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Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — December 1981

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 12 (December 1981)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Masaya (Nicaragua) Large white vapor plume and high SO2 emission rates continue

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1981. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 6:12. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198112-344100.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Masaya

Nicaragua

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


"Emission of a very large white vapor plume continued in late November. SO2 emission rates, measured using COSPEC, were at the same high levels reported since February 1980. Acid rain and gas fumigation continued to cause problems downwind. Incandescence was seen in the bottom of the inner crater through the crust on the surface of Santiago Crater lava lake on 29 November. Park rangers reported that this incandescence has been visible since September 1981, but it was not noted by several observers who specifically looked for it while working around the crater 25-29 November. The roaring sound of gas emission (or possibly lava splashing) may have been louder than in March 1981."

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: R. Stoiber, S. Williams, H.R. Naslund, J.B. Gemmell, D. Sussman, Dartmouth College; D. Fajardo B., Instituto de Investigaciones Sísmicas.