Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — June 1993

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 6 (June 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Masaya (Nicaragua) New lava lake appears

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua). In: Venzke, E (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:6. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin



11.984°N, 86.161°W; summit elev. 635 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A lava lake reappeared in the bottom of Santiago crater in late June for the first time in 3 years, but seismicity has not increased. The temporary network of seismic stations intermittently installed around the summit area has documented a progressive decline in seismicity since late 1989. Epicenters have mainly been located below the N and NE flanks of the volcano. Since 1989 the number of locatable events decreased to about 1-2/week, with focal depths of 400-800 m. In late 1991 and 1992, maximum fumarole temperatures of 380-400°C were measured during expeditions into the 200-m-deep inner crater. Fumaroles were located just above the previous lava lake, active February-March 1989 (SEAN 14:02, 14:04, and 14:06) and covered by landslides in 1990 (SEAN 15:04). A part of the S crater wall collapsed in November 1989 (SEAN 16:02), dropping 50,000 m3 of rock into the crater. Activity in January 1993 consisted of a few weak fumaroles on the rim of the 1989 vents and on the wall adjoining the Nindirí crater.

An increase in SO2 emission was detected in late May 1993, and 3 seismometers were deployed around the crater in early June. An expedition 8 June installed one seismic station on the crater floor 100 m from the N rim. That same day, a significant increase in the rate of gas release was observed, with temperatures estimated at 400-500°C. Park rangers reported new incandescence in the bottom of the crater the evening of 16 June. Another descent to the crater floor on 20 June revealed a 7-8 m diameter vent with liquid lava splashing at a depth of about 30-40 m; small lava fragments were occasionally ejected. The vent slowly increased in diameter through the end of June, and was elongated NW-SE.

Geologic Background. Masaya is one of Nicaragua's most unusual and most active volcanoes. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras pyroclastic shield volcano and is a broad, 6 x 11 km basaltic caldera with steep-sided walls up to 300 m high. The caldera is filled on its NW end by more than a dozen vents that erupted along a circular, 4-km-diameter fracture system. The twin volcanoes of NindirĂ­ and Masaya, the source of historical eruptions, were constructed at the southern end of the fracture system and contain multiple summit craters, including the currently active Santiago crater. A major basaltic Plinian tephra erupted from Masaya about 6500 years ago. Historical lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and have confined a lake to the far eastern end of the caldera. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Masaya has been frequently active since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold." Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals cause health hazards and crop damage.

Information Contacts: Alain Creusot, Instituto Nicaraguense de Energía, Managua, Nicaragua.