Barú

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  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 8.808°N
  • 82.543°W

  • 3474 m
    11395 ft

  • 346010
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

The Global Volcanism Program has no activity reports for Barú.

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The Global Volcanism Program has no Bulletin Reports available for Barú.

The westernmost volcano in Panamá, Barú, is a complex dominantly andesitic stratovolcano in the Talamanca Range near the Costa Rica border. The forested 3474-m-high volcano (also referred to as Volcán de Chiriqui) is the highest peak in Panamá, and the summit now bristles with communication towers. A large 6-km-wide summit caldera breached widely to the west was formed by a large volcanic landslide, which created a massive debris-avalanche deposit about 9000 years ago that extends onto the Pacific coastal plain, largely overlying deposits of an earlier late-Pleistocene debris avalanche. Post-collapse eruptions have constructed lava domes inside the caldera that have grown to a height exceeding that of the caldera rim. A strong explosive eruption at about 700 CE ended human occupation at the Cerro Punta archaeological site NW of the volcano. Montessus de Ballore (1884) reported a strong eruption at Barú in the mid-16th century. Sapper (1917) considered this report to be uncertain, but radiocarbon dates subsequently imply tephra deposits younger than about 500 years. Volcán Barú is the youngest major volcano in Panamá, and geothermal exploration projects have been undertaken to determine its energy potential.

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

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1550 ± 10 years Unknown Confirmed   Historical Observations
1340 ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed   Tephrochronology
1130 ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
0710 ± 30 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
0260 ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
1270 BCE ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
7420 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)
9280 BCE ± 30 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (corrected)

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.



Synonyms
Chiriqui, Volcán de | Chirriqui
The summit lava dome complex of Volcán Barú is seen in an aerial view from the SE. The road at the right leads to communication towers at the summit of the volcano. The youngest domes of Barú, one of which contains a prominent summit crater, are at the left center. The ridge extending across the photo beyond the domes is the northern wall of Barú's large horseshoe-shaped caldera. The slopes of Volcán Colorado volcano appear at the upper left, and the rounded lava dome at the upper right is Cerro Punta, at the eastern foot of Volcán Colorado.

Photo by Tom Casadevall, 1994 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The 3474-m-high summit of Barú volcano, the highest peak in Panama, lies immediately above the wing tip in this view from the SE. Communication towers line the ridge to the right of the summit. Behind it is the northern wall of Barú's large horseshoe-shaped caldera. Clouds drape the summit of Volcán Colorado at the upper right, a Pleistocene volcano immediately NW of Barú.

Photo by Tom Casadevall, 1994 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The broad massif of Volcán Barú fills the frame in an aerial view from the ESE. The summit lava dome complex of the volcano appears beyond the back wall of a large breached caldera that forms an irregular ridge near the summit. The flat-topped peak beyond Volcán Barú at the upper right is Volcán Colorado (also known as Tisingal), a Pleistocene volcano immediately NW of Barú. Like Barú, its summit has been truncated by a large breached caldera.

Photo by Tom Casadevall, 1994 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The outer eastern flanks of the large horseshoe-shaped caldera of Volcán Barú appear in the foreground, with the northern wall of the caldera forming the ridge at the right. The 10-km-long northern caldera wall ranges from a maximum altitude of 3300 m (the sharp peak at the right) to 600 m elevation at its base near the town of Nuevo Bambito, which lies in the grassy area at right center. The road at the left crosses over the caldera rim into its moat and then up to the top of a post-collapse lava dome complex that forms the summit of the volcano.

Photo by Tom Casadevall, 1994 (U.S. Geological Survey).
The summit lava dome complex of Volcán Barú fills the frame in this view from the NE. The dome complex was emplaced within a large 6 x 10 km wide horseshoe-shaped caldera, whose eastern rim forms the ridge extending across the bottom of the photo. The peak at the far left is part of the SE rim of this caldera. Most pyroclastic deposits erupted after the formation of this horseshoe-shaped caldera have been dated at less than 12,400 years before present.

Photo by Tom Casadevall, 1994 (U.S. Geological Survey).
A color mottling characteristic of debris-avalanche deposits is visible in a roadcut near the town of Cuesta de Piedra, south of Volcán Barú along the road to Hato del Volcán. A massive debris-avalanche deposit produced by collapse of the volcano extends southward to beyond the Pan-American highway.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Las Lagunas, a group of small ponds west of Volcán Barú, formed between hummocks of a massive debris avalanche that originated from collapse of the volcano. Las Lagunas lies 5 km WSW of the town of Hato del Volcán and 19 km from the headwall of the collapse scarp.

Photo by Paul Kimberly, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
The irregular, hummocky terrain extending to the south toward the Pacific coastal plain is part of a massive debris-avalanche deposit that originated from edifice collapse of Volcán Barú. This view is from Cerro Pando, a lava dome west of Volcán Barú. The Volcán Barú complex underwent edifice failure on at least two occasions, producing voluminous debris-avalanche deposits that form a broad blanket reaching beyond the Pan-American highway to the Pacific coastal plain.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
The northern caldera wall of Volcán Barú is seen here from near the summit of the volcano. The caldera wall at this point rises about 300 m above the caldera moat, much of which has been filled in by growth of the summit lava dome complex. The massive horseshoe-shaped caldera formed as a result of edifice collapse and is about 10 km long and 6 km wide. The summit dome as well as the two forested lobes at the lower right are part of a compound dome complex that formed above the primary conduit near the headwall of the breached caldera.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
The youngest domes of the compound lava dome complex of Volcán Barú lie across a narrow moat SW of the summit dome. These young domes rise about 80 m above the moat. The summit of the SE-most dome (left) is cut by a roughly 200-m-wide crater. Barú is Panama's youngest major volcano, and harmonic tremor was detected beneath the Barú complex in 1963.

Photo by Paul Kimberly, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Clouds drape the SE flanks of Volcán Barú as seen from the road to the town of Boquete. The area around Barú, also known as Volcán de Chiriquí, is a popular resort area in western Panamá near the border with Costa Rica. The volcano rises to 3474 m above the Pacific coastal plain to form the country's highest peak as well as the highest Central American volcano south of Guatemala.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Volcán Barú was constructed on the SW flanks of the Talamanca Range, which extends into Costa Rica and contains grabbroic to granodioritic intrusions. The SW flanks of the volcano in this view are dominated by deposits produced by massive slope failure of Volcán Barú. The absence of caldera collapse associated with magma chamber evacuation at Barú and neighboring Cerro Colorado volcano has made this area less promising for geothermal development than other areas in Panama.

Photo by Kathleen Johnson, 1998 (University of New Orleans).
The wedge-shaped fields of Finca Respingo lie on the NW flank of Volcán Barú and are reached from the village of Cerro Punta. The breached caldera, whose northern rim forms the horizon, has funneled most products (including pyroclastic flows, debris avalanches, and lahars) to the west and south, while the northern side of the volcano has been affected mostly by airfall deposits.

Photo by Kathleen Johnson, 1995 (University of New Orleans).
The lava dome complex in the center of the photo is the youngest feature of Volcán Barú. It was constructed immediately to the west of a remnant of an older lava dome that forms the horizon. Communications towers can be seen on the ridge to the right of the summit. The ridge on the left horizon is part of the NE wall of Barú's breached caldera.

Photo by Kathleen Johnson, 1998 (University of New Orleans).
The light brown area in the center of the photo is the surface of lake sediments deposited in a former small lake ponded between the eastern caldera wall and the central lava dome complex that was constructed within the caldera. The irregular ridge in the center is the northern caldera wall. The steep switchbacked dirt road leads from Boquete up the outer flanks of the the volcano into the caldera moat and then ascends the flanks of the post-caldera dome complex to the summit of Volcán Barú (upper left).

Photo by Kathleen Johnson, 1998 (University of New Orleans).
The SW flanks of forested Volcán Barú, Panama's highest peak, rise above agricultural lands at its base. The complex 3474-m-high stratovolcano in the Talamanca Range of western Panama is also known as Volcán de Chiriqui. A large 6-km-wide summit caldera was breached to the west (lower left) as a result of a large volcanic landslide, which formed a massive debris-avalanche deposit that underlies much of the farmlands in the foreground.

Photo by Kathleen Johnson, 1995 (University of New Orleans).
This false-color Landsat image shows two large Quaternary volcanoes in western Panamá. Barú volcano is at the upper right below the cloud cover, and Volcán Colorado lies at the top center. Virtually the entire lower left quadrant of the image is underlain by debris-avalanche deposits produced by collapse of these two volcanoes, which left large calderas breached widely to the west and SW, respectively. The light-colored area west of Barú consists of pyroclastic-flow and lahar deposits related to growth of lava domes inside the caldera of Barú.

National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA), courtesy of Kathleen Johnson (University of New Orleans).
The large breached caldera of Volcán Barú is seen here from the west, with its northern wall extending downward left of the summit. The summit itself is a large lava dome complex constructed inside the caldera near its eastern headwall. The forested horizontal N-S-trending ridge below and to the right of the summit dome complex consists of toreva blocks, which are segments of the former summit that slid to the west without disaggregating. The towns of Nuevo California and Hato del Volcán appear at the foot of the volcano at the right.

Photo by Kathleen Johnson, 1998 (University of New Orleans).
The 10-km-long northern wall of Volcán Barú's horseshoe-shaped caldera extends from the grassy ridge at the lower left to the sharp peak at the upper left. The broad ridge at the center is the large lava dome complex that filled much of the breached caldera after its collapse. The light-colored flat valley floor of Río Macho de Monte in the foreground is underlain by pyroclastic-flow deposits related to growth of the summit lava domes. The town of Nuevo Bambito is visible at the bottom of the photo.

Photo by Kathleen Johnson, 1995 (University of New Orleans).

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.

Behling H, 2000. A 2860-year high-resolution pollen and charcoal record from the cordillera de Talamanca in Panama: a history of human and volcanic forest disturbance. Holocene, 10: 387-393.

de Boer J Z, Defant M J, Stewart R H, Restrepo J F, Clark L F, Ramirez A H, 1988. Quaternary calc-alkaline volcanism in western Panama: regional variation and implication for the plate tectonic framework. J South Amer Earth Sci, 1: 275-293.

Herrick J A, Siebert L, Rose W I, 2013. Lsarge-volume Barriles and Caisan debris avalanche deposits from Volcan Baru, Panama. In: Rose W I, Palma J L, Escobar Wolf R, Varley N (eds), Understanding Open-Vent Volcanism and Related Hazards. {Geol Soc Amer Spec Pap}, 498: 141-162.

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

Innocenti F, 1986. Estudios petrologicos adicionales de algunas vulcanitas del sistema Baru y Valle de Anton. IRHE - OLADE, unpublished rpt, 22 p and tables.

Innocenti F, 1985b. Petrografia de la region Baru-Colorado. IRHE - OLADE, upublished rpt, unpaginated.

IRHE, 1987. Final report on the reconnaissance study of geothermal resources in the Republic of Panama. IRHE - OLADE - BID, 72 p.

Linares O F, Sheets P D, Rosenthal E J, 1975. Prehistoric agriculture in tropical highlands. Science, 187: 137-145.

Montessus de Ballore F, 1884. Temblores y Erupciones Volcanicas en Centro-America. San Salvador: F Sagrini, 246 p.

Sapper K, 1917. Katalog der Geschichtlichen Vulkanausbruche. Strasbourg: Karl J Trubner, 358 p.

Sherrod D R, Vallance J W, Tapi Espinosa A, McGeehin J P, 2008. Volcan Baru--eruptive history and volcano-hazards assessment. U S Geol Surv Open-File Rpt, 2007-1401: 1-33, 1 plate, scale 1:100,000..

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.

Universidad Tecnologica Panama, 1992. Evaluacion de la amenaza, estimacion de la vulnerabilidad y del factor costo de riesgo del Volcan Baru, Republica de Panama. Univ Tecnologica Panama, Fac Ingenieria Civil - CEPREDENAC, 129 p and 1:100,000 scale map.

Volcano Types

Stratovolcano
Caldera
Lava dome(s)

Tectonic Setting

Subduction zone
Continental crust (> 25 km)

Rock Types

Major
Andesite / Basaltic Andesite
Minor
Basalt / Picro-Basalt
Dacite
Trachyandesite / Basaltic trachy-andesite
Trachyte / Trachyandesite

Population

Within 5 km
Within 10 km
Within 30 km
Within 100 km
118
6,983
79,933
756,597

Affiliated Databases

Large Eruptions of Barú 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.