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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — June 1991


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 6 (June 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Arenal (Costa Rica) Frequent explosions; new lava flow

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199106-345033


Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Gas and vapor emission increased in June, as Strombolian activity decreased moderately from May. Seismometers recorded up to 65 explosions/day (on 22 June) and medium- and high-frequency tremor (>4 Hz) was recorded up to 24 hours/day (Univ Nacional network). Seismicity decreased from a daily average of 20 earthquakes in May, to 15 in June (Red Sismológica Nacional). Two lobes of lava continued down the S and SW flanks [but see July observations below], reaching and partially burning some of the upper forest. No serious mudflows had yet occurred, midway through the rainy season.

The following is from W. Melson, V. Barboza, and E. Fernández. "We monitored the activity of Arenal 24 hours/day, 7-17 July 1991. About 40 pyroclastic eruptions/day were heard, and their acoustic and seismic signals recorded at the Arenal Observatory lodge. This is the highest eruption frequency we have observed since 1-23 October 1989. The flows that advanced down the S slope during January-May 1991 have ceased moving, and a new flow sequence has begun spilling over the westernmost crater and moving down the WSW slope. Over 17 cm of rain and constant clouds prevented observations of the summit during most of this time."

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: J. Barquero, E. Fernández, V. Barboza, R. Van der Laat, and E. Malavassi, OVSICORI; R. Barquero, Guillermo Alvarado, Mario Fernández, Hector Flores, and Sergio Paniagua, ICE; W. Melson, SI.