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Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — June 2018

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 43, no. 6 (June 2018)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke. Report research and preparation by: Liz Crafford.

Masaya (Nicaragua) Lava lake persists during July 2017-April 2018

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2018. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua). In: Venzke, E (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 43:6. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Masaya

Nicaragua

11.984°N, 86.161°W; summit elev. 635 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Nicaragua's Volcan Masaya has an intermittent lava lake that has attracted visitors since the time of the Spanish Conquistadores; tephrochronology has dated eruptions back several thousand years. The unusual basaltic caldera has had historical explosive eruptions in addition to lava flows and actively circulating magma at the lava lake. An explosion in 2012 ejected ash to several hundred meters above the volcano, bombs as large as 60 cm fell around the crater, and ash fell to a thickness of 2 mm in some areas of the park. Brief incandescence and thermal anomalies of uncertain origin in April 2013 were followed by very little activity until the reemergence of the lava lake inside Santiago crater was reported in December 2015. By late March 2016 the lava lake had grown and intensified enough to generate a significant thermal anomaly signature (BGVN 41:08, figure 49) which persisted at a constant power level through April 2017 (BGVN 42:09, figure 53) with an increase in the number of thermal anomalies from November 2016 through April 2017. Although the MIROVA thermal anomaly signal decreased slightly in intensity during May 2017, INETER scientists reported continued strong convection at the lava lake. Similar activity continued throughout July 2017-April 2018 and is covered in this report with information provided by the Instituto Nicareguense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) and satellite thermal data.

A persistent thermal signature in the MIROVA data during July 2017-April 2018 supported the visual observations of the active lava lake at the summit throughout this period (figure 58). MODVOLC thermal alerts were also issued every month, with the number of alerts ranging from a high of 17 in November 2017 to a low of six in April 2018.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 58. MIROVA thermal data for Masaya for the year ending on 11 May 2018 showed a persistent and steady level of heat flow consistent with the observations of the active lava lake inside Santiago crater. Courtesy of MIROVA.

INETER made regular visits to the summit most months in coordination with specialists from several universities to gather SO2 data; CO2, H2S and gravity measurements were also taken during specific site visits. Thermal measurements around the lava lake inside Santiago crater taken on 24 February 2018 indicated temperatures ranging from 210-389°C. Seismicity remained very low throughout the period. The lava lake was actively convecting each time it was visited, and Pele's hair was abundant around the summit area (figures 59-64).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 59. The lava lake at Masaya was actively convecting on 22 August 2017 when observed by INETER scientists. Courtesy of INETER (Boletín Sismos y Volcanes de Nicaragua. Agosto, 2017).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 60. Pele's hair near the summit of Masaya on 22 August 2017. Scale is likely a few tens of centimeters. Courtesy of INETER (Boletín Sismos y Volcanes de Nicaragua. Agosto, 2017).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 61. The summit crater (Santiago) of Masaya with an active lava lake and fumarole plume (white circle) during 8-16 January 2018. Courtesy of INETER (Boletín Sismos y Volcanes de Nicaragua. Enero, 2018).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 62. Thermal measurements of the lava lake inside Santiago crater at the summit of Masaya on 24 February 2018 indicated temperatures in the 210-389°C range. Courtesy of INETER (Boletín Sismos y Volcanes de Nicaragua. Febrero, 2018).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 63. Nindiri plateau, the broad, flat area inside the summit crater of Masaya, was covered with Pele's hair and basaltic tephra on 6 March 2018. Courtesy of Carsten ten Brink.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 64. The lava lake inside Santiago crater at Masaya was actively convecting on 1 April 2018. Courtesy of Alexander Schimmeck.

Geologic Background. Masaya is one of Nicaragua's most unusual and most active volcanoes. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras pyroclastic shield volcano and is a broad, 6 x 11 km basaltic caldera with steep-sided walls up to 300 m high. The caldera is filled on its NW end by more than a dozen vents that erupted along a circular, 4-km-diameter fracture system. The twin volcanoes of NindirĂ­ and Masaya, the source of historical eruptions, were constructed at the southern end of the fracture system and contain multiple summit craters, including the currently active Santiago crater. A major basaltic Plinian tephra erupted from Masaya about 6500 years ago. Historical lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and have confined a lake to the far eastern end of the caldera. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Masaya has been frequently active since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold." Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals cause health hazards and crop damage.

Information Contacts: Instituto NicaragĂĽense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Apartado Postal 2110, Managua, Nicaragua (URL: http://www.ineter.gob.ni/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Alexander Schimmeck, flickr (URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alschim/), photo used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/); Carsten ten Brink, flickr (URL: https://www.flickr.com/photos/carsten_tb/), photo used under Creative Commons license Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (URL: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/).