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Report on Colima (Mexico) — February 1992


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 2 (February 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Colima (Mexico) Earthquake swarm and landslides, but fumarole temperatures remain steady

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Colima (Mexico) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199202-341040



19.514°N, 103.62°W; summit elev. 3850 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Colima remained quiet from November through January. In mid-January, the top of the cone was snow-covered. The snow later melted and some small landslides were observed.

A team from FIU and Earthwatch visited the summit dome on 28 January. No changes were evident since their previous visit in September 1991. Degassing remained widespread on the dome but was distinctly less vigorous than during active lava extrusion in May. Snow was as much as 2 m deep in some places near the summit, but was absent in fumarolic areas. Four small rockslides occurred on the N flank of the dome during three days of observations, a much lower rate than in May but similar to that of September. Temperatures at four fumaroles were continuously recorded between 1 November and 28 January. Mean temperatures remained between 475 and 535°C. Temperatures were quite steady (except for diurnal variations) and were not affected by unseasonably heavy January precipitation.

Geologists with the CICT reported that six low-magnitude seismic events were recorded during the last three days of February, some only by the Soma station 700 m NW of the cone. No earthquakes were detected 1-3 March, but on 4 March, the Soma station recorded 42 shocks, 17 of which were also recorded by the Yerbabuena station, 7.5 km SW of the summit. No seismicity was evident at more distant stations. Some landslide events were detected at the Soma station, suggesting that they occurred on the NW flank. Seismic activity increased during the first 12 hours of 5 March, when the Soma station registered 39 earthquakes, of higher amplitude than the day before; 24 events were detected at the Yerbabuena station during the same 12-hour period. Geologists observed few morphological changes on the cone's N and NE flanks, although there was some evidence of landslides, probably caused by heavy rain and snow in January. From the W side of the cone, 12 landslides were noted on 5 March between 1145 and 1508; five lasted 3-4 minutes. A gorge near the summit had been recently eroded by the landslides. Although the seismicity and landslides were similar to the activity that preceded the dome extrusion beginning in March 1991, activity had declined to near background by 10 March.

Geological Summary. The Colima complex is the most prominent volcanic center of the western Mexican Volcanic Belt. It consists of two southward-younging volcanoes, Nevado de Colima (the high point of the complex) on the north and the historically active Volcán de Colima at the south. A group of late-Pleistocene cinder cones is located on the floor of the Colima graben west and east of the complex. Volcán de Colima (also known as Volcán Fuego) is a youthful stratovolcano constructed within a 5-km-wide scarp, breached to the south, that has been the source of large debris avalanches. Major slope failures have occurred repeatedly from both the Nevado and Colima cones, producing thick debris-avalanche deposits on three sides of the complex. Frequent recorded eruptions date back to the 16th century. Occasional major explosive eruptions have destroyed the summit (most recently in 1913) and left a deep, steep-sided crater that was slowly refilled and then overtopped by lava dome growth.

Information Contacts: Ignacio Galindo, Centro Internacional de Ciencias de la Tierra (with participation of CICT and RESCO staff), Universidad de Colima; S. de la Cruz-Reyna, UNAM; C. Connor and J. West-Thomas, FIU, Miami.