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  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 11.826°N
  • 85.968°W

  • 1344 m
    4408 ft

  • 344110
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit

  • Volcano

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for Mombacho.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Mombacho.

Index of Monthly Reports

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.

12/1980 (SEAN 05:12) Small intermittent plume

03/1982 (SEAN 07:03) Four hot-springs located

01/1988 (SEAN 13:01) Noisy gas emissions from fumarole in collapse crater

02/1991 (BGVN 16:02) Continued gas emission

11/1994 (BGVN 19:11) Venting continues from fumarole in south crater; two other fumarole areas located

02/2012 (BGVN 37:02) Seismicity and fumarole characteristics from 2000 to 2011

Contents of Monthly Reports

All information contained in these reports is preliminary and subject to change.

12/1980 (SEAN 05:12) Small intermittent plume

In late 1980 a small, intermittent plume was visible, rising from the SE section of the summit.

Information Contacts: R. Stoiber, S. Williams, H.R. Naslund, L. Malinconico, M. Conrad, Dartmouth College; M. Carr, J. Walker, Rutgers Univ.; A. Creusot, Instituto Nicaraguense de Energía.

03/1982 (SEAN 07:03) Four hot-springs located

"Paolo Pisani, a consultant to INE, reported finding four previously unknown low-temperature hot springs on the S side of Mombacho. These are not believed to be new, however."

Information Contacts: S. Williams, R. Stoiber, Dartmouth College; I. Menyailov, V. Shapar, IVP, Kamchatka; D. Fajardo B., INETER.

01/1988 (SEAN 13:01) Noisy gas emissions from fumarole in collapse crater

A fumarole emitting gas with a loud noise has been seen in the southern collapse crater in 1986 and 1987.

Information Contacts: B. van Wyk de Vries, H. Rymer, and G. Brown, Open Univ; P. Hradecky and H. Taleno, INETER.

02/1991 (BGVN 16:02) Continued gas emission

"The fumarole in the S collapse crater continued to emit gas."

Information Contacts: B. van Wyk de Vries, O. Castellón, A. Murales, and V. Tenorio, INETER.

11/1994 (BGVN 19:11) Venting continues from fumarole in south crater; two other fumarole areas located

The fumarole that has been active since at least 1986 continued to vent vapor in November and December 1993. A strong sulfur odor was detected even when the wind was blowing towards the fumarole. This observation led to the discovery of two other previously unreported fumarole fields (figure 1). Vapor was seen rising from both, but they were not approached closely; neither appeared to be a new feature.

Figure 1. Map of the Mombacho summit area, showing locations of reported and previously unreported fumarole areas. Courtesy of B. van Wyk de Vries and P. Hernandez.

Information Contacts: B. van Wyk de Vries, Open Univ; Pedro Hernandez, INETER.

02/2012 (BGVN 37:02) Seismicity and fumarole characteristics from 2000 to 2011

Our BGVN reports discussing Mombacho volcano have discussed variable fumarolic gas emissions and characteristics of hot springs since 1980. Data collection from three distinct fumaroles became available by the Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) starting in 1994 (BGVN 19:11). Since January 2000, the Geophysics Department of INETER has published “Sismos y Volcanes de Nicaragua,” a monthly bulletin for volcanoes throughout Nicaragua. Status and seismicity reports for Mombacho appear as early as December 2000. Here we present a summary of field observations including local seismicity from 2000 to 2010, and thermal measurements from Mombacho’s fumaroles from July 2001 to December 2011.

Local seismicity from 2000 through 2010. INETER reported a significant number of earthquake magnitudes and hypocenter locations in 2000 (table 1). A total of 14 events were registered and located during July-October. Few earthquakes were registered after 2000, with the largest magnitudes being ML 2.6-2.7. One seismic station with a radio repeater is located on Mombacho’s flanks ~1.5 km to the NW of the summit.

Table 1. Located earthquakes recorded near Mombacho from 2000 through 2010. For each year, the table lists the number of located earthquakes, the range of their local magnitudes (ML), the range of their focal depths, and the average focal depths. Courtesy of INETER.

Year  # of EQs   ML      Range of focal    Avg. focal
                          depths (km)      depths (km)
2000 14 2.1-2.9 0-6 2.9 2002 4 2.3-2.7 2-14 6 2004 2 2.5-2.6 4-18 11 2010 1 2.7 70 70

Fumarole temperature monitoring from 2001 to 2011. There are three well-established fumarole areas near the summit of Mombacho located above 800 m asl (figure 1 in BGVN 19:11). Fumarole temperatures were collected intermittently between July 2001 and December 2011 (table 2). Depending on surface conditions (local rockfalls often covered fumaroles), one to five different point sources were visited during this time period. Temperatures had a wide range and were frequently low; the lowest temperatures were recorded in November 2009 (81°C), March 2011 (61.5°C), and June 2011 (81°C). Temperatures greater than 125°C were rare; the highest measurements of 398°C were measured in August 2009, August 2010, and December 2011. INETER made numerous visits to Mombacho’s fumarole fields from 2000 to 2011 however, it wasn’t always possible to take measurements. Campaigns to fumarole sites were encumbered by dense vegetation; new trails needed to be cut for each visit, even with a time lapse as small as three months during the dry season. Temperatures were measured at fumaroles with a digital thermometer. INETER observed that landslides frequently covered fumarole sites and reported the extent of debris in their field reports: 19 August 2009, 14 May 2010, July 2010, 19 August 2010, 15 June 2011, 12 December 2011.

Table 2. Fumarole temperature data collected during campaigns to Mombacho sites from 2001 to 2011. Temperatures were measured with a handheld digital thermometer. Courtesy of INETER.

Year  Month        Temp. Range, °C
2001 July 100-110 2002 February 100-120 2003 April 96.5-120.6 July 96.5-121.0 2005 April 98.4-110.5 2007 August 95.3-123 2008 November 96.1-125 2009 August 92-398 November 81-94 2010 February 90-99 May 99-117 July 90-112 August 92-398 November 90-93 2011 March 61.5 June 81-86 December 96-302

Field observations. Field visits from December 2000 to December 2011 by INETER consistently encountered the effects of landslides within Mombacho’s southern crater. The steep walls, especially the E and W scarps, shed debris that collected within the crater. Evidence of large rockfalls was typically encountered after major rain events such as Hurricane Keith in September 2000 and a tropical storm in October 2010.

The southern crater is one of two dramatic collapse amphitheaters (figure 2). The collapse scars show up as high relief features in satellite imagery and topographic maps. At least three large-volume debris avalanche deposits have been attributed to Mombacho and resulted from catastrophic flank collapse (Shea and others, 2008). The long runout of the northern deposit reached Lake Nicaragua and formed the arcuate peninsula and cluster of islands, Isletas de Granada, ~11 km NE from Mombacho’s summit (close-up photos and captions are available in the GVP Photo Archive).

Figure 2. Satellite image centered on Mombacho using near-, mid-infrared, and infrared bands (Landsat bands 4,5,7). Recent rockfalls and water-poor soils appear cyan; brown-to-red areas indicate moist soils; water is black. Small ponds (irregular black shapes) are found within the Lagunetas de Mecatepe Reserve in an area mapped as debris avalanche deposits (Shea and others, 2008). Three yellow asterisks mark fumarole areas near the summit and local place names note major landmarks in the area including the city of Granada (N of the summit). The three circular features (~400 m diameter) located SW of the city of Granada, are the Granada Fissure Vents, sometimes called the La Joya alignment. Landsat acquired this ETM+ image on 27 January 2000 and it was processed by GVP (NASA Landsat Program, 2003).

Several investigations into the debris avalanche deposits of Mombacho revealed new ideas about the likely factors that led to flank failure. The geologic setting of Mombacho includes the extensive pumice-rich ignimbrite deposits from Apoyo and Las Sierras and potentially lake sediments from Lake Nicaragua (figure 3). These relatively weak units that underlie Mombacho’s edifice may have promoted gravitational spreading if the weight of the volcanic edifice caused deformation of the substratum. The near-vertical southern scarp exposes hydrothermally altered rock. This clay-rich material could have contributed to the weakening process that triggered the S-directed collapse. Deposits linked to the S-facing scarp have been mapped to the southernmost edge of the Lagunetas de Mecatepe Nature Reserve (~12 km from the summit).

Figure 3. (A) The top figure is centered on the W coast of Nicaragua where major Quaternary volcanoes are aligned in the Central American Volcanic Front (CAVF). Mombacho (M) is located on the shore of Lake Nicaragua, within the enlarged area of this map, as well as other major sites: Las Sierras (LS), Apoyo (A), and Zapatera (Z). (B) Starting in the NW, the numbers correspond to major volcanic sites: 1 Chiltepe shield (Apoyeque and Jiloa Calderas), 2 Las Sierras caldera complex, 3 Masaya caldera complex, 4 Apoyo caldera, and 5 Mombacho volcano. This composite image is modified from Shea and others (2008) and van Wyk de Vries (1993).

References. NASA Landsat Program (2003) Landsat ETM+ scene 7dt20000127, SLC-Off, USGS, Sioux Falls, Jan. 27, 2000.

Shea, T., van Wyk de Vries, B., and Pilato, M. (2008) Emplacement mechanisms of contrasting debris avalanches at Volcan Mombacho (Nicaragua), provided by structural and facies analysis. Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 70, p. 899-921.

van Wyk de Vries, B. (1993) Tectonics and magma evolution of Nicaraguan volcanic systems. [PhD thesis] Milton Keynes, The Open University, UK.

Information Contacts: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Apartado Postal 2110, Managua, Nicaragua (URL:; Global Land Cover Facility (URL: http://; Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB), NOAA/NESDIS E/SP23, NOAA Science Center Room 401, 5200 Auth Rd, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL:

Mombacho is an andesitic and basaltic stratovolcano on the shores of Lake Nicaragua south of the city of Granada that has undergone edifice collapse on several occasions. Two large horseshoe-shaped craters formed by edifice failure cut the summit on the NE and southern flanks. The NE-flank scarp was the source of a large debris avalanche that produced an arcuate peninsula and a cluster of small islands (Las Isletas) in Lake Nicaragua. Two small, well-preserved cinder cones are located on the volcano's lower northern flank. The only reported historical activity was in 1570, when a debris avalanche destroyed a village on the south side of the volcano. Although there were contemporary reports of an explosion, there is no direct evidence that the avalanche was accompanied by an eruption. Fumarolic fields and hot springs are found within the two collapse scarps and on the upper northern flank.

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

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
[ 1850 ] [ Unknown ] Discredited    
[ 1570 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    

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.


Feature Name Feature Type Elevation Latitude Longitude
Posintepe, Cerro Cone
Mombacho is a stratovolcano on the shores of Lake Nicaragua that has undergone edifice collapse on several occasions. Two horseshoe-shaped craters cut the summit on the NE and south flanks, modifying the profile of the volcano. The NE-flank scarp, whose NE wall forms the left skyline, was the source of a large debris avalanche that produced an arcuate peninsula and the Las Isletas chain of islands in Lake Nicaragua. The only reported historical activity was in 1570, when a debris avalanche destroyed a village on the south side of the volcano.

Photo by Jaime Incer, 1977.
Las Isletas, a group of islands NE of Mombacho volcano, were created by a large Holocene debris avalanche from Mombacho that swept into Lake Nicaragua. The avalanche traveled at least 12 km from Mombacho. The hummocky debris from the avalanche created an arcuate peninsula that extends into the lake as well as hundreds of small islands. This morphology is common where debris avalanches enter shallow bodies of water.

Photo by Jaime Incer, 1972.
These angular boulders are part of a debris-avalanche deposit that originated from the south side of Mombacho volcano (seen in the background), most likely in 1570 AD. The avalanche traveled 13 km from Mombacho, and destroyed a village, killing 400 persons.

Photo by Jaime Incer, 1972.
The south side of Mombacho volcano contains a horseshoe-shaped crater that was the source of a large debris avalanche in 1570 AD that swept over a village south of the volcano, killing 400 persons. The avalanche traveled 13 km to the south; contemporary accounts note that if it had occurred to the north, it would have reached the city of Granada. Contemporary accounts indicate that the volcano "exploded," but eruptive activity associated with the collapse has not been documented.

Photo by Jaime Incer.
The south side of Mombacho volcano is cut by a large horseshoe-shaped depression that left two major summit peaks. Recent landslips scar the face of the higher easternmost peak. The depression was formed during collapse of the volcano, which produced a large debris avalanche that traveled to the south. The 2-km-wide depression merges with a scarp from a NE-flank collapse, which lies on the other side of the notch in the center of the photo.

Photo by Jaime Incer, 1996.
Volcán Mombacho rises above cattle ranches on the plain of Nandaime, south of the volcano. The volcano's irregular summit with two major peaks reaching 1222 and 1333 m resulted from collapse of the top of the volcano, which left the horseshoe-shaped depression in the center of the photo. Mombacho is the centerpiece of the Mombacho Volcano Reserve, whose forested terrain contains exotic orchids, birds and primates.

Photo by Jaime Incer, 1966.
Mombacho volcano in the background collapsed during the late Pleistocene, producing a debris avalanche that swept into Lake Nicaragua, deposting debris that accumulated to form the Aseses Peninsula in the foreground. The surface of the avalanche deposit lies below the lake surface immediately offshore of the mainland, creating the Bay of Aseses in the middle of the photo. Portions of the deposit rise above the lake surface, forming hundreds of small islands.

Photo by Jaime Incer.
Las Isletas, or Isletas de Granada, are a cluster of about 500 small islands flanking the Aseses Peninsula extending into Lake Nicaragua. They were formed when the NE flank of Mombacho volcano collapsed, producing a debris avalanche that swept into the lake. A road leads down the peninsula to the settlement of El Diamante seen above the center of the photo. The peninsula is a resort area visited frequently from the nearby city of Granada. Many of the islands host vacation residences.

Photo by Jaime Incer.
The arcuate Aseses Peninsula extending 5 km into Lake Nicaragua was formed when the NE flank of Mombacho volcano collapsed producing a highly mobile debris avalanche that swept into the lake. Flanking the peninsula are hundreds of small islands, known as Las Isletas, or Isletas de Granada. These are the tops of hummocky terrain formed of debris from the avalanche, which traveled as far as 12 km from the volcano.

Photo by Jaime Incer.
An aerial view of Mombacho from the SW shows the higher eastern summit of the twin-peaked volcano at the right. In the foreground is the southernmost of two large collapse scarps that cut the edifice. The other scarp, out of view on the NE flank beyond the ridge below the summit, was the source of a large debris avalanche that swept into Lake Nicaragua, forming the Aseses Peninsula and Las Isletas at the upper left.

Photo by Franco Penalba (courtesy of Jaime Incer), 1994.
These small forested islands are hummocks of a large debris avalanche from Mombacho volcano that swept into Lake Nicaragua. The horizon is formed by Isla Zapatera volcano, SE of Mombacho.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
A small boat plies the waters of Ensenada de Aseses, with Zapatera Island forming the horizon to the SE. In the middle distance are the small island hummocks of Las Isletas, formed by a debris avalanche from Mombacho volcano, out of view to the right. The conical peak on the distant left horizon is Concepción volcano; the low, rounded peak to its left is Cerro las Banderas, a pyroclastic cone on the NE tip of Zapatera Island.

Photo by Paul Kimberly, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Two major scarps cutting Mombacho volcano (left-center) were the sources of major debris avalanches. The arcuate peninsula and island chain extending into Lake Nicaragua (known as Las Isletas or Isletas de Granada) was produced by collapse of Mombacho to the NE. The island at the right is Zapatera, a small shield volcano and maar complex. The lake at the far left fills late-Pleistocene Apoyo caldera, and the roughly N-S-trending Granada cinder cone alignment lies NNW of Mombacho and east of Lake Apoyo in this NASA Space Shuttle image (with north to the upper left).

NASA Space Shuttle image STS081-742-25, 1997 (

The following references have all been used during the compilation of data for this volcano, it is not a comprehensive bibliography. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title.

Carr M J, 1984. Symmetrical and segmented variation of physical and geochemical characterisitics of the Central American volcanic front. J Volc Geotherm Res, 20: 231-252.

Cecchi E, van Wyk de Vries B, Lavest J-M, 2005. Flank spreading and collapse of weak-cored volcanoes. Bull Volc, 67: 72-91.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Incer J, 1987. . (pers. comm.).

Mooser F, Meyer-Abich H, McBirney A R, 1958. Central America. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 6: 1-146.

Parsons Corporation, 1972. The Geology of Western Nicaragua. Nicaragua Tax Improvement and Natural Resources Inventory Project, Final Technical Rpt, v. IV.

Sapper K, 1925. The Volcanoes of Central America. Halle: Verlag Max Niemeyer, 144 p.

Shea T, van Wyk de Vries B, Pilato M, 2008. Emplacement mechanisms of contrasting debris avalanches at Volcan Mombacho (Nicaragua), provided by structural and facies analysis. Bull Volc, 70: 899-921.

Siebert L, Alvarado G E, Vallance J W, van Wyk de Vries B, 2006. Large-volume volcanic edifice failures in Central America and associated hazards. In: Rose W I, Bluth G J S, Carr M J, Ewert J W, Patino L C, Vallance J W (eds), Volcanic hazards in Central America, {Geol Soc Amer Spec Pap}, 412: 1-26.

Vallance J W, Schilling S P, Devoli G, 2001. Lahar hazards at Mombacho volcano, Nicaragua. U S Geol Surv Open-File Rpt, 01-455: 1-14.

van Wyk de Vries B, Borgia A, 1996. The role of basement in volcano deformation. In: McGuire W J, Jones A P and Neuberg J (eds) {Volcano Instability on the Earth and Other Planets}, Geol Soc London Spec Pub, 110: 95-110.

van Wyk de Vries B, Francis P W, 1997. Catastrophic collapse at stratovolcanoes induced by gradual volcano spreading. Nature, 387: 387-390.

Volcano Types


Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Andesite / Basaltic Andesite
Basalt / Picro-Basalt


Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Mombacho Information about large Quaternary eruptions (VEI >= 4) is cataloged in the Large Magnitude Explosive Volcanic Eruptions (LaMEVE) database of the Volcano Global Risk Identification and Analysis Project (VOGRIPA).
WOVOdat WOVOdat is a database of volcanic unrest; instrumentally and visually recorded changes in seismicity, ground deformation, gas emission, and other parameters from their normal baselines. It is sponsored by the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) and presently hosted at the Earth Observatory of Singapore.
EarthChem EarthChem develops and maintains databases, software, and services that support the preservation, discovery, access and analysis of geochemical data, and facilitate their integration with the broad array of other available earth science parameters. EarthChem is operated by a joint team of disciplinary scientists, data scientists, data managers and information technology developers who are part of the NSF-funded data facility Integrated Earth Data Applications (IEDA). IEDA is a collaborative effort of EarthChem and the Marine Geoscience Data System (MGDS).
Smithsonian Collections Search the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections database. Go to the "Search Rocks and Ores" tab and use the Volcano Name drop-down to find samples.