Report on Poas (Costa Rica) — March 1997

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 22, no. 3 (March 1997)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Poas (Costa Rica) Relatively stable but seismically active

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1997. Report on Poas (Costa Rica). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 22:3. 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)

Periodic visits revealed that the crater lake level changed as follows compared to December 1996: January, a 31 cm decrease; February, a 55 cm decrease; and March, an 88 cm decrease. Lake-water temperatures during January, February, and March measured 32, 30, and 29°C, respectively. A pH of 1.7 was measured in March. During January-March constant bubbling took place on the lake's S and SW shores. During January and February one fumarole remained noisy; as late as March those on the SE, S, and SW remained at 91- 93°C. The migration of fumaroles was noted in March. Fumarolic gases emitted from the accessible parts of the pyroclastic cone had temperatures of 92°C (January) and 92-93°C (February). Temperatures were not reported for March. During January-March, steam clouds rose 400 m above the crater floor.

Scientists collected acid rain at Cerro Pelón on five days during 7 January-10 March. The respective SO4 and Cl ion concentrations ranged between ~5 and 12 mg/liter, and 1 and 6 mg/liter; pH ranged between 3.5 and 4.5.

A seismic swarm on 31 January consisted of 47 primarily low-frequency earthquakes; some occurred <5 km from the main crater at 1-5 km depths; they were M 3. According to park guards, five of these events were felt. Low-frequency earthquakes for March 1996-March 1997 peaked during September (figure 64). This peak was at 2,351 events; however, a previous peak, during the month of January 1996, represented 4,045 events. During the March 1996-March 1997 interval other earthquakes had these monthly event-counts: mid-frequency earthquakes (2.1-3.0 Hz), 13-237; and high-frequency (>3.0 Hz), 0-99. During the same interval, monthly tremor prevailed for 0-28 hours, peaking in October 1996.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 64. Poás seismicity (at frequencies below 2 Hz) recorded 2.7 km SW of the active crater (station POA2), March 1996 to March 1997. Courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA.

During January, both the distance network and dry-tilt readings at the summit remained stable. As of March, the three deformation lines across the crater and one external radial line had shown no significant changes during 1997. Another line, from the S side of the overlook (mirador) to the crater bottom, detected a cumulative contraction of 119 ppm/year. This contraction may have come from adjustments due to shallow phreatic venting and an increase in the crater lake's height. Changes in the inclinometer network were not considered significant.

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, E. Duarte, V. Barboza, R. Van der Laat, E. Hernandez, M. Martinez, and R. Sáenz, Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA).