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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — September 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 9 (September 1994)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Arenal (Costa Rica) Lava flows remain active and produce rockfalls from flow-front collapses

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199409-345033


Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Strombolian eruptions and lava output from Crater C continued in August-September, while Crater D exhibited fumarolic activity. The new lava flow observed in July on the high W flank stopped in August. However, the composite lava flow active since 28 August 1993 formed two new lobes that overflowed levees around 1,200 m elev. In August-September a cone in Crater C, new lava flows, and pyroclastic materials had covered and filled the bulk of the amphitheater opened by the August 1993 event.

ICE scientists noted that explosive activity in August was similar to July, although volcano-seismic activity declined. On 11 and 15 August the number and size of explosions escalated, vibrating windows and other infrastructure at a settlement 4 km from the active crater. Some of these events were detected seismically 30 km away (station Las Juntas de Abangares).

In September, explosions were fewer in number, of lower magnitude, and they carried smaller amounts of pyroclastic material. The lobes of the 28 August 1993 lava flow remained active in September. Several flow-front collapses, resembling pyroclastic flows, were witnessed during September. The largest such witnessed event (1600, 29 September), resulted in a 500-m-high, reddish-brown ash cloud. In addition, some "noisy" seismic signals recorded by ICE may have been caused by similar unwitnessed collapse events. Summit fumarolic activity remained very vigorous. Explosive activity was similar to previous months. Volcano-seismic events decreased to an average of 55/day, and tremor declined slightly to 58 minutes/day. On the SE, E, and NE flanks the vegetation continued to recede because of the effects of acidic rain, rock falls, and other factors such as high rainfall, which had induced small cold avalanches (specifically down Calle de Arena, Guillermina, and Agua Caliente rivers).

On average, 76 daily seismic events were recorded by ICE during August, compared to 104 in July and 73 in June; daily number of tremor hours averaged ~1.3, similar to July. During September, 620 seismic events (1.5-2.5 Hz frequencies) were recorded by OVSICORI-UNA, and were thought to correlate chiefly to gas-dominated eruptions, or in some cases to gas-and-ash eruptions. Sounds associated with these eruptions were similar to a jet or steam locomotive. Sporadic tremor took place in the 1.3-3.0 Hz frequency range; total tremor duration for September was 99 hours. During August-September, distance and dry tilt measurements failed to show significant changes.

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: E. Fernandez, J. Barquero, V. Barboza, R. Van der Laat, T. Marino, F. de Obaldia, and L. Carvajal, OVSICORI; G. Soto, W. Taylor, F. Arias, G. Alvarado, and R. Barquero, ICE; M. Mora, Univ de Costa Rica.