Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala) — December 1980

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 12 (December 1980)
Managing Editor: David Squires

Santa Maria (Guatemala) Ash and gas eruptions eject blocks and tephra

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1980. Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala). In: Squires, D (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 5:12. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin |  Download PDF [future] |  Export Citation [future]

Santa Maria


14.756°N, 91.552°W; summit elev. 3772 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ash and gas eruptions from Caliente vent occurred irregularly over the 3-day period of observation, with intervals of 1/2-4 hours between eruptions. Most eruptions lasted 2-3 minutes and sent ash and gas columns to heights of several hundred meters to 1 km above the vent. Five mm of ash accumulated at the foot of the dome over one 12-hour period. Eruptions occasionally threw 10-cm blocks several hundred meters and ejected tephra to well above the summit of Santa María. Although not directly observed, the plug dome and blocky lava flow that were seen being extruded from Caliente vent in February were apparently still very active. Large avalanches of glassy material could be heard from Caliente vista many times per hour. Debris from these avalanches was visible in the barranca below Santiaguito.

Geologic Background. Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa MarĂ­a volcano is one of the most prominent of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rises dramatically above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. The 3772-m-high stratovolcano has a sharp-topped, conical profile that is cut on the SW flank by a large, 1.5-km-wide crater. The oval-shaped crater extends from just below the summit to the lower flank and was formed during a catastrophic eruption in 1902. The renowned plinian eruption of 1902 that devastated much of SW Guatemala followed a long repose period after construction of the large basaltic-andesite stratovolcano. The massive dacitic Santiaguito lava-dome complex has been growing at the base of the 1902 crater since 1922. Compound dome growth at Santiaguito has occurred episodically from four westward-younging vents, the most recent of which is Caliente. Dome growth has been accompanied by almost continuous minor explosions, with periodic lava extrusion, larger explosions, pyroclastic flows, and lahars.

Information Contacts: R. Stoiber, S. Williams, R. Naslund, M. Conrad, and L. Malinconico, Dartmouth College; S. Bonis, Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN); A. Aburto and D. Fajardo, Instituto de Investigaciones Sísmicas, Nicaragua.