Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — 20 May-26 May 2015
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 20 May-26 May 2015
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2015. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 20 May-26 May 2015. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
Piton de la Fournaise
21.244°S, 55.708°E; summit elev. 2632 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
OVPDLF reported that the eruption at Piton de la Fournaise that began on 17 May continued through 26 May. After a peak on 17 May, sulfur dioxide emissions fluctuated but had gradually decreased overall. Lava-flow rates estimated by satellite data had also fluctuated but showed an overall decrease from 24.2 cubic meters per second on 17 May to 2.5 cubic meters per second on 21 May. During 21-22 May observers reported large variations in activity, including increasing heights of the lava fountain (over 50 m high), collapsing parts of the newly formed cinder cone, and a new very fluid lava flow adjacent to the main flow. During an overflight on 23 May scientists observed a large blue sulfur dioxide plume above the vent, lower lava fountains, a smaller vent in the cone, and the presence of a lava tube about 200 m downstream of the vent. During 24-25 May activity remained unchanged; low lava fountains and low-level lava flows persisted.
Geologic Background. The massive Piton de la Fournaise basaltic shield volcano on the French island of Réunion in the western Indian Ocean is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Much of its more than 530,000-year history overlapped with eruptions of the deeply dissected Piton des Neiges shield volcano to the NW. Three calderas formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping of the volcano. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the floor of the calderas and their outer flanks. Most historical eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest caldera, which is 8 km wide and breached to below sea level on the eastern side. More than 150 eruptions, most of which have produced fluid basaltic lava flows, have occurred since the 17th century. Only six eruptions, in 1708, 1774, 1776, 1800, 1977, and 1986, have originated from fissures on the outer flanks of the caldera. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory, one of several operated by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, monitors this very active volcano.