Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — 19 September-25 September 2018
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 19 September-25 September 2018
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2018. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 19 September-25 September 2018. 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)
OVPF reported that, based on visual observations and satellite data, a lava flow at Piton de la Fournaise had traveled 2.8 km S and then SE, and was 500 m from the S wall of Enclos Fouqué by 18 September. It was 660 m wide at the widest part. Volcanic tremor was at a low level and relatively stable on 19 September, and then decreased on 20 September. During fieldwork on 21 September volcanologists observed three active lava fountains that were continuing to build the cone. The E wall was 30 m high, particularly vertical, and appeared unstable with numerous fractures. The lava flows were well-channeled and had advanced several hundred meters since 19 September, threatening an OVPF seismic station. Volcanic tremor levels fluctuated during 21-22 September. Deposits of Pele’s hair were noted in the Grand Coude area (8-10 km SW) on 22 September. During an overflight that same day volcanologists noted that the three lava fountains in the cone were visible, and lava tubes had formed near the uppermost part of the channel. Volcanic tremor had doubled in intensity on 23 September. Compared to the beginning of the eruption on 15 September the sulfur dioxide emissions had decreased by a factor of six; gas plumes were small and drifted S and W, but were confined to the Enclos Fouqué.
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.