Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — January 1988

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 1 (January 1988)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Masaya (Nicaragua) Vigorous degassing continues; small tephra eruptions and glow

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1988. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 13:1. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

When geologists visited the volcano on 25 December 1987 and 6 and 18 January 1988, two new, growing vents were visible (figure 5). The N vent was the hottest (table 1) and most active, emitting the majority of gases. By 18 January, the inner crater occupied half of Santiago's floor, while Santiago expanded westwards by collapse of the floor of neighboring Nindirí Crater. The NW side of Nindirí also seemed to be sagging along boundary faults. Gas output varied from vigorous (similar to 1985-86) to very little, perhaps because of periodic blockage of the two vents by landslides and rockfalls. One large gas burst was preceded by a loud roar and slightly raised temperatures.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 5. Sketch map of the craters of the Masaya complex as of 18 January 1988, showing the locations of temperature measurements in table 1.

Table 1. Temperatures in Santiago Crater measured by infrared radiometer in late 1987 and early 1988. Surface brightness temperature was measured in the 8-14 µm range with emissivity set at 1. Locations of observation points are shown on figure 5.

Date 1 2 3(Vn) 4(Vn) 5
25 Dec 1987 35-40° 54.6° 66-125° 100.5° 80°
06 Jan 1988 40° -- 110° 121° --
18 Jan 1988 36° -- 161° 160° --

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: B. van Wyk de Vries, H. Rymer, and G. Brown, Open Univ; P. Hradecky and H. Taleno, INETER.