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Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) — March 1983

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 3 (March 1983)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) Tephra eruption from crater lake

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1983. Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 8:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198303-345020.

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Rincon de la Vieja

Costa Rica

10.83°N, 85.324°W; summit elev. 1916 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


This paragraph is primarily from a report by Jorge Barquero H. and Juan de Dios Segura. During the night of 6 February, residents of towns (Dos Ríos de Upala, Colonia Blanca, and Colonia Libertad) 8 km N and NE of the volcano heard strong rumblings and observed the rise of a large eruption column from the crater. Personnel from the Proyecto de Investigaciones Vulcanológicas climbed the volcano 19 February. The odor of sulfur was stronger than it had been during their previous ascent in November 1982. Phreatomagmatic eruptions had ejected bombs, lapilli, and ash, as well as blocks 10-100 cm in diameter that formed impact craters. Tephra fell SE, S, and SW of the vent to a distance of about 1.5 km. Destruction, primarily to vegetation, was greatest to the SE and S. The tephra had a high water content because the vent contained a lake. Strong rains and rapid erosion since the eruption made it difficult to calculate the original depth of the airfall deposits, although in some places SE of the vent they were 4 cm thick. The eroded ash washed into a ravine, producing a small mudflow in a NE flank river (Río Pénjamo), causing the deaths of thousands of fish 7-8 February, possibly because of the acidity of the water. The pH of the cold lake was 3.5 on 19 February and 4.1 on 5 March.

Jorge Barquero H., J. Bruce Gemmell, and Jerry Prosser climbed the volcano on November 1982, and Gemmell provided the following report. "Rincón de la Vieja is a large composite volcano with a series of collapse craters aligned ENE-WSW. Its main cone is covered with thick vegetation but three craters to the W are not vegetated. The most recently active crater (250 m in diameter) is 1 km NW of the main cone. No activity or gas emissions were seen in this crater and a cold yellowish-green lake covered the crater floor. No steam was rising from the lake but two areas of brown discoloration near its center may have indicated subaqueous vents. The area around the summit craters was covered with accessory blocks of andesitic lava and tuff breccias, in addition to juvenile andesitic breadcrust bombs, lapilli, and ash from the most recent recorded eruptions in 1966-70. Numerous mudpots, hot springs, and steam vents occurred in two main areas (Aguas Termales and Sitio Hornillas), on the S flank at about 900 m elevation."

Further Reference. Barquero, J., and de Diós Segura, J., 1983, La Actividad del Volcán Rincón de la Vieja: Boletín de Vulcanología, no. 13, p. 5-10.

Geologic Background. Rincón de la Vieja, the largest volcano in NW Costa Rica, is a remote volcanic complex in the Guanacaste Range. The volcano consists of an elongated, arcuate NW-SE-trending ridge that was constructed within the 15-km-wide early Pleistocene Guachipelín caldera, whose rim is exposed on the south side. Sometimes known as the "Colossus of Guanacaste," it has an estimated volume of 130 km3 and contains at least nine major eruptive centers. Activity has migrated to the SE, where the youngest-looking craters are located. The twin cone of 1916-m-high Santa María volcano, the highest peak of the complex, is located at the eastern end of a smaller, 5-km-wide caldera and has a 500-m-wide crater. A plinian eruption producing the 0.25 km3 Río Blanca tephra about 3500 years ago was the last major magmatic eruption. All subsequent eruptions, including numerous historical eruptions possibly dating back to the 16th century, have been from the prominent active crater containing a 500-m-wide acid lake located ENE of Von Seebach crater.

Information Contacts: J. Barquero H. and J. de Dios Segura, Univ. Nacional, Heredia; J.B. Gemmell and J. Prosser, Dartmouth College; R. Sáenz R., Ministro de Energía y Minas; La República, San José.