Nevados de Chillán

Photo of this volcano
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 36.863°S
  • 71.377°W

  • 3212 m
    10535 ft

  • 357070
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

Most Recent Weekly Report: 4 May-10 May 2016 Citation IconCite this Report


Servicio Nacional de Geología and Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS) reported that the seismic stations monitoring Nevados de Chillán's Volcán Arrau dome complex recorded an explosion at 1303 on 9 May; an associated plume rose 1.7 km above the crater rim. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the middle level on a three-color scale, and the public was reminded not to approach the craters within a 2-km radius.

Sources: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN), Oficina Nacional de Emergencia-Ministerio del Interior (ONEMI)


Most Recent Bulletin Report: March 2004 (BGVN 29:03) Citation IconCite this Report


A small eruption, the first since 1986, during August-September 2003

Nevados de Chillán was active from 1973 through 1983; after that, phreatomagmatic eruptions were reported to have almost ended. A small (VEI 1) eruption, the first since 1986, was noted by local inhabitants and tourists in August-September 2003. Low magnitude explosive events occurred over the week ending 27 August 2003, sending brown-gray to white gas-and-ash columns up to heights of 500 m for periods of up to 25 minutes. Resulting deposits were ~ 1 cm deep over a sharply defined 2.2 km wide zone to the SSE. Prevailing winds were strong around the time of the eruption (figure 2). Explosions then became more sporadic, occurring at 2-3 day intervals, until ceasing in mid-September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Strong prevailing winds blowing over the Nevados de Chillán complex caused the resulting plume to remain at low altitude. This photo was taken in early September 2003. The plume blew towards the SSE. Courtesy Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria.

An inspection of the eruption site on 22 January 2004 by Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria scientists revealed a new compound, fissure-like, double crater in the saddle between the cones Nuevo (which erupted during 1906-1945) and Arrau (which erupted during 1973-1986) (figure 3). This new ~ 64 m long double crater consisted of a NW situated, 25 x 14 m crater and a SE situated, 39 x 28 m crater. These craters lie to the NW of Arrau cone and become surrounded by an area of intense fumaroles towards Nuevo cone. The fumaroles are water-vapor rich but give off a weak sulfur odor. On Nuevo's E side they had temperatures of up to 88°C (table 1). While no previous measurements were available, this area showed more intense fumarolic activity than seen during a January 1994 visit and 1998 air photographs. During the recent visit the local heat-flow appeared concentrated adjacent to Nuevo cone, rather than Arrau cone. This, and the fissure-like form of the 2003 crater, were taken as evidence for possible future eruptions closer to Nuevo cone.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Aerial view and cross section of the Nevados de Chillán complex, showing the new crater in relation to Nuevo and Arrau cones, and indicating SSE-oriented ash dispersal. Courtesy Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria.

Table 1. Site names, locations (as UTM coordinates), and fumarole temperatures describing conditions at Nevados de Chillán on 22 January 2004. The fumaroles were located near the 2003 vent. Courtesy of J.A. Naranjo and L.E. Lara, SERNAGEOMIN.

[Skip text table]
    Site              UTM N      UTM W     Temperature                                           (°C +- 0.5)    SW Nuevo flank    288.086   5916.963       87.2    E Nuevo rim       288.138   5917.522       87.9    Between craters   288.263   5917.547       57.4

In addition to dispersal and deposition of loose ash, the January inspection noted agglutinates forming a series of 2 m long ridges or 'dunes' (figure 4). The agglutinates consisted of wet black clusters of ash spheres with 0.5- to 1-cm diameters. A large number of dead insects in the agglutinated ash suggested extreme conditions such as the presence of toxic gasses. When dry, the ash was dark gray with a lithic-rich polymodal composition. Particle sizes ranged from dust to 4-5 mm, of which 5-10% was coarse-grained, lithic-rich lapilli composed of black, gray, and red aphyric andesites and ~ 60% was fine- to medium-grained lapilli composed of lithic clasts, quartz, and plagioclase crystals. Below the 1 mm size range, black glassy shards appeared with cleaved vesicle surfaces and blocky or plate-like shapes. The remnant fraction was light-gray fine ash.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. January 2004 view of dried ash deposits from Nevados de Chillán's 2003 eruption. The darker deposits lay atop remnant snow pack. Courtesy Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria.

Reference. Naranjo, J.A., and Lara, L.E., 2004, August-September 2003 small vulcanian eruption at the Nevados de Chillán Volcanic Complex (36°50'S), Southern Andes (Chile). Revista Geológica de Chile, Vol. 31, No. 2, p. 359-366. DOI: 10.4067/S0716-02082004000200011.

Information Contacts: Jose A. Naranjo and Luis E. Lara, Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria (SERNAGEOMIN), Av. Santa Maria 0104, Santiago, Chile (Email: jnaranjo@sernageomin.cl; lelara@sernageomin.cl).

Weekly Reports - Index


2016: January | April | May
2015: December
2009: January


4 May-10 May 2016 Citation IconCite this Report


Servicio Nacional de Geología and Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS) reported that the seismic stations monitoring Nevados de Chillán's Volcán Arrau dome complex recorded an explosion at 1303 on 9 May; an associated plume rose 1.7 km above the crater rim. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the middle level on a three-color scale, and the public was reminded not to approach the craters within a 2-km radius.

Sources: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN); Oficina Nacional de Emergencia-Ministerio del Interior (ONEMI)


13 April-19 April 2016 Citation IconCite this Report


Servicio Nacional de Geología and Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS) reported that during 1-15 April mostly white vapor emissions rose above Nevados de Chillán's Volcán Arrau dome complex; a small amount of ash was present in the emissions during 7-9 April, rising at most 400 m. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the middle level on a three-color scale, and the public was reminded not to approach the craters within a 2-km radius.

Source: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN)


27 January-2 February 2016 Citation IconCite this Report


Servicio Nacional de Geología and Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS) reported that at 1425 on 29 January a phreatic explosion at Nevados de Chillán's Volcán Arrau dome complex generated an ash emission that was associated with a seismic tremor signal. During an overflight on 30 January volcanologists observed that the series of recent phreatic explosions had formed a new crater about 50 m from Arrau Crater, on the E flank. The new crater was 25-30 m wide and at a similar elevation as the crater formed on 8 January. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the middle level on a three-color scale.

Source: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN)


13 January-19 January 2016 Citation IconCite this Report


Servicio Nacional de Geología and Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS) reported that at 1755 on 8 January a phreatic explosion at Nevados de Chillán generated a short-duration ash emission and was associated with a long-period seismic event. At least one phreatic explosion occurred on 9 January, generating ash emissions. During an overflight that same day volcanologists observed a new crater on the E flank of the Volcán Nuevo lava-dome complex, about 40 m from the edge of the crater. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the middle level on a three-color scale.

Source: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN)


30 December-5 January 2016 Citation IconCite this Report


Servicio Nacional de Geología and Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS) reported that increasing seismicity at Nevados de Chillán and increased activity of the hydrothermal system prompted an Alert Level increase to Yellow, on a three-color scale. During 1-31 December the seismic network recorded 1,259 seismic events, including 186 volcano-tectonic events with a maximum local M (LM) of 1.8 located 17 km NNW at a depth of 4 km, 1,030 long-period earthquakes with a maximum LM 1.7, 40 short episodes of spasmodic tremor, and three tornillo-type events. The webcam recorded a small white plume rising from the crater on 9 December.

Source: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN)


21 January-27 January 2009 Citation IconCite this Report


Based on a SIGMET and analysis of satellite imagery, the Buenos Aires VAAC reported that during 21-22 January ash plumes from Nevados de Chillán rose to altitudes of 3.7-6.1 km (12,000-20,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted 50-80 km SE. The VAAC also reported that an ash plume from Callaqui, a nearby volcano 120 km S, drifted NE on 22 January.

Source: Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


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.

07/1979 (SEAN 04:07) Eruption continuing since 1973

03/2004 (BGVN 29:03) A small eruption, the first since 1986, during August-September 2003




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


July 1979 (SEAN 04:07) Citation IconCite this Report


Eruption continuing since 1973

When visited by Oscar González-Ferrán on 21 February 1979, the eruption of Nevados de Chillán that began in July 1973 was continuing. An explosion lasting 1.5 hours produced a cloud, containing bombs, [blocks], and ash, that rose almost 2 km before reaching a windy layer that prevented further upward movement. The new cone had grown to about the same height as the adjacent 1906 cone [Volcán Nuevo], where fumarolic activity persisted (figure 1).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Sketch of the Nevados de Chillán complex; the upper sketch shows details of the area active on 21 February 1979. Courtesy of Oscar González-Ferrán.

[Hugo Moreno reports that by 1983 the phreatomagmatic eruption had almost ended. From 1983 to 1987, only a few explosions have been reported (about one every 2 months). These generated small pyroclastic flows, by column collapse, over the snow cover. By late 1987, the dome extruded earlier in the eruption had been covered by tephra that built a new cone (named Tata) about 30 m higher than neighboring Volcán Nuevo.]

Further Reference. Deruelle, B., 1977, New activity of the Nevados de Chillán: C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, serie D, v. 284, p. 1651-1654.

Information Contacts: O. González-Ferrán, Univ. de Chile, Santiago.


March 2004 (BGVN 29:03) Citation IconCite this Report


A small eruption, the first since 1986, during August-September 2003

Nevados de Chillán was active from 1973 through 1983; after that, phreatomagmatic eruptions were reported to have almost ended. A small (VEI 1) eruption, the first since 1986, was noted by local inhabitants and tourists in August-September 2003. Low magnitude explosive events occurred over the week ending 27 August 2003, sending brown-gray to white gas-and-ash columns up to heights of 500 m for periods of up to 25 minutes. Resulting deposits were ~ 1 cm deep over a sharply defined 2.2 km wide zone to the SSE. Prevailing winds were strong around the time of the eruption (figure 2). Explosions then became more sporadic, occurring at 2-3 day intervals, until ceasing in mid-September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Strong prevailing winds blowing over the Nevados de Chillán complex caused the resulting plume to remain at low altitude. This photo was taken in early September 2003. The plume blew towards the SSE. Courtesy Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria.

An inspection of the eruption site on 22 January 2004 by Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria scientists revealed a new compound, fissure-like, double crater in the saddle between the cones Nuevo (which erupted during 1906-1945) and Arrau (which erupted during 1973-1986) (figure 3). This new ~ 64 m long double crater consisted of a NW situated, 25 x 14 m crater and a SE situated, 39 x 28 m crater. These craters lie to the NW of Arrau cone and become surrounded by an area of intense fumaroles towards Nuevo cone. The fumaroles are water-vapor rich but give off a weak sulfur odor. On Nuevo's E side they had temperatures of up to 88°C (table 1). While no previous measurements were available, this area showed more intense fumarolic activity than seen during a January 1994 visit and 1998 air photographs. During the recent visit the local heat-flow appeared concentrated adjacent to Nuevo cone, rather than Arrau cone. This, and the fissure-like form of the 2003 crater, were taken as evidence for possible future eruptions closer to Nuevo cone.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Aerial view and cross section of the Nevados de Chillán complex, showing the new crater in relation to Nuevo and Arrau cones, and indicating SSE-oriented ash dispersal. Courtesy Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria.

Table 1. Site names, locations (as UTM coordinates), and fumarole temperatures describing conditions at Nevados de Chillán on 22 January 2004. The fumaroles were located near the 2003 vent. Courtesy of J.A. Naranjo and L.E. Lara, SERNAGEOMIN.

[Skip text table]
    Site              UTM N      UTM W     Temperature                                           (°C +- 0.5)    SW Nuevo flank    288.086   5916.963       87.2    E Nuevo rim       288.138   5917.522       87.9    Between craters   288.263   5917.547       57.4

In addition to dispersal and deposition of loose ash, the January inspection noted agglutinates forming a series of 2 m long ridges or 'dunes' (figure 4). The agglutinates consisted of wet black clusters of ash spheres with 0.5- to 1-cm diameters. A large number of dead insects in the agglutinated ash suggested extreme conditions such as the presence of toxic gasses. When dry, the ash was dark gray with a lithic-rich polymodal composition. Particle sizes ranged from dust to 4-5 mm, of which 5-10% was coarse-grained, lithic-rich lapilli composed of black, gray, and red aphyric andesites and ~ 60% was fine- to medium-grained lapilli composed of lithic clasts, quartz, and plagioclase crystals. Below the 1 mm size range, black glassy shards appeared with cleaved vesicle surfaces and blocky or plate-like shapes. The remnant fraction was light-gray fine ash.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. January 2004 view of dried ash deposits from Nevados de Chillán's 2003 eruption. The darker deposits lay atop remnant snow pack. Courtesy Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria.

Reference. Naranjo, J.A., and Lara, L.E., 2004, August-September 2003 small vulcanian eruption at the Nevados de Chillán Volcanic Complex (36°50'S), Southern Andes (Chile). Revista Geológica de Chile, Vol. 31, No. 2, p. 359-366. DOI: 10.4067/S0716-02082004000200011.

Information Contacts: Jose A. Naranjo and Luis E. Lara, Servicio Nacional de Geoligica y Mineria (SERNAGEOMIN), Av. Santa Maria 0104, Santiago, Chile (Email: jnaranjo@sernageomin.cl; lelara@sernageomin.cl).

Eruptive History


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


Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
2016 Jan 8 2016 May 9 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
[ 2009 Jan 21 ] [ 2009 Jan 22 ] Uncertain    
2003 Aug 29 2003 Sep 15 ± 5 days Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Saddle between Nuevo & Arrau volcanoes
1973 Jul 1986 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Arrau (SE flank of Volcán Nuevo)
[ 1972 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain     Volcán Nuevo
[ 1965 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain     Volcán Nuevo
1946 1947 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Nuevo
[ 1945 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain     Volcán Nuevo
1935 Jul 2 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations West flank of Volcán Viejo
1934 Jan 17 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Nuevo
1928 Nov 30 1929 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Nuevo
1927 Apr 10 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Nuevo
[ 1923 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2   Volcán Nuevo
1914 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Nuevo
1907 Unknown Confirmed 1 Historical Observations Volcán Nuevo
1906 Aug 6 1906 Dec Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Nuevo
1898 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Viejo
1893 Mar 4 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Viejo
1891 Feb Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Viejo
[ 1883 Jan 21 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2   Volcán Viejo (Volcán las Aguilas?)
1877 Feb 12 (?) Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Chillán
1872 Jul 22 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Volcán Chillán
1864 Nov 30 1865 Feb 3 ± 1 days Confirmed 3 Historical Observations NW flank of Cerro Blanco (Santa Gertrudis)
1861 Jun 1863 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations NW flank of Cerro Blanco (Santa Gertrudis)
1860 Jul 25 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations W flank of Volcán Viejo (Volcán Renegado)
1752 Jan 30 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations Cerro Blanco and Volcán Viejo?
1749 (?) 1751 Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Volcán Viejo
1650 ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations Volcán Viejo
0320 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Volcán Viejo
1510 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Volcán Viejo
3660 BCE ± 500 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Volcán Viejo
6890 BCE ± 500 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Volcán Viejo

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


Volcán Nuevo, the newest cone of the three-peaked Nevados de Chillán volcano, was formed beginning in 1861. It grew between Cerro Blanco and Volcán Viejo, which anchor the NW and SE ends of the complex, respectively. Volcán Nuevo has been the most active volcano of the complex since its birth. In 1973, the year of this photo, a long-term eruption began on the SE flank of Volcán Nuevo, producing a cone that by 1987 had grown above Volcán Nuevo. Nevados de Chillán is one of the most active volcanoes of the Central Andes of Chile.

Photo by Hugo Moreno, 1973 (University of Chile).
See title for photo information.
Long-term phreatomagmatic eruptions accompanying formation of a new lava dome on the SE flank of Volcán Nuevo began in 1973. This photo shows a small explosive eruption on February 21, 1979. Activity died down in 1983, when intermittent explosions (about one every two months) began. This continued into 1987, by which time the new cone was about 30 m taller than Volcán Nuevo.

Photo by Oscar González-Ferrán, 1979 (University of Chile).
See title for photo information.

Smithsonian Sample Collections Database


There are no samples for Nevados de Chillán in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences Rock and Ore collection.

Affiliated Sites