Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 15 August-21 August 2012
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 15 August-21 August 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, 15 August-21 August 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 15-21 August seismicity at Popocatépetl indicated continuing gas-and-steam emissions that may have contained ash; cloud cover often prevented visual observations of the volcano. Incandescence from the crater was observed at night. A gas-and-ash plume rose from the crater on 15 August, and steam-and-gas plumes rose as high as 1 km and drifted NW the next day. On 17 August seismicity significantly increased. Incandescent tephra ejected from the crater fell onto the flanks and rolled 800 m. On 18 August an ash plume rose 2 km above the crater and drifted E. Ejected incandescent tephra fell onto the SE flank. A small ash emission and ejected incandescent tephra were observed on 19 August. The next day a steam-and-gas plume rose 900 m and drifted NNW. 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.