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Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) — April 1987

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 4 (April 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) Phreatic eruption; lahars

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198704-345020.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Rincon de la Vieja

Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


"On 1 April, an eruption of Rincón de la Vieja was heard and seen by residents of the town of Buenos Aires de Upala, 7 km NE of the crater. This phreatic eruption originated from the active crater.

"Various rivers have headwaters on the N flank and flow NE (among them the Río Azul, Quebrada Azufrada, and Río Pénjamo) and lahars formed in some of them. At about 500 m above sea level, the Río Pénjamo and the Quebrada Azufrada left their channels, flooding agricultural land. No lahar formed in the Río Azul, although on 9 April it still had a gray color because of the quantity of suspended ash that it was carrying.

"According to a resident of the area, the eruption occurred at 0940. Twenty minutes later the lahar passed near the town of Buenos Aires. The seismic station of the Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico registered an event at 0932.55 with a duration of 3 minutes."

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, OVSICORI.