Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 9 May-15 May 2012
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 9 May-15 May 2012
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2012. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 9 May-15 May 2012. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
19.023°N, 98.622°W; summit elev. 5393 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
CENAPRED reported that during 8-10 May multiple gas-and-ash plumes rose 1.5 km above Popocatépetl's crater and drifted NE. Incandescent fragments ejected from the crater landed on the N and E flanks as far as 500 m away. According to a news article an airport in Puebla was closed due to ash plumes on 8 and 10 May. Seismicity increased on 11 May. Ash plumes rose 3 km above the crater and drifted NE and incandescent fragments ejected from the crater rolled 1 km down the flanks. Gas-and-ash plumes rose 2.5 km and drifted ENE. On 12 May gas-and-ash plumes rose 4 km above the crater. Incandescent tephra was ejected 2 km above the crater and again rolled 1 km down the flanks. Ashfall was reported in most municipalities within the state of Tlaxcala (50 km NE of the volcano), in addition to smaller towns nearer to the volcano such as Santiago Xalitzintla (15 km NE) and San Nicolás de los Ranchos (16 km ENE). An airport in Puebla was again closed due to ash. During 13-15 May gas-and-ash plumes rose from the crater and drifted NE, and incandescent tephra was ejected from the crater. The Alert Level remained at Yellow Phase Three.
Geologic Background. Volcán Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, rises 70 km SE of Mexico City to form North America's 2nd-highest volcano. The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 x 600 m wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris-avalanche deposits covering broad areas to the south. The modern volcano was constructed south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone. Three major Plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 CE, have occurred since the mid-Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions, first recorded in Aztec codices, have occurred since Pre-Columbian time.