Pico de Orizaba

Photo of this volcano
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 19.03°N
  • 97.27°W

  • 5564 m
    18250 ft

  • 341100
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

Most Recent Bulletin Report: April 1994 (BGVN 19:04) Citation IconCite this Report


Low seismicity, no fumarolic activity, and no crater changes

Seismic activity was monitored on 22-24 April using one station located at 4,480 m elevation on the S flank. The station consisted of a 1-Hz vertical component seismometer, operating at 78 dB amplification with a band-pass filter between 0.3 and 30.0 Hz. The station registered five B-type events within a 5.5 hour time period on 23 April, and three events within 15 minutes of each other on 24 April. Coda duration was 10-18 seconds long; frequencies were in the 3-6 Hz range. Maximum peak-to-peak amplitudes measured 1-3 mm.

Observers who ascended to the summit found no fumarolic activity. Crater morphology was unchanged since visits in October 1992 and 1989. Water discharge from the "La virgen" spring at 4,400 m elevation had decreased to 0.5 liters/hour from 10 liters/hour in 1992.

Information Contacts: Guillermo González-Pomposo1 and Carlos Valdés-González, Departamento de Sismología y Volcanología, Instituto de Geofísica, UNAM, Cd. Universitaría, 04510 D.F., México (Email: ssn@ollin.igeofcu.unam.mx); 1 Also at Benemérita Univ Autótonoma de Puebla, México.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Pico de Orizaba.

Bulletin Reports - Index


Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

11/1992 (BGVN 17:11) Seismic monitoring finds little activity

04/1994 (BGVN 19:04) Low seismicity, no fumarolic activity, and no crater changes




Information is preliminary and subject to change. All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


November 1992 (BGVN 17:11) Citation IconCite this Report


Seismic monitoring finds little activity

During four days of seismic monitoring at Pico de Orizaba (10-13 October), only a single A-type event was recorded by an analog seismic station at 4,680 m above sea level on the S flank. The M 2.7 shock, on 12 October at 0124, had an S-P of 1.5 seconds, consistent with a depth of 8 km. The station, a 1-component (Z) 1-second seismometer, was operated at 72 dB amplification at 0.3-30 Hz. No fumarolic activity was observed and crater morphology has remained unchanged since the team's initial observation in 1989. Geologists plan a continued monitoring program.

Information Contacts: G. Pomposo, Benemérita University, Puebla; A. Martín del Pozzo, UNAM, México D.F.


April 1994 (BGVN 19:04) Citation IconCite this Report


Low seismicity, no fumarolic activity, and no crater changes

Seismic activity was monitored on 22-24 April using one station located at 4,480 m elevation on the S flank. The station consisted of a 1-Hz vertical component seismometer, operating at 78 dB amplification with a band-pass filter between 0.3 and 30.0 Hz. The station registered five B-type events within a 5.5 hour time period on 23 April, and three events within 15 minutes of each other on 24 April. Coda duration was 10-18 seconds long; frequencies were in the 3-6 Hz range. Maximum peak-to-peak amplitudes measured 1-3 mm.

Observers who ascended to the summit found no fumarolic activity. Crater morphology was unchanged since visits in October 1992 and 1989. Water discharge from the "La virgen" spring at 4,400 m elevation had decreased to 0.5 liters/hour from 10 liters/hour in 1992.

Information Contacts: Guillermo González-Pomposo1 and Carlos Valdés-González, Departamento de Sismología y Volcanología, Instituto de Geofísica, UNAM, Cd. Universitaría, 04510 D.F., México (Email: ssn@ollin.igeofcu.unam.mx); 1 Also at Benemérita Univ Autótonoma de Puebla, México.

Eruptive History


Summary of Holocene eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).


Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1846 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1687 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1613 Unknown Confirmed 0 Historical Observations
1569 1589 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1566 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1545 1555 (?) ± 10 years Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
[ 1533 ] [ 1539 ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1351 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
1260 ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
[ 1187 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
1175 Unknown Confirmed 3 Anthropology
[ 1157 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
0220 ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0140 ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0090 ± 40 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0040 ± 40 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0780 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
1500 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
2110 BCE ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
2300 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) La Perla unit
2500 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
2780 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
4690 BCE ± 300 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
6220 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
6710 BCE ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed 5 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Upper Citlaltépetl ignimbrite
7030 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Lower Citlaltépetl ignimbrite
7530 BCE ± 40 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected)

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.

Photo Gallery


These large hills on the outskirts of the city of Huatusco, 35 km from Orizaba, are part of the massive Jamapa debris-avalanche deposit, which covers an area of several hundred sq km. The avalanche was produced during the late Pleistocene by collapse of the northern side of Torrecillas volcano, a predecessor to Orizaba volcano, and created a 3.5-km-wide horseshoe-shaped caldera. The rapidly moving avalanche was able to ride up over a ridge into drainages that do not originate from Orizaba.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1997 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Pico de Orizaba (Volcán Citlaltépetl), México's highest peak and North America's highest volcano, rises 4500 m above the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain. Its 5675-m-high summit contains a 500-m-wide, oval-shaped crater that is 300 m deep. It is seen here from the NNE with the Jamapa glacier at the right above the NW-flank peak of Sarcofago (right center). The present summit cone was constructed during the Holocene, overtopping previously collapsed edifices. The last eruption occurred during the 19th century.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 1997 (Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México).
See title for photo information.
Pico de Orizaba, also known as Citlaltépetl ("Mountain of the Star"), is México's highest volcano and North America's third highest peak. It is seen here from the south. The snow-free peak at the left is Sierra Negra, a 4580-m-high Pleistocene volcano that was active simultaneously with Orizaba. These volcanoes mark the southernmost extent of the Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba volcanic chain.

Photo by José Macías, 1996 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
See title for photo information.
The evening sun reflects off the glacier-capped western flanks of Pico de Orizaba volcano. The knob on the left skyline is the NW-flank peak of Sarcofago. The NW-dipping lavas of Sarcofago, part of the second-generation Espolón de Oro edifice, were truncated by edifice collapse, forming a horseshoe-shaped caldera, inside which the modern cone was constructed.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
See title for photo information.
The N-S-trending Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba volcanic chain is perpendicular to the trend of the Mexican Volcanic Belt. This view southward from the summit of Cofre de Perote towards glacier-capped Pico de Orizaba in the background shows two lesser known volcanic complexes in between. The La Gloria volcanic field, also known as the Desconocido-Tecomales volcanic field, forms the dissected area in the center of the photo, and Las Cumbres volcano is the broad range that extends from in front of Orizaba to the right-center horizon.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) volcano towers above ridges of Cretaceous limestone on its ENE flank. The glacier-clad volcano was constructed during three stages, and has undergone edifice collapse on several occasions. Collapse of the initial Torrecillas volcano during the Pleistocene produced the massive Jamapa debris avalanche. It traveled down the Jamapa river and overtopped gaps in limestone foothills to reach the current area of the city of Huatusco, beyond the location of this photo.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) volcano rises above the escarpment at the eastern margin of the Mexican Altiplano. It is seen here from the SE, along the road between Puebla and Orizaba. Like other volcanoes of the Pico de Orizaba-Cofre de Perote chain, deposits of Orizaba are asymmetrically distributed around the summit vent, and extend farther to the east, in the direction of the lower-altitude coastal plain. The slopes of Sierra Negra volcano rise along the left-hand skyline above a saddle SW of Orizaba.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
A massive columnar jointed lava flow is exposed in a valley wall NE of Orizaba volcano. The roughly 530,000-year-old Calcahualco lava flow was erupted during the Torrecillas stage of the growth of Orizaba, the first of three major volcanic edifices forming the volcano. The source of this flow is now buried, but the flow may have originated from a flank vent.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Like other volcanoes in the Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba chain, Orizaba was constructed on the edge of the Altiplano and consequently has higher relief on the eastern side facing the Atlantic coastal plain. Glacier-capped Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) here towers 4200 m above fields near the town of Coscomatepec on its eastern flank. The valley to the left was affected by the voluminous clay-rich Tetelzingo debris avalanche and lahar during the late Pleistocene.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Sunrise alpenglow brilliantly colors the eastern slopes of Pico de Orizaba volcano above the town of Calcahualco. The volcano is named for the city of Orizaba below its SE flank, but is also known by the Aztec name of Citlaltépetl (Star Mountain). The volcano has a rich cultural history. Its lower slopes host Aztec villages, pyramids, and temples. Its image adorns Aztec hieroglyphics and colonial and modern paintings, woodcuts, and lithographs.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
Ice-capped Pico de Orizaba volcano is seen here from the south, with snow-free Sierra Negra volcano to its left. Sierra Negra is the southernmost major vent of the roughly NNE-SSW-trending Pico de Orizaba-Cofre de Perote volcanic chain. The construction of Sierra Negra was contemporaneous with the mid-Pleistocene early stages in the formation of Orizaba volcano. Sierra Negra is composed of andesitic and basaltic-andesite lava flows and produced numerous pyroclastic flows distributed mainly SW and west of the volcano.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
México's highest volcano, Pico de Orizaba, is seen here in an aerial view from the SE. The modern Citlaltépetl cone, marking the upper part of the volcano, was constructed within horseshoe-shaped calderas formed by the collapse of previous edifices. The orange-brown ridges at the middle left and and center are remnants of the oldest edifice, Torrecillas. The lighter-colored area between these two ridges is a thick, blocky historical dacitic lava flow erupted from the modern Citlaltépetl cone.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 1997 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
See title for photo information.
Glacier-clad Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) rises 50 km to the SW above rolling terain south of the town of Xico, on the lower slopes of Cofre de Perote volcano. European discovery of Orizaba took place in 1518, when the explorer Anton de Alaminos sailed along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, and the following year, when Hernando Cortez passed over the Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba range along the "Route of Cortez" between Veracruz and Mexico City.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 2000 (Smithsonian Institution).
See title for photo information.
A blocky dacitic lava flow descended the SW flank of Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) in historical time. This lava flow is about 110 m thick and up to 1.3 km wide at its terminus, 5.5 km from the summit crater. The lava flow is a composite of at least 8 individual flow lobes. A portion of the flow that was diverted by topography to the west can be seen at the middle left flank. The small peak on the lower SW flank to the left of the lava flow is Cerro Colorado, a <90,000-year-old dacitic lava dome that produced pyroclastic flows to the west.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 2002 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
See title for photo information.
The steep-walled summit crater of Pico de Orizaba (Volcán Citlaltépetl) is 400 x 500 m wide. The crater floor lies 300 m below the summit on the NW side of the crater rim. Climbers' tracks can be seen on the Jamapa Glacier at the lower right, the standard climbing route on Mexico's highest volcano. The first climb of the volcano may have been by followers of the Toltec Indian leader Quetzalcoatl, who were said to bury him at the summit in about 1175 CE. Humboldt noted in 1804 that Mexicans obtained sulfur from the volcano.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 1997 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
See title for photo information.
Pico de Orizaba (Volcán Citlaltépetl) was constructed on the edge of the Altiplano and has substantially higher relief on its eastern (right) side. Debris avalanches and lahars produced by edifice collapse have swept down the eastern flanks of the volcano onto the coastal plain. A prominent blocky dacitic lava flow with lateral levees is visible on the lower SW flank below the summit icecap. The eroded peak at the lower left beyond the lava flow terminus is 4580-m-high Sierra Negra, the southernmost peak of the Cofre de Perote-Orizaba volcanic chain.

NASA Landsat satellite image, 1999 (courtesy of Loren Siebert, University of Akron).
See title for photo information.
The 70-km-long NNE-SSW-trending Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba chain is the easternmost of three volcanic chains perpendicular to the trend of the Mexican Volcanic Belt (MVB). The andesitic-dacitic Cofre de Perote shield volcano and snow-capped Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) anchor the northern and southern ends of the chain, respectively. As with other transverse chains in the MVB, volcanism has migrated to the south, but here young satellitic cones of Pleistocene-to-Holocene age are scattered throughout the chain.

ASTER satellite image, 2001 (National Aeronautical and Space Administration, processed by Doug Edmonds).
See title for photo information.

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database


The following 1 samples associated with this volcano can be found in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections. Catalog number links will open a window with more information.

Catalog Number Sample Description
NMNH 61330 Hornblende andesite

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