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Report on Pacaya (Guatemala) — April 1991


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 4 (April 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Pacaya (Guatemala) Strombolian activity declines to ash emission as seismicity decreases

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Pacaya (Guatemala) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199104-342110



14.382°N, 90.601°W; summit elev. 2569 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

In comparison with observations made in early February (16:02), visits to the volcano in mid-March-early April revealed a decrease in eruptive activity. A small vent with night glow on the W flank (50 m below the summit), periodically the source of incandescent lava fragments that rolled down the upper flank, had disappeared by 21 March. Strombolian activity from a cinder cone in the W quarter of MacKenney Cone's 1987 crater ejected material to 100-150 m height. The number of explosions declined from about 20 to 1-2/hour over the mid March-early April observation period, and during the first week of April, the primary ejecta changed from lava spatter to ash. Some collapse occurred on the cone's interior walls. Two explosions, observed during a 3-hour period on 10 April, emitted ash clouds hundreds of meters high. Lava flow activity, prominent from mid-November through February (15:11-12 and 16:02), declined, and ceased entirely by 10 April. A decrease in seismicity, coincident with the decrease of eruptive activity, began about 1 April and continued as of 19 April.

Geological Summary. Eruptions from Pacaya are frequently visible from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. This complex basaltic volcano was constructed just outside the southern topographic rim of the 14 x 16 km Pleistocene Amatitlán caldera. A cluster of dacitic lava domes occupies the southern caldera floor. The post-caldera Pacaya massif includes the older Pacaya Viejo and Cerro Grande stratovolcanoes and the currently active Mackenney stratovolcano. Collapse of Pacaya Viejo between 600 and 1,500 years ago produced a debris-avalanche deposit that extends 25 km onto the Pacific coastal plain and left an arcuate scarp inside which the modern Pacaya volcano (Mackenney cone) grew. The NW-flank Cerro Chino crater was last active in the 19th century. During the past several decades, activity has consisted of frequent Strombolian eruptions with intermittent lava flow extrusion that has partially filled in the caldera moat and covered the flanks of Mackenney cone, punctuated by occasional larger explosive eruptions that partially destroy the summit.

Information Contacts: Otoniel Matías and Rodolfo Morales, Sección de Vulcanología, INSIVUMEH; Michael Conway, Michigan Technological Univ, Houghton, USA; P. Vetsch, SVG, Switzerland; Thierry Basset, Univ de Genève, Switzerland; Alan Deino, Berkeley Geochronology Laboratory, Institute of Human Origins, USA.