Active volcanoes in the world: March 16 - 22, 2016

Active volcanoes in the world: March 16 - 22, 2016

New activity was reported for 5 volcanoes between March 16 and 22, 2016. During the same period, ongoing activity was observed at 13 volcenoes.

New activity/unrest: Alaid, Kuril Islands (Russia) | Asosan, Kyushu (Japan) | Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica | Sangay, Ecuador | Tungurahua, Ecuador.

Ongoing activity: Aira, Kyushu (Japan) | Chirpoi, Kuril Islands (Russia) | Colima, Mexico | Dukono, Halmahera (Indonesia) | Fuego, Guatemala | Karymsky, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia) | Kilauea, Hawaiian Islands (USA) | Mauna Loa, Hawaiian Islands (USA) | Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia | Reventador, Ecuador | Sheveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Sinabung, Indonesia | Zhupanovsky, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia).

New activity/unrest

Alaid, Kuril Islands (Russia)
50.861°N, 155.565°E, Summit elev. 2285 m

KVERT reported that during 11-15 and 18 March satellite images had detected an intense thermal anomaly over Alaid; cloud cover obscured views on the other days. Based on reports from observers on Paramushir Island, a gas-and-steam plume containing minor amounts of ash drifted 85 km E on 12 and 14 March. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Orange (the second highest level on a four-color scale).

Geological summary: The highest and northernmost volcano of the Kuril Islands, 2285-m-high Alaid is a symmetrical stratovolcano when viewed from the north, but has a 1.5-km-wide summit crater that is breached widely to the south. Alaid is the northernmost of a chain of volcanoes constructed west of the main Kuril archipelago and rises 3000 m from the floor of the Sea of Okhotsk. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the lower flanks of basaltic to basaltic-andesite Alaid volcano, particularly on the NW and SE sides, including an offshore cone formed during the 1933-34 eruption. Strong explosive eruptions have occurred from the summit crater beginning in the 18th century. Reports of eruptions in 1770, 1789, 1821, 1829, 1843, 1848, and 1858 were considered incorrect by Gorshkov (1970). Explosive eruptions in 1790 and 1981 were among the largest in the Kuril Islands during historical time.

Asosan, Kyushu (Japan)
32.884°N, 131.104°E, Summit elev. 1592 m

JMA reported that during 14-18 March white plumes rose as high as 300 m above Asosan’s Nakadake Crater. Seismicity was low. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-5).

Geological summary: The 24-km-wide Asosan caldera was formed during four major explosive eruptions from 300,000 to 90,000 years ago. These produced voluminous pyroclastic flows that covered much of Kyushu. The last of these, the Aso-4 eruption, produced more than 600 cu km of airfall tephra and pyroclastic-flow deposits. A group of 17 central cones was constructed in the middle of the caldera, one of which, Nakadake, is one of Japan's most active volcanoes. It was the location of Japan's first documented historical eruption in 553 AD. The Nakadake complex has remained active throughout the Holocene. Several other cones have been active during the Holocene, including the Kometsuka scoria cone as recently as about 210 CE. Historical eruptions have largely consisted of basaltic to basaltic-andesite ash emission with periodic strombolian and phreatomagmatic activity. The summit crater of Nakadake is accessible by toll road and cable car, and is one of Kyushu's most popular tourist destinations.

Rincon de la Vieja, Costa Rica
10.83°N, 85.324°W, Summit elev. 1916 m

OVSICORI-UNA reported that the seismic station located 1.8 km from Rincón de la Vieja recorded increased activity between late September and early November 2015, which became further evident in February 2016. Field investigations were conducted in February and March to assess this recent activity.

Between October 2015 and the first half of March 2016, the seismic network detected 69 events accompanying eruptive events though few of them and any resulting deposits were visually confirmed. Of the 69 events, seismic signals indicated that 28 of them occurred as a series of explosions during 17-18 October 2015, culminating with a major eruption at 0059 on 18 October. During February-15 March both the number of eruptive events and the energy of those events increased significantly; the data suggested that the events were phreatic. The two highest-energy events occurred at 0912 on 9 February and at 1354 on 9 March.

During fieldwork on 3 March, volcanologists found sediment deposits from the crater lake in an area about 200 m from the active crater, from phreatic activity and possibly strong westward-blowing winds. They heard three phreatic explosions, at 1204, 1209, and 1318; the third one was the strongest and lasted just over a minute. All three were followed by a strong sulfur dioxide odor. On 8 March volcanologists noted ash deposits, from recent weeks, as far as about 120 m from the crater rim covering an estimated area of 0.02 square kilometers. The temperature of the lake water was 45 degrees Celsius on average and 55 degrees in the convection cell. Gas measurements suggested a magmatic component, with a carbon dioxide to sulfur dioxide ratio of 2. The ratio of water vapor to sulfur dioxide was about 300, higher than the 100-200 ratio detected in previous years; degassing of the lake increased in March. Preliminary analysis of ash ejected during March activity suggested the possibility of a magmatic component. Photos from area residents of explosions during 9-10 March showed ash-and-steam plumes rising as high as 850 m above the crater.

Geological summary: Rincón de la Vieja, the largest volcano in NW Costa Rica, is a remote volcanic complex in the Guanacaste Range. The volcano consists of an elongated, arcuate NW-SE-trending ridge that was constructed within the 15-km-wide early Pleistocene Guachipelín caldera, whose rim is exposed on the south side. Sometimes known as the "Colossus of Guanacaste," it has an estimated volume of 130 cu km and contains at least nine major eruptive centers. Activity has migrated to the SE, where the youngest-looking craters are located. The twin cone of 1916-m-high Santa María volcano, the highest peak of the complex, is located at the eastern end of a smaller, 5-km-wide caldera and has a 500-m-wide crater. A plinian eruption producing the 0.25 cu km Río Blanca tephra about 3500 years ago was the last major magmatic eruption. All subsequent eruptions, including numerous historical eruptions possibly dating back to the 16th century, have been from the prominent crater containing a 500-m-wide acid lake (known as the Active Crater) located ENE of Von Seebach crater.

Sangay, Ecuador
2.005°S, 78.341°W, Summit elev. 5286 m

IG reported that tremor at Sangay ceased on 10 March and the number of long-period earthquakes began to decline the next day. The number of explosions per day increased (from a maximum of four during 3-11 March) to 10 on 12 March, peaked at almost 110 on 15 March, and then declined to 50 on 17 March. Cloud cover prevented views of the volcano though the seismic data suggested that gas-and-ash emissions were produced; ashfall was not reported in towns downwind. At 0400 on 17 March continuous tremor with interspersed bursts of more intense tremor began to be detected. The activity intensified at 1300, and then began to gradually decline. IG noted that climbers should avoid the volcano during periods of increased activity.

Geological summary: The isolated Sangay volcano, located east of the Andean crest, is the southernmost of Ecuador's volcanoes, and its most active. The dominantly andesitic volcano has been in frequent eruption for the past several centuries. The steep-sided, 5230-m-high glacier-covered volcano grew within horseshoe-shaped calderas of two previous edifices, which were destroyed by collapse to the east, producing large debris avalanches that reached the Amazonian lowlands. The modern edifice dates back to at least 14,000 years ago. It towers above the tropical jungle on the east side; on the other sides flat plains of ash have been sculpted by heavy rains into steep-walled canyons up to 600 m deep. The earliest report of a historical eruption was in 1628. More or less continuous eruptions were reported from 1728 until 1916, and again from 1934 to the present. The almost constant activity has caused frequent changes to the morphology of the summit crater complex.

Tungurahua, Ecuador
1.467°S, 78.442°W, Summit elev. 5023 m

IG reported that activity at Tungurahua was at moderate-to-high levels during 16-17 March, moderate levels during 18-21 March, and low levels on 22 March. Cloud cover prevented views of the volcano; the weather cleared for a brief period on 20 March and no activity was observed.

Geological summary: Tungurahua, a steep-sided andesitic-dacitic stratovolcano that towers more than 3 km above its northern base, is one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes. Three major edifices have been sequentially constructed since the mid-Pleistocene over a basement of metamorphic rocks. Tungurahua II was built within the past 14,000 years following the collapse of the initial edifice. Tungurahua II itself collapsed about 3000 years ago and produced a large debris-avalanche deposit and a horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the west, inside which the modern glacier-capped stratovolcano (Tungurahua III) was constructed. Historical eruptions have all originated from the summit crater, accompanied by strong explosions and sometimes by pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached populated areas at the volcano's base. Prior to a long-term eruption beginning in 1999 that caused the temporary evacuation of the city of Baños at the foot of the volcano, the last major eruption had occurred from 1916 to 1918, although minor activity continued until 1925.

Ongoing activity

Aira, Kyushu (Japan)
31.593°N, 130.657°E, Summit elev. 1117 m

JMA reported that small-scale explosions from Minamidake Crater at Aira Caldera’s Sakurajima volcano were detected during 14-15 March. The Alert Level remained at 3 (on a 5-level scale).

Geological summary: The Aira caldera in the northern half of Kagoshima Bay contains the post-caldera Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan's most active. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow accompanied formation of the 17 x 23 km caldera about 22,000 years ago. The smaller Wakamiko caldera was formed during the early Holocene in the NE corner of the Aira caldera, along with several post-caldera cones. The construction of Sakurajima began about 13,000 years ago on the southern rim of Aira caldera and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kitadake summit cone ended about 4850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minamidake. 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.

Chirpoi, Kuril Islands (Russia)
46.525°N, 150.875°E, Summit elev. 742 m

SVERT reported that satellite images detected a thermal anomaly over Snow, a volcano of Chirpoi, on 14, 17, and 19 March. The Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow.

Geological summary: Chirpoi, a small island lying between the larger islands of Simushir and Urup, contains a half dozen volcanic edifices constructed within an 8-9 km wide, partially submerged caldera. The southern rim of the caldera is exposed on nearby Brat Chirpoev Island. The symmetrical Cherny volcano, which forms the 691 m high point of the island, erupted twice during the 18th and 19th centuries. The youngest volcano, Snow, originated between 1770 and 1810. It is composed almost entirely of lava flows, many of which have reached the sea on the southern coast. No historical eruptions are known from 742-m-high Brat Chirpoev, but its youthful morphology suggests recent strombolian activity.

Colima, Mexico
19.514°N, 103.62°W, Summit elev. 3850 m

Based on webcam images, the Washington VAAC reported that on 16 March a minor ash emission from Colima drifted NNE. The next day an ash plume rose to an altitude of 5.5 km (18,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NW.

Geological summary: The Colima volcanic complex is the most prominent volcanic center of the western Mexican Volcanic Belt. It consists of two southward-younging volcanoes, Nevado de Colima (the 4320 m high point of the complex) on the north and the 3850-m-high historically active Volcán de Colima at the south. A group of cinder cones of late-Pleistocene age is located on the floor of the Colima graben west and east of the Colima complex. Volcán de Colima (also known as Volcán Fuego) is a youthful stratovolcano constructed within a 5-km-wide caldera, breached to the south, that has been the source of large debris avalanches. Major slope failures have occurred repeatedly from both the Nevado and Colima cones, and have produced a thick apron of debris-avalanche deposits on three sides of the complex. Frequent historical eruptions date back to the 16th century. Occasional major explosive eruptions (most recently in 1913) have destroyed the summit and left a deep, steep-sided crater that was slowly refilled and then overtopped by lava dome growth.

Dukono, Halmahera (Indonesia)
1.693°N, 127.894°E, Summit elev. 1229 m

Based on analyses of satellite imagery, wind data, and ground reports, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 16 and 19-22 March ash plumes from Dukono rose to altitudes of 1.5-2.4 km (5,000-8,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 45-110 km S, SE, and ESE.

Geological summary: Reports from this remote volcano in northernmost Halmahera are rare, but Dukono has been one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. More-or-less continuous explosive eruptions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows, occurred from 1933 until at least the mid-1990s, when routine observations were curtailed. During a major eruption in 1550, a lava flow filled in the strait between Halmahera and the north-flank cone of Gunung Mamuya. This complex volcano presents a broad, low profile with multiple summit peaks and overlapping craters. Malupang Wariang, 1 km SW of the summit crater complex, contains a 700 x 570 m crater that has also been active during historical time.

Fuego, Guatemala
14.473°N, 90.88°W, Summit elev. 3763 m

In a special report from 21 March INSIVUMEH reported a change in the eruptive pattern at Fuego. Explosions generated ash plumes that rose 550-950 m above the crater and drifted 12 km E. Ashfall was reported in Sangre de Cristo and Panimaché I and II. Explosions continued the next day. Ash plumes rose as high as 950 m and drifted S and SW. Incandescent material was ejected 300-400 m high, causing avalanches in the crater.

Geological 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 3763-m-high Fuego and its twin volcano to the north, Acatenango. Construction of Meseta dates back to about 230,000 years and continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene. Collapse of Meseta may have produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km onto the Pacific coastal plain. Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. In contrast to the mostly andesitic Acatenango, eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

Karymsky, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia)
54.049°N, 159.443°E, Summit elev. 1513 m

KVERT reported that moderate activity at Karymsky continued during 11-18 March. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Geological 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 during the early Holocene. The caldera cuts the south side of the Pleistocene Dvor volcano and is located outside the north margin of the large mid-Pleistocene Polovinka caldera, which contains the smaller Akademia Nauk and Odnoboky calderas. Most seismicity preceding Karymsky eruptions originated beneath Akademia Nauk caldera, located immediately south. The caldera enclosing Karymsky formed about 7600-7700 radiocarbon years ago; construction of the stratovolcano began about 2000 years later. The latest eruptive period began about 500 years ago, following a 2300-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.

Kilauea, Hawaiian Islands (USA)
19.421°N, 155.287°W, Summit elev. 1222 m

HVO reported that seismicity beneath Kilauea's summit, upper East Rift Zone, and Southwest Rift Zone was at background levels during 16-22 March. The lava lake continued to circulate and spatter in the Overlook vent. The June 27th NE-trending lava flow continued to be active within 7 km NE of Pu'u 'O'o Crater. At about 0320 on 22 March a small lava flow was visible on the crater floor.

Geological summary: Kilauea volcano, which overlaps the east flank of the massive Mauna Loa shield volcano, has been Hawaii's most active volcano during historical time. Eruptions of Kilauea are prominent in Polynesian legends; written documentation extending back to only 1820 records frequent summit and flank lava flow eruptions that were interspersed with periods of long-term lava lake activity that lasted until 1924 at Halemaumau crater, within the summit caldera. The 3 x 5 km caldera was formed in several stages about 1500 years ago and during the 18th century; eruptions have also originated from the lengthy East and SW rift zones, which extend to the sea on both sides of the volcano. About 90% of the surface of the basaltic shield volcano is formed of lava flows less than about 1100 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.

Mauna Loa, Hawaiian Islands (USA)
19.475°N, 155.608°W, Summit elev. 4170 m

On 17 March HVO reported that seismicity at Mauna Loa remained above long-term background levels and was characterized by shallow earthquakes occurring beneath the Southwest Rift Zone (SRZ) at depths of less than 5 km. GPS data showed continuing deformation related to inflation of a magma reservoir beneath the summit and upper SRZ, with inflation recently detected in the SW part of the magma storage complex. The Aviation Color Code remained at Yellow and the Volcano Alert Level remained at Advisory.

Geological summary: Massive Mauna Loa shield volcano rises almost 9 km above the sea floor to form the world's largest active volcano. Flank eruptions are predominately from the lengthy NE and SW rift zones, and the summit is cut by the Mokuaweoweo caldera, which sits within an older and larger 6 x 8 km caldera. Two of the youngest large debris avalanches documented in Hawaii traveled nearly 100 km from Mauna Loa; the second of the Alika avalanches was emplaced about 105,000 years ago (Moore et al. 1989). Almost 90% of the surface of the basaltic shield volcano is covered by lavas less than 4000 years old (Lockwood and Lipman, 1987). During a 750-year eruptive period beginning about 1500 years ago, a series of voluminous overflows from a summit lava lake covered about one fourth of the volcano's surface. The ensuing 750-year period, from shortly after the formation of Mokuaweoweo caldera until the present, saw an additional quarter of the volcano covered with lava flows predominately from summit and NW rift zone vents.

Nevado del Ruiz, Colombia
4.892°N, 75.324°W, Summit elev. 5279 m

Servicio Geológico Colombiano’s (SGC) Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Manizales reported that at 0606 on 18 March an episode of volcanic tremor was associated with an ash emission that rose 1.7 km above Nevado del Ruiz. The Alert Level remained at III (Yellow; "changes in the behavior of volcanic activity").

Geological 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 caldera of an older edifice. The 1-km-wide, 240-m-deep Arenas crater occupies the summit. The prominent La Olleta pyroclastic cone located on the SW flank may also have been active in historical time. Steep headwalls of massive landslides cut the flanks. 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.

Reventador, Ecuador
0.077°S, 77.656°W, Summit elev. 3562 m

During 16-22 March IG reported a high level of seismic activity including explosions, volcano-tectonic events, long-period earthquakes, harmonic tremor, and signals indicating emissions at Reventador; cloud cover often prevented visual observations. Crater incandescence was present on a few nights. Pyroclastic flows traveled 1 km on 18 March and 2 km down the E flank on 20 March. At night during 21-22 March a pyroclastic flow traveled 1.5 km down the SW flank, and on 22 March an ash plume rose 1 km and drifted W.

Geological summary: Reventador is the most frequently active of a chain of Ecuadorian volcanoes in the Cordillera Real, well east of the principal volcanic axis. The forested, dominantly andesitic Volcán El Reventador stratovolcano rises to 3562 m above the jungles of the western Amazon basin. A 4-km-wide caldera widely breached to the east was formed by edifice collapse and is partially filled by a young, unvegetated stratovolcano that rises about 1300 m above the caldera floor to a height comparable to the caldera rim. It has been the source of numerous lava flows as well as explosive eruptions that were visible from Quito in historical time. Frequent lahars in this region of heavy rainfall have constructed a debris plain on the eastern floor of the caldera. The largest historical eruption took place in 2002, producing a 17-km-high eruption column, pyroclastic flows that traveled up to 8 km, and lava flows from summit and flank vents.

Sheveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia)
56.653°N, 161.36°E, Summit elev. 3283 m

KVERT reported that during 11-18 March lava-dome extrusion onto Sheveluch’s N flank was accompanied by strong fumarolic activity, dome incandescence, ash explosions, and hot avalanches. Satellite images detected a daily and intense thermal anomaly over the dome. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Geological summary: The high, isolated massif of Sheveluch volcano (also spelled Shiveluch) rises above the lowlands NNE of the Kliuchevskaya volcano group. The 1300 cu km volcano is one of Kamchatka's largest and most active volcanic structures. The summit of roughly 65,000-year-old Stary Shiveluch is truncated by a broad 9-km-wide late-Pleistocene caldera breached to the south. Many lava domes dot its outer flanks. The Molodoy Shiveluch lava dome complex was constructed during the Holocene within the large horseshoe-shaped caldera; Holocene lava dome extrusion also took place on the flanks of Stary Shiveluch. At least 60 large eruptions have occurred during the Holocene, making it the most vigorous andesitic volcano of the Kuril-Kamchatka arc. Widespread tephra layers from these eruptions have provided valuable time markers for dating volcanic events in Kamchatka. Frequent collapses of dome complexes, most recently in 1964, have produced debris avalanches whose deposits cover much of the floor of the breached caldera.

Sinabung, Indonesia
3.17°N, 98.392°E, Summit elev. 2460 m

Based on satellite images, ground reports, and information from PVMBG, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 16-19 and 21-22 March ash plumes from Sinabung rose to altitudes of 2.7-4.9 km (9,000-16,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted as far as 65 km WSW, W, WNW, and NW.

Geological summary: Gunung Sinabung is a Pleistocene-to-Holocene stratovolcano with many lava flows on its flanks. The migration of summit vents along a N-S line gives the summit crater complex an elongated form. The youngest crater of this conical, 2460-m-high andesitic-to-dacitic volcano is at the southern end of the four overlapping summit craters. An unconfirmed eruption was noted in 1881, and solfataric activity was seen at the summit and upper flanks in 1912. No confirmed historical eruptions were recorded prior to explosive eruptions during August-September 2010 that produced ash plumes to 5 km above the summit.

Zhupanovsky, Eastern Kamchatka (Russia)
53.589°N, 159.15°E, Summit elev. 2899 m

KVERT reported that moderate gas-and-steam activity at Zhupanovsky continued during 11-18 March. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Geological summary: The Zhupanovsky volcanic massif consists of four overlapping stratovolcanoes along a WNW-trending ridge. The elongated volcanic complex was constructed within a Pliocene-early Pleistocene caldera whose rim is exposed only on the eastern side. Three of the stratovolcanoes were built during the Pleistocene, the fourth is Holocene in age and was the source of all of Zhupanovsky's historical eruptions. An early Holocene stage of frequent moderate and weak eruptions from 7000 to 5000 years before present (BP) was succeeded by a period of infrequent larger eruptions that produced pyroclastic flows. The last major eruption took place about 800-900 years BP. Historical eruptions have consisted of relatively minor explosions from the third cone.

Source: GVP

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