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Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) — September 1994

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 9 (September 1994)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) Vigorous fumarolic activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica). In: Venzke, E (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199409-345020.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Rincon de la Vieja

Costa Rica

10.83°N, 85.324°W; summit elev. 1916 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Fumarolic activity in the main crater remained vigorous during August and September. Preliminary processing of seismicity recorded by ICE with a portable digital station 2.2 km S of the crater during fieldwork in late August indicated several hundred low-frequency earthquakes beneath the crater, and background tremor-like activity. The preliminary interpretation is that the low-frequency seismicity is caused by hydrothermal circulation among a shallow magma body, aquifers, and the lake system. The OVSICORI-UNA seimic station (5 km SW of the active crater) registered 15 high-frequency low-magnitude events during September.

From the village of México (40 km NE), early morning observations during late September and early October by an ICE geologist revealed a steam-rich gas column rising up to 1 km above the crater. This is higher than the 300-400 m estimated in March.

Geologic Background. 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 km3 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 km3 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 active crater containing a 500-m-wide acid lake located ENE of Von Seebach crater.

Information Contacts: E. Fernandez, J. Barquero, V. Barboza, R. Van der Laat, T. Marino, F. de Obaldia, and L. Carvajal, OVSICORI; G. Soto, W. Taylor, F. Arias, G. Alvarado, and R. Barquero, ICE; Mauricio Mora, Univ. de Costa Rica.