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Report on Irazu (Costa Rica) — November 2007

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 32, no. 11 (November 2007)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Irazu (Costa Rica) Seismicity and degassing remain low, January 2004-September 2007

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2007. Report on Irazu (Costa Rica). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 32:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200711-345060.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Costa Rica

9.979°N, 83.852°W; summit elev. 3432 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica (OVSICORI-UNA) reported small-magnitude seismicity and stable fumarolic and crater lake conditions at Irazú over the period September 2001 to December 2003 (BGVN 28:12). This report summarizes monthly contributions from OVSICORI-UNA from January 2004 through September 2007.

Activity during January-December 2004. The lake level at Irazú remained high through 2004 with a green color from January to September and a light green and greenish yellow color in October and November. Convection cells occurred in the NW, SW, SE, NE, N edges of the lake throughout the year. Small areas of minor mass wasting occurred in the NE and SW walls, and fumarolic activity on the NW side remained constant with a low level of gas emission. A seismograph located 5 km SW of the active crater registered mild tectonic and low-frequency earthquakes throughout 2004. Peak activity occurred on 19 July 2004, with nine earthquakes occurring over four hours and an intensity of M 1.2-1.8 at focal depths of 5-15 km.

Activity during January-November 2005. The lake level remained high through 2005 with a greenish yellow color through April and darker green from May through November. A ring of lighter yellow color indicating iron-oxide deposits was visible from March through November 2005. Convection cells occurred in similar manner to the 2004 interval, and toward the lake's center of the lake. Small areas of minor mass wasting occurred in the NE and SW walls and fumarolic activity on the NW side remained constantly low. From January through March and again in October 2005, earthquakes (M 1-2) 3-16 km deep occurred from the active crater to a distance of 20 km NW and 15 km SE .

Activity during March-December 2006. During March through December 2006, the lake level at Irazú was high with a yellowish green color. The SW crater wall showed areas of minor mass wasting moving toward the lake. Similar to January-November 2005, convection cells were observed in various areas. In August, the gas emission temperature of the NW-flank fumarole was measured at 86°C (N-flank fumarole temperatures over 80°C have been reported for almost 40 years). In November 2006, the lake level, convection cells, and fumarolic activity remained constant but the lake color changed to light green. A seismograph located 5 km SW of the active crater registered continuing low level tectonic and low-frequency earthquakes. In mid-December, earthquake activity was reported by local residents, but no other changes were recorded.

Activity during 2007. In February 2007, the lake level receded, and the color changed to yellowish green. In March, measurements of the lake level indicated a descent of 4.48 m, with regard to September of the 2005 and lake color remained a greenish yellow with a temperature of 15 °C. Temperature at a convection cell at the NE edge was 34 °C. During the period March-September, the lake level continued to descend and fell an additional 3.87 m. The lake retained a light green color, with convection calls in the NE, at the N edge, and toward the center. Small areas of minor mass wasting continued in the SW crater wall, and fumaroles on the NW side continued minor degassing..

Geologic Background. Irazú, one of Costa Rica's most active volcanoes, rises immediately E of the capital city of San José. The massive volcano covers an area of 500 km2 and is vegetated to within a few hundred meters of its broad flat-topped summit crater complex. At least 10 satellitic cones are located on its S flank. No lava flows have been identified since the eruption of the massive Cervantes lava flows from S-flank vents about 14,000 years ago, and all known Holocene eruptions have been explosive. The focus of eruptions at the summit crater complex has migrated to the W towards the historically active crater, which contains a small lake of variable size and color. Although eruptions may have occurred around the time of the Spanish conquest, the first well-documented historical eruption occurred in 1723, and frequent explosive eruptions have occurred since. Ashfall from the last major eruption during 1963-65 caused significant disruption to San José and surrounding areas.

Information Contacts: E. Fernández, E. Duarte, R. Van der Laat, W. Sáenz, M. Martínez, V. Barboza, E. Malavassi, R. Sáenz, and J. Brenes, Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica (URL: http://www.ovsicori.una.ac.cr/).