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Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) — May 1997

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 22, no. 5 (May 1997)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) Conspicuous fumaroles and plumes persist

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1997. Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica). In: Wunderman, R. (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 22:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199705-345020.

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)


During April, fumarolic activity remained in the E and S parts of the main crater. In the latter location, escaping gases hissed like a pressure cooker and were audible from the crater rim. Gas columns rose up to 200 m high. Adjacent to the crater, visitors smelled sulfur gases and their throats, eyes, and skin became irritated. Some of the plants damaged during November 1995 showed new signs of recovery. Although the seismic station (RIN3, located 5 km SW of the active crater) remained out of service during May, earthquake counts numbered five events in December 1996 and 24 in January 1997.

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, R. Van der Laat, F. de Obaldia, T. Marino, V. Barboza, W. Jimenez, R. Sáenz, E. Duarte, M. Martinez, E. Hernandez, and F. Vega, Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica.