Report on Villarrica (Chile) — May 2006

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 31, no. 5 (May 2006)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Villarrica (Chile) Unusual seismicity, minor pyroclastic, and gas explosions, January-April 2005

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2006. Report on Villarrica (Chile). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 31:5. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin



39.42°S, 71.93°W; summit elev. 2847 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Our last report on Villarrica, through January 2005, described plumes, the growth of a lava lake in the crater, and some night-time Strombolian explosions (BGVN 29:12). This report covers January to April 2005.

According to the March 2005 newsletter of the Multinational Andean Project: Geoscience for Andean Communities (MAP-GAC) produced by the Geological Survey of Canada, both seismic activity and degassing from the permanent fumarole increased in January. One of the early January explosions described above sent pyroclastic material (ash and scoriaceous lapilli) onto the flanks of the snow-and-ice covered volcano, covering an area 1 km wide and 3 km long. Subsequent minor explosions have sent pyroclastic material to estimated heights of 300 m above the crater. Onlookers have reported incandescent material within the gas-and-pyroclastic column.

On 19 January 2005, volcanologists Hugo Moreno and Edmundo Polanco of OVDAS–SERNAGEOMIN observed the lava lake actively spattering at a distance of 30 m below the edge of the principal crater; the crater interior and perimeter were covered in spatter. The glacier covering the cone had developed new fractures and crevasses. Activity in February 2005 lessened.

During 29 March to 3 April 2005, the lava lake inside Villarrica's crater remained active, with Strombolian explosions occurring. Some gas explosions were observed to hurl volcanic bombs as far as ~ 300 m. According to a news report on 12 April 2005, the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia reported that unusual seismicity was recorded at Villarrica during early April. Fresh ash deposits were seen outside of the volcano's crater. Visitors were banned from climbing the volcano.

Geologic Background. Glacier-clad Villarrica, one of Chile's most active volcanoes, rises above the lake and town of the same name. It is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes that trend perpendicular to the Andean chain. A 6-km-wide caldera formed during the late Pleistocene. A 2-km-wide caldera that formed about 3500 years ago is located at the base of the presently active, dominantly basaltic to basaltic-andesitic cone at the NW margin of the Pleistocene caldera. More than 30 scoria cones and fissure vents dot the flanks. Plinian eruptions and pyroclastic flows that have extended up to 20 km from the volcano were produced during the Holocene. Lava flows up to 18 km long have issued from summit and flank vents. Historical eruptions, documented since 1558, have consisted largely of mild-to-moderate explosive activity with occasional lava effusion. Glaciers cover 40 km2 of the volcano, and lahars have damaged towns on its flanks.

Information Contacts: Werner Keller, Proyecto de Observacion Villarrica (POVI), Wiesenstrasse 8, 86438 Kissing, Germany (URL:; Hugo Moreno and Edmundo Polanco, Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería, Casilla 23D, Temuco, Chile (URL:; MAP:GAC Newsletter, Geological Survey of Canada, 101-605 Robson Street, Vancouver, BC,V6B 5J3, Canada.