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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — May 1990


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 5 (May 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Arenal (Costa Rica) Lava flows; small Strombolian explosions; strong degassing and acid rain

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199005-345033


Costa Rica

10.463°N, 84.703°W; summit elev. 1670 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Activity was moderate during May, with intense fumarolic activity and small Strombolian explosions from the active crater (C). Weak degassing, rich in meteoric water vapor, continued from the summit crater (D). Wind was blowing towards the NW, W, and SW. Vegetation on the NW and SW flanks was most affected by acid rain and falling blocks, with much of the vegetation high on the volcano in the process of dying. The lava flow that had descended the NW flank over the past few months had reached 750 m elevation and had a four-lobed front. Two new blocky lava flows from crater C had begun to descend toward the NW and the SSW.

Seismic activity associated with the volcano was at normal levels with an average of 15 events/day. Some were associated with the small to moderate Strombolian explosions that produced clouds of ash and vapor not exceeding 1 km height. Tremor related to degassing was also recorded. Seismic activity was most frequent on 12 and 15 May, when 42 and 38 earthquakes were registered respectively. Strong erosion due to heavy rainfall on unconsolidated material caused a number of small avalanches in the Calle de Arenas (E flank) and Guillermina (NE flank) quebradas (streams) and the Agua Caliente river (SW flank).

Geological Summary. Conical Volcán Arenal is the youngest stratovolcano in Costa Rica and one of its most active. The 1670-m-high andesitic volcano towers above the eastern shores of Lake Arenal, which has been enlarged by a hydroelectric project. Arenal lies along a volcanic chain that has migrated to the NW from the late-Pleistocene Los Perdidos lava domes through the Pleistocene-to-Holocene Chato volcano, which contains a 500-m-wide, lake-filled summit crater. The earliest known eruptions of Arenal took place about 7000 years ago, and it was active concurrently with Cerro Chato until the activity of Chato ended about 3500 years ago. Growth of Arenal has been characterized by periodic major explosive eruptions at several-hundred-year intervals and periods of lava effusion that armor the cone. An eruptive period that began with a major explosive eruption in 1968 ended in December 2010; continuous explosive activity accompanied by slow lava effusion and the occasional emission of pyroclastic flows characterized the eruption from vents at the summit and on the upper western flank.

Information Contacts: R. Barquero and G. Soto, ICE; E. Fernández, J. Barquero, and V. Barboza, OVSICORI.