of a volcanic chain north of Kronotsky volcano. The 2,376-m-high Kizimen was formed during four eruptive cycles beginning about 12,000 years ago and lasting 2,000-3,500 years. The largest eruptions took place about 10,000 and 8300-8400 years ago, and three periods of longterm lava-dome growth have occurred. The latest eruptive cycle began about 3,000 years ago with a large explosion and was followed by lava-dome growth lasting intermittently about 1,000 years. An explosive eruption about 1,100 years ago produced a lateral blast and created a 1.0 x 0.7 km wide crater breached to the NE, inside which a small lava dome (the fourth at Kizimen) has grown. A single explosive eruption, during 1927-28, has been recorded in historical time.

Source: Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT)

POPOCATEPETL México 19.023°N, 98.622°W; summit elev. 5426 m

CENAPRED reported that during 14-20 March steam-and-gas emissions rose from Popocatépetl and incandescence from the crater was observed at night. Emissions contained small amounts of ash on 14 March. On 18 March emissions again contained a small amount of ash and were accompanied by increased incandescence from the crater.

Geologic Summary. Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, towers to 5,426 m 70 km SE of Mexico City and is North America's second-highest volcano. Frequent historical eruptions have been recorded since the beginning of the Spanish colonial era. A small eruption on 21 December 1994 ended five decades of quiescence. Since 1996 small lava domes have incrementally been constructed within the summit crater and destroyed by explosive eruptions. Intermittent small-to-moderate gas-and-ash eruptions have continued, occasionally producing ashfall in neighboring towns and villages.

Source: Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED)

PUYEHUE-CORDON CAULLE Central Chile 40.590°S, 72.117°W; summit elev. 2236 m

Based on seismicity detected during 13-20 March, OVDAS-SERNAGEOMIN reported that the eruption from the Cordón Caulle rift zone, part of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex, continued at a low level. Plumes observed during 13-16 March in web camera and satellite images rose 0.4-1.2 km above the crater, and drifted 30 km E on 14 March, 20 km N on 15 March, and 17 km NNE on 19 March. Incandescence from the crater was observed during 13-14 and 16-20 March. The Alert Level remained at Red.

Geologic Summary. The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex (PCCVC) is a large NW-SE-trending late-Pleistocene to Holocene basaltic-to-rhyolitic transverse volcanic chain SE of Lago Ranco. The 1799-m-high Pleistocene Cordillera Nevada caldera lies at the NW end, separated from Puyehue stratovolcano at the SE end by the Cordón Caulle fissure complex. The Pleistocene Mencheca volcano with Holocene flank cones lies NE of Puyehue. The basaltic-to-rhyolitic Puyehue volcano is the most geochemically diverse of the PCCVC. The flat-topped, 2236-m-high Puyehue volcano was constructed above a 5-km-wide caldera and is capped by a 2.4-km-wide summit caldera of Holocene age. Lava flows and domes of mostly rhyolitic composition are found on the eastern flank of Puyehue. Historical eruptions originally attributed to Puyehue, including major eruptions in 1921-22 and 1960, are now known to be from the Cordón Caulle rift zone. The Cordón Caulle geothermal area, occupying a 6 x 13 km wide volcano-tectonic depression, is the largest active geothermal area of the southern Andes volcanic zone.

Source: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN)

SAKURA-JIMA Kyushu 31.585°N, 130.657°E; summit elev. 1117 m

JMA reported that on 12 March an explosion from Sakura-jima's Showa crater ejected tephra that landed as far as 2 km from the crater. Based on information from JMA, the Tokyo VAAC reported that during 14-21 March explosions often produced plumes that rose to altitudes of 1.5-2.7 km (5,000-9,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted N, NW, and SE. Pilots observed ash plumes during 18-20 March that rose to altitudes of 1.2-4 km (4,000-13,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SE and E.

Geologic Summary. Sakura-jima, one of Japan's most active volcanoes, is a post-caldera cone of the Aira caldera at the northern half of Kagoshima Bay. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow was associated with the formation of the 17 x 23-km-wide Aira caldera about 22,000 years ago. The construction of Sakura-jima began about 13,000 years ago and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kita-dake summit cone ended about 4,850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minami-dake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.

Sources: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA),

Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)

SHIVELUCH Central Kamchatka (Russia) 56.653°N, 161.360°E; summit elev. 3283 m

KVERT reported that activity at Shiveluch increased on 10 March and during 10-14 March daily explosions produced ash plumes that rose to altitudes of 3-5 km (10,000-16,400 ft) a.s.l. During 10-16 March ground-based observers and satellite imagery indicated that a viscous lava flow continued to effuse in the crater formed during a 2010 eruption. Satellite imagery showed a thermal anomaly on the volcano and ash plumes that drifted 64 km NE and SE during 10-11 and 13 March. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Based on information from Yelizovo Airport (UHPP) and satellite images, the Tokyo VAAC reported that an ash plume rose to an altitude of 5.2 km (17,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SE.

Geologic Summary. The high, isolated massif of Shiveluch volcano (also spelled Sheveluch) rises above the lowlands NNE of the Kliuchevskaya volcano group and forms one of Kamchatka's largest and most active volcanoes. The currently active Molodoy Shiveluch lava-dome complex was constructed during the Holocene within a large breached caldera formed by collapse of the massive late-Pleistocene Strary Shiveluch volcano. At least 60 large eruptions of Shiveluch have occurred during the Holocene, making it the most vigorous andesitic volcano of the Kuril-Kamchatka arc. Frequent collapses of lava-dome complexes, most recently in 1964, have produced large debris avalanches whose deposits cover much of the floor of the breached caldera. Intermittent explosive eruptions began in the 1990s from a new lava dome that began growing in 1980. The largest historical eruptions from Shiveluch occurred in 1854 and 1964.

Sources: Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT),

Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)

SOUFRIERE HILLS Montserrat 16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m

MVO reported that on 9 March at 1720 a small pyroclastic flow from the Soufrière Hills lava dome traveled about 1.75 km W down Spring Ghaut and produced a small ash cloud that rose 1.2 km and drifted W. During 9-16 March activity was at a low level. The Hazard Level remained at 2.

Geologic Summary. The complex dominantly andesitic Soufrière Hills volcano occupies the southern half of the island of Montserrat. The summit area consists primarily of a series of lava domes emplaced along an ESE-trending zone. English's Crater, a 1-km-wide crater breached widely to the E, was formed during an eruption about 4,000 years ago in which the summit collapsed, producing a large submarine debris avalanche. Block-and-ash flow and surge deposits associated with dome growth predominate in flank deposits at Soufrière Hills. Non-eruptive seismic swarms occurred at 30-year intervals in the 20th century, but with the exception of a 17th-century eruption that produced the Castle Peak lava dome, no historical eruptions were recorded on Montserrat until 1995. Long-term small-to-moderate ash eruptions beginning in that year were later accompanied by lava-dome growth and pyroclastic flows that forced evacuation of the southern half of the island and ultimately destroyed the capital city of Plymouth, causing major social and economic disruption.

Source: Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO)

TUNGURAHUA Ecuador 1.467°S, 78.442°W; summit elev. 5023 m

IG reported that, although visual observations of Tungurahua during 14-20 March were mostly limited due to cloud cover, steam plumes were noted on 18 March which drifted W. On 19 March explosions were detected by the seismic network. During brief periods where the crater was visible, observers noted incandescence emanating from the crater and a few blocks rolling 200 m down the flank. Slight ashfall was reported in Choglontus (8 km SW), Manzano (8 km SW), and Penipe (15 km SW) the next morning.

Geologic Summary. The steep-sided Tungurahua stratovolcano towers more than 3 km above its northern base. It sits ~140 km S of Quito, Ecuador's capital city, and is one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes. Historical eruptions have all originated from the summit crater. They have been accompanied by strong explosions and sometimes by pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached populated areas at the volcano's base. The last major eruption took place from 1916 to 1918, although minor activity continued until 1925. The latest eruption began in October 1999 and prompted temporary evacuation of the town of Baños on the N side of the volcano.

Source: Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG)

VILLARRICA Central Chile 39.42°S, 71.93°W; summit elev. 2847 m

According to Projecto Observación Visual Volcán Villarrica (POVI), spattering from Villarrica's lava lake was visible during 7-9 March. Four small ash emissions were observed during 13-14 March.

Geologic Summary. Villarrica, one of Chile's most active volcanoes, rises above the lake and town of the same name. It is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes that trend perpendicular to the Andean chain. A 6-km wide caldera formed during the late Pleistocene, more than 0.9 million years ago. A 2-km-wide postglacial caldera is located at the base of the presently active, dominantly basaltic-to-andesitic cone at the NW margin of the Pleistocene caldera. About 25 scoria cones dot Villarrica's flanks. Plinian eruptions and pyroclastic flows have been produced during the Holocene from this dominantly basaltic volcano, but historical eruptions have consisted largely of mild-to-moderate explosive activity with occasional lava effusion. Lahars from the glacier-covered volcano have damaged towns on its flanks.

Source: Projecto Observación Visual Volcán Villarrica (POVI)


Sally Kuhn Sennert

SI/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report Editor

Global Volcanism Program

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History

Department of Mineral Sciences, MRC-119

Washington, D.C., 20560

Phone: 202.633.1805
Fax: 202.357.2476


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