Active volcanoes in the world: May 15 - May 21, 2013

This week, 5 volcanoes had new activity, whereas ongoing activity was also reported for 11 volcanoes. This report covers active volcanoes in the world recorded from May 15 – May 21, 2013 based on Smithsonian/USGS criteria.

New Activity/Unrest: | Cleveland, Chuginadak Island | Pavlof, Alaska Peninsula | Popocatépetl, México | Sangeang Api, Lesser Sunda Islands (Indonesia) | Tungurahua, Ecuador

Ongoing Activity: | Fuego, Guatemala | Galeras, Colombia | Kilauea, Hawaii (USA) | Kizimen, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) | Manam, Northeast of New Guinea (SW Pacific) | Pacaya, Guatemala | Rabaul, New Britain | Sakura-jima, Kyushu | Santa María, Guatemala | Shiveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Tolbachik, Central Kamchatka (Russia)

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.

New activity/unrest

CLEVELAND, Chuginadak Island

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

AVO reported that during 14-15 and 18-19 May elevated surface temperatures over Cleveland were observed in satellite images. Clouds obscured views during 16 and 20-21 May. Satellite image analysis revealed that a small lava flow had breached the SE rim of the summit crater and traveled as far as1.5 km down the flank. The Volcanic Alert Level remained at Watch and the Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

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.

PAVLOF, Alaska Peninsula

55.42°N, 161.887°W; summit elev. 2519 m

AVO reported that on 14 May a diffuse ash plume from Pavlof drifted about 160 km NE at an altitude of 4.6 km (15,000 ft) a.s.l. before dissipating. Pilot reports and photographs indicated that the lava flow extending down the NW flank was still active and generated debris-laden flow deposits, presumably from the interaction of hot lava with the snow and ice on the flank. Light ashfall was reported the evening of 14 May in a mining camp 80 km NE of the volcano. No other nearby communities had reported ash fall. During 14-15 May elevated seismicity persisted and steam-and-ash clouds observed with a web camera occasionally rose up to 6.1 km (20,000 ft) a.s.l. Residents in Cold Bay (37 km SW) observed incandescence from the summit during the night. On 15 May a pilot reported a dark ash cloud drifting ENE at an altitude of 6.1 km (20,000 ft) a.s.l.

On 16 May lava fountaining at the summit was observed and photographed, and a continuous ash, steam, and gas cloud extended downwind 50-100 km at an altitude of about 6.1 km (20,000 ft) a.s.l. Satellite images showed persistent elevated surface temperatures at the summit and on the NW flank, commensurate with the summit lava fountaining and resulting lava flow.

During 18-19 May a narrow plume of steam, ash, and gas, occasionally rising up to 6.7 km (22,000 ft) a.s.l., and drifting southeast, was visible in satellite images. Pilot reports indicated that lava fountaining and ash emission continued. Overnight, trace amounts of ash fell on the community of Sand Point. During the afternoon on 19 May pilots reported that ash plumes rose to altitudes of 4.6-6.7 km (15,000-22,000 ft) a.s.l. Trace amounts of ash fell in Nelson Lagoon, 78 km NNE, during 19-20 May. The Volcanic Alert Level remained at Watch and the Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

A news article stated that on 20 May a regional airline canceled about a dozen flights to several remote communities, including Sand Point. Another regional airline canceled a few flights, but mostly re-routed flights. On 21 May AVO reported that a low-level plume of steam, gas, and ash occasionally rose to an altitude of 6.1 km (20,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NNE. Trace amounts of ash again fell in Nelson Lagoon.

Geologic summary: The most active volcano of the Aleutian arc, Pavlof is a 2519-m-high Holocene stratovolcano that was constructed along a line of vents extending NE from the Emmons Lake caldera. Pavlof and its twin volcano to the NE, 2142-m-high Pavlof Sister, form a dramatic pair of symmetrical, glacier-covered stratovolcanoes that tower above Pavlof and Volcano bays. A third cone, Little Pavolf, is a smaller volcano on the SW flank of Pavlof volcano, near the rim of Emmons Lake caldera. Unlike Pavlof Sister, Pavlof has been frequently active in historical time, typically producing strombolian to vulcanian explosive eruptions from the summit vents and occasional lava flows. The active vents lie near the summit on the north and east sides. The largest historical eruption of Pavlof took place in 1911, at the end of a 5-year-long eruptive episode; a fissure opened on the northern flank of the volcano, ejecting large blocks and issuing lava flows.

POPOCATEPETL, México

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

CENAPRED reported that during 15-21 May seismicity at Popocatépetl indicated continuing gas-and-steam emissions that contained variable amounts of ash; the plumes were sometimes visually confirmed although cloud cover often prevented observations. Incandescence from the crater was often observed at night.

At 0956 on 14 May an explosion generated an ash plume that rose 3 km above the crater and drifted NE, and ejected tephra onto the NE flank at a distance of 600 m. Volcanologists aboard an overflight observed a lava dome 350 m in diameter and 50 m thick, that had slightly deflated after the earlier explosion. An explosion at 0146 on 15 May again generated an ash plume that rose 3 km above the crater, and ejected incandescent tephra onto the flanks at a maximum distance of 1.5 km. At 1804 an explosion produced an ash plume that rose at least 3.5 km and drifted N.

On 16 May gas-and-ash plumes rose 2 km and drifted NE. Minor ashfall was reported in Paso de Cortés, 7 km N. Incandescent tephra was ejected onto the N and NE flanks at a maximum distance of 400 m. The ejections corresponded with several periods of high-frequency, low-amplitude tremor detected between 2020 and 2308, and a swarm that began at 0011 on 17 May. At 2214 an intense explosion ejected incandescent tephra 1.5 km from the crater, and generated an ash plume that rose over 3 km and drifted NE.

At 0028 on 17 May another strong explosion ejected incandescent tephra 1.5 km from the crater, and generated an ash plume that rose over 4 km and drifted NE. Later that day plumes of vapor and gas rose 1 km and drifted SW. During an overflight on 18 May volcanologists observed a crater 200 m wide and 40 m deep in the dome’s surface; the material was likely excavated by the explosions during 14 and 16-17 May. The rest of the dome was covered with rock fragments. Gas-and-ash plumes rose 500 m and drifted SW.

During 19-20 May gas-and-ash plumes drifted E and SW and incandescent tephra was deposited mainly on the NE flanks 400 m away, although most ejected fragments fell back inside the crater. On 21 May steam-and-gas plumes rose a few meters then drifted SSE.

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.

SANGEANG API, Lesser Sunda Islands (Indonesia)

8.20°S, 119.07°E; summit elev. 1949 m

CVGHM reported that during 1-19 May diffuse white plumes rose 10 m above Sangeang Api's crater. Both the lava dome and surrounding areas showed no changes since November 2012. Seismicity had increased on 26 April and remained high. The Alert Level was raised to 3 (on a scale of 1-4) on 19 May. Residents and tourists were advised not to approach the craters within a radius of 5 km.

Geologic summary: Sangeang Api volcano, one of the most active in the Lesser Sunda Islands, forms a small 13-km-wide island off the NE coast of Sumbawa Island. Two large trachybasaltic-to-tranchyandesitic volcanic cones, 1949-m-high Doro Api and 1795-m-high Doro Mantoi, were constructed in the center and on the eastern rim, respectively, of an older, largely obscured caldera. Flank vents occur on the south side of Doro Mantoi and near the northern coast. Intermittent historical eruptions have been recorded since 1512.

TUNGURAHUA, Ecuador

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

IG reported that during 15-20 May seismicity at Tungurahua remained at a moderate level and then decreased on 21 May. Visual observations were often limited due to cloud cover; steam plumes were observed rising from the crater on 17 and 19 May. A slight amount of ash fell in Choglontus (SW) on 15 May, and small lahars traveled down the Bilbao (W), Pingullo (NW), and La Pampa (S) on 20 May.  

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.

Ongoing activity

FUEGO, Guatemala

14.473°N, 90.880°W; summit elev. 3763 m

INSIVUMEH reported that during 16-17 May white plumes rose 300 m from Fuego’s crater and drifted W and SW. Explosions during 17 and 19-21 May generated ash plumes that rose 350-650 m and drifted 6 km W and SW. On 19 and 21 May explosions ejected incandescent material 100 m above the crater.

Geologic summary: Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between 3,763-m-high Fuego and its twin volcano to the N, Acatenango. Construction of Meseta volcano continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene, after which growth of the modern Fuego volcano continued the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded at Fuego since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows. The last major explosive eruption from Fuego took place in 1974, producing spectacular pyroclastic flows visible from Antigua.

GALERAS, Colombia

1.22°N, 77.37°W; summit elev. 4276 m

INGEOMINAS reported that during 15-21 May seismicity at Galeras was at a low level; during 19-20 May earthquakes with magnitudes 2.6 or less were concentrated in an area 3 km SW at depths near 4 km. Gas plumes rose 500 m above the crater and contained small amounts of ash during 15-16 and 20-21 May. Sulfur dioxide emissions were low. The Alert Level remained at III (Yellow; "changes in the behavior of volcanic activity").

Geologic summary: Galeras, a stratovolcano with a large breached caldera located immediately W of the city of Pasto, is one of Colombia's most frequently active volcanoes. The dominantly andesitic Galeras volcanic complex has been active for more than 1 million years, and two major caldera collapse eruptions took place during the late Pleistocene. Longterm extensive hydrothermal alteration has affected the volcano. This has contributed to large-scale edifice collapse that has occurred on at least three occasions, producing debris avalanches that swept to the W and left a large horseshoe-shaped caldera inside which the modern cone has been constructed. Major explosive eruptions since the mid Holocene have produced widespread tephra deposits and pyroclastic flows that swept all but the southern flanks. A central cone slightly lower than the caldera rim has been the site of numerous small-to-moderate historical eruptions since the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

KILAUEA, Hawaii (USA)

19.421°N, 155.287°W; summit elev. 1222 m

During 15-21 May HVO reported that the circulating lava lake occasionally rose and fell in the deep pit within Kilauea's Halema'uma'u Crater. The plume from the vent continued to deposit variable amounts of ash, spatter, and Pele's hair onto nearby areas. 

At Pu'u 'O'o Crater, glow emanated from three spatter cones and a small lava pond on the E part of the crater floor. Lava from base of Pu'u 'O'o cone traveled N and was named the Kahauale’a II flow. Peace Day activity, fed by lava tubes extending from Pu'u 'O'o, consisted of lava flows active on the coastal plain that were entering the ocean at a location outside the National Park boundary.

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.

KIZIMEN, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia)

55.130°N, 160.32°E; summit elev. 2376 m

KVERT reported that during 10-16 May moderate seismic activity continued at Kizimen. Video and satellite data showed that lava continued to extrude from the summit, producing incandescence, strong gas-and-steam activity, and hot avalanches on the W and E flanks. A thermal anomaly was detected daily in satellite images. 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.

MANAM, Northeast of New Guinea (SW Pacific)

4.080°S, 145.037°E; summit elev. 1807 m

RVO reported that during 29 April-16 May activity at Manam was low, characterized by white, and sometimes blue, vapor plumes rising from Southern Crater. White vapor plumes also rose from Main Crater. Seismicity fluctuated but remained high until 1 May; seismicity then declined to a low on 4 May where it stayed for the rest of the period. RVO reminded people to stay away from the four main radial valleys, and especially the SE and SW ones where most products from the activity at Southern Crater were channeled. 

Geologic summary: The 10-km-wide island of Manam, lying 13 km off the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, is one of the country's most active volcanoes. Four large radial valleys extend from the unvegetated summit of the conical 1807-m-high basaltic-andesitic stratovolcano to its lower flanks. These "avalanche valleys," regularly spaced 90 degrees apart, channel lava flows and pyroclastic avalanches that have sometimes reached the coast. Two summit craters are present; both are active, although most historical eruptions have originated from the southern crater, concentrating eruptive products during much of the past century into the SE avalanche valley. Frequent historical eruptions, typically of mild-to-moderate scale, have been recorded at Manam since 1616. Occasional larger eruptions have produced pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached flat-lying coastal areas and entered the sea, sometimes impacting populated areas.

PACAYA, Guatemala

14.381°N, 90.601°W; summit elev. 2552 m

INSIVUMEH reported that weak incandescence from Pacaya's MacKenney cone was observed through the night during 15-16 May. Blue and white plumes rose 800 m and drifted S. On 17 May white plumes drifted W and NW. Incandescence from the crater was again observed at night during 19-21 May. On 20 and 21 May Strombolian activity ejected material 25 m above the crater.

Geologic summary: Eruptions from Pacaya, one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, are frequently visible from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. Pacaya is a complex volcano constructed on the southern rim of the 14 x 16 km Pleistocene Amatitlan caldera. A cluster of dacitic lava domes occupies the caldera floor. The Pacaya massif includes the Cerro Grande lava dome and a younger volcano to the SW. Collapse of Pacaya volcano about 1,100 years ago produced a debris-avalanche deposit that extends 25 km onto the Pacific coastal plain and left an arcuate somma rim inside which the modern Pacaya volcano (MacKenney cone) grew. During the past several decades, activity at Pacaya has consisted of frequent Strombolian eruptions with intermittent lava flow extrusion on the flanks of MacKenney cone, punctuated by occasional larger explosive eruptions.

RABAUL, New Britain

4.271°S, 152.203°E; summit elev. 688 m

RVO reported that during 29 April-16 May white vapor plumes sometimes containing fine ash rose at most 200 m from Rabaul caldera's Tavurvur cone and drifted NW. Ashfall was reported in areas downwind including Rabaul town (3-5 km NW). Roaring and rumbling noises also continued. Seismicity was low.

Geologic summary: The low-lying Rabaul caldera on the tip of the Gazelle Peninsula at the NE end of New Britain forms a broad sheltered harbor. The outer flanks of the 688-m-high asymmetrical pyroclastic shield volcano are formed by thick pyroclastic-flow deposits. The 8 x 14 km caldera is widely breached on the E, where its floor is flooded by Blanche Bay. Two major Holocene caldera-forming eruptions at Rabaul took place as recently as 3,500 and 1,400 years ago. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the northern and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and western caldera walls. Several of these, including Vulcan cone, which was formed during a large eruption in 1878, have produced major explosive activity during historical time. A powerful explosive eruption in 1994 occurred simultaneously from Vulcan and Tavurvur volcanoes and forced the temporary abandonment of Rabaul city.

SAKURA-JIMA, Kyushu

31.585°N, 130.657°E; summit elev. 1117 m

JMA reported that during 13-17 May Sakura-jima's Showa Crater had 13 explosions ejecting tephra that fell at most 1.8 km from the crater. Crater incandescence was occasionally detected at night. Based on information from JMA, the Tokyo VAAC reported that during 15, 17-18, and 20-21 May explosions produced plumes that rose to altitudes of 1.2-3.7 km (4,000-12,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted E and W. On 21 May a pilot observed an ash plume that rose to an altitude of 3.4 km (11,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 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.

SANTA MARIA, Guatemala

14.756°N, 91.552°W; summit elev. 3772 m

INSIVUMEH reported that on 16 May an explosion from Santa María's Santiaguito lava-dome complex produced an ash plume that rose 600 m and drifted 6 km SE. Ashfall was reported in La Florida and Monte Claro. A lava flow on the NE lava dome traveled S. During 20-21 May a few explosions generated ash plumes that rose 500-700 m and drifted 10 km W and SW.

Geologic summary: Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa María volcano is one of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rises dramatically above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. The stratovolcano has a sharp-topped, conical profile that is cut on the SW flank by a large, 1-km-wide crater, which formed during a catastrophic eruption in 1902 and extends from just below the summit to the lower flank. The renowned Plinian eruption of 1902 followed a long repose period and devastated much of SW Guatemala. The large 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, accompanied by almost continuous minor explosions and periodic lava extrusion, larger explosions, pyroclastic flows, and lahars.

SHIVELUCH, Central Kamchatka (Russia)

56.653°N, 161.360°E; summit elev. 3283 m

Based on visual observations and analyses of satellite data, KVERT reported that during 10-16 May a viscous lava flow effused on the N flank of Shiveluch's lava dome, accompanied by hot avalanches, incandescence, and fumarolic activity. Satellite imagery showed a daily thermal anomaly on the lava dome. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Based on analyses of satellite imagery and notices from Yelizovo Airport (UHPP), the Tokyo VAAC reported that on 18 May ash plumes rose to an altitude of 5.5 km (18,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NE.

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.

TOLBACHIK, Central Kamchatka (Russia)

55.830°N, 160.330°E; summit elev. 3682 m

KVERT reported that the S fissure along the W side of Tolbachinsky Dol, a lava plateau on the SW side of Tolbachik, continued to produce very fluid lava flows during 10-16 May that traveled to the W, S, and E sides of the plateau. Cinder cones continued to grow along the S fissure and gas-and-ash plumes were observed. A large thermal anomaly on the N part of Tolbachinsky Dol was visible daily in satellite imagery. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Geologic summary: The massive Tolbachik basaltic volcano is located at the southern end of the dominantly andesitic Kliuchevskaya volcano group. The Tolbachik massif is composed of two overlapping, but morphologically dissimilar volcanoes. The flat-topped Plosky Tolbachik shield volcano with its nested Holocene Hawaiian-type calderas up to 3 km in diameter is located east of the older and higher sharp-topped Ostry Tolbachik stratovolcano. The summit caldera at Plosky Tolbachik was formed in association with major lava effusion about 6500 years ago and simultaneously with a major southward-directed sector collapse of Ostry Tolbachik volcano. Lengthy rift zones extending NE and SSW of the volcano have erupted voluminous basaltic lava flows during the Holocene, with activity during the past two thousand years being confined to the narrow axial zone of the rifts. The 1975-76 eruption originating from the SSW-flank fissure system and the summit was the largest historical basaltic eruption in Kamchatka.

Source: Global Volcanism Program

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