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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — March 1998


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 23, no. 3 (March 1998)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Arenal (Costa Rica) Relatively quiet in December but lavas still venting in March

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1998. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 23:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199803-345033


Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During December [1997], lavas emitted beginning in September continued to flow down Arenal's W flank. They reached 1,400 m elevation and mass wasting carried some material to as low as 1,000 m elevation. December eruptive rates and intensities were low; also, the number of earthquakes and hours of tremor were both at or near the minimum values seen during the course of the year. This pattern continued into January 1998. Still, on infrequent occasions the active crater (Crater C) discharged plumes reaching at least 1 km in height above the crater.

Lavas vented in late January continued to flow in February, descending to 1,100 m elevation, and branching near 1,300 m elevation to form a new arm directed to the NW down the Tabacón river valley. During March, this new arm flowed down to reach 1,200 m elevation; the main channel extended to 1,000 m elevation; another arm branched off to the W at 1,400 m elevation and descended about 100 m.

Observers noted two pyroclastic flows during January-February. The first reached 1,100 m elevation on the SE flank. The second followed a similar path and reached 900 m elevation.

The number of low-frequency earthquakes (<4.0 Hz) during January and February, while still low, rose more than 25% over the number during December. The hours of tremor during January-February also remained low; during the latter month the dedicated seismic station (VACR) registered only 58 hours, the lowest monthly record in at least two years. During March, seismicity appeared to rise again, but the seismic system only functioned 18 days of the month. During this time the system recorded 80 hours of tremor.

OVSICORI-UNA scientists noted fumarolic activity in crater D as well as acid rain on the volcano's leeward flanks (towards the NW, W, and SE). In these sectors, some species of plants sustained visible leaf damage.

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, V. Barboza, R. Van der Laat, R. Saenz, E. Duarte, E. Malavassi, T. Marino, M. Martinez, and E. Hernandez, Observatorio Vulcanologico y Sismologico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica; Mauricio Mora Fernandez, Sección de Sismologia, Vulcanologia y Exploración Geofisica, Escuela Centroamericana de Geología, Universidad de Costa Rica, P.O. Box 35-2060, San José, Costa Rica.