Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala) — July 1987

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 7 (July 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland

Santa Maria (Guatemala) Block lava flow into canyon; constant avalanching

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:7. 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)

INSIVUMEH technicians visiting the volcano 12-13 May observed block lava from the active (Caliente) vent flowing south, forming a well-defined channel. The flow front was at 1,300 m elevation, farther downslope than in March, in a steep canyon that contains a tributary of the Nimá II river in the rainy season. Continuous avalanches of large blocks occurred from the flow margins, producing light-colored dust and ash clouds.

When INSIVUMEH personnel next visited the S flank, on 19 June, lava continued to flow from the S side of the dome. Since mid-May, the flow front had advanced 250 m and its elevation was nearly 60 m lower. Incandescent material was visible in one crack at the flow front and heat was felt 70 m away. Constant avalanches produced clouds of hot light-colored ash and were accompanied by tremors and rumbling. Rains continued to transport new material into river valleys.

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: E. Sánchez, INSIVUMEH.