Report on Poas (Costa Rica) — April 1994

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 4 (April 1994)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Poas (Costa Rica) Two minor eruptions eject sediments

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Poas (Costa Rica). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:4. Smithsonian Institution.

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Costa Rica

10.2°N, 84.233°W; summit elev. 2708 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

In the active, northernmost crater at Poás, the water in the lake dropped several meters since January, almost drying towards the end of April. Fumaroles prevail on the lake bottom, chiefly in the central and northern parts of the crater. Escaping gases were audible from Cerro Pelón, 2 km SW. Gas columns rose up to 1 km above the crater floor and were carried by the wind toward the W and SW flanks. Residents of several nearby settlements reported sulfur smells and the quantity of gas released to the atmosphere appeared to have increased. Near the end of April, two small phreatic eruptions took place.

Park Rangers reported that on the night of 25 April Poás vented a gray-to-clear colored emission containing old lake-floor sediments. The emitted sediments were found over a significant area on the volcano, and reached both Cerro Pelón and the hut at the park entrance on the S. On 30 April the volcano again released a similar emission. Tourists who encountered it left the area rapidly. They came in contact with strong sulfurous gases and suffered from coughs and irritated skin and eyes. Repeated degassing has caused new damage to both cultivated and wild vegetation in and outside the park (last month's report only mentioned damage to local vegetation). The apparent increase in sub-aerial (rather than sub-aqueous) degassing has translated to an increase in the acidity on material deposited at a network of collector sites around the volcano.

In April the local seismic station (POA2, located 2.5 km SW of the active crater) registered a total of 6,919 events, almost as many as the previous month, which had the highest total so far this year. The majority of these events were of low frequency, although 30 were of medium frequency. During the last 8 days of the month there arrived consistent, low-frequency (below 2 Hz), background tremor with peak-to-peak amplitudes of 2-4 mm.

The above-described emissions of lake sediment on 25 and 30 April were accompanied by two different sorts of seismic signals. The first emission was associated with inferred near-surface noise; the second, with a 3.5-4.5 Hz signal of 135-seconds duration and 4-6 mm peak-to-peak amplitude.

Geologic Background. The broad, well-vegetated edifice of Poás, one of the most active volcanoes of Costa Rica, contains three craters along a N-S line. The frequently visited multi-hued summit crater lakes of the basaltic-to-dacitic volcano, which is one of Costa Rica's most prominent natural landmarks, are easily accessible by vehicle from the nearby capital city of San José. A N-S-trending fissure cutting the 2708-m-high complex stratovolcano extends to the lower northern flank, where it has produced the Congo stratovolcano and several lake-filled maars. The southernmost of the two summit crater lakes, Botos, is cold and clear and last erupted about 7500 years ago. The more prominent geothermally heated northern lake, Laguna Caliente, is one of the world's most acidic natural lakes, with a pH of near zero. It has been the site of frequent phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruptions since the first historical eruption was reported in 1828. Eruptions often include geyser-like ejections of crater-lake water.

Information Contacts: E. Fernández, J. Barquero, V. Barboza, and W. Jiménez, OVSICORI; G. Soto, G. Alvarado, and F. Arias, ICE; H. Flores, UCR.