Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 18 March-24 March 2020
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 18 March-24 March 2020
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2020. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 18 March-24 March 2020. 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 each day during 17-23 March there were 74-182 steam-and-gas emissions from Popocatépetl, some of which contained minor amounts of ash. An explosion at 2210 on 17 March ejected incandescent material onto the flanks and produced an ash plume that rose 1.2 km above the crater rim and drifted SE. Minor ashfall was reported in the municipalities of Tetela del Volcán (20 km SW), San Andrés and Hueyapan (16 km SW), and Ocuituco (24 km SW) during 17-18 March. Some emissions were accompanied by incandescent material ejected out of the crater between 2229-2315 on 18 March. An explosion at 1928 on 19 March ejected incandescent material a short distance from the crater. On 22 March an ash plume rose 1 km and drifted S and ejected incandescent tephra fell onto the flanks at a distance of 800 m from the crater. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, Phase Two (middle level on a three-color scale).
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.