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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — June 1998


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 23, no. 6 (June 1998)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Arenal (Costa Rica) A mild eruptive phase following the more energetic 5 May outburst

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1998. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 23:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199806-345033


Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

An unusually energetic eruption took place on 5 May, producing pyroclastic flows (BGVN 23:04), but the volcano returned to more passive behavior later in the month. OSIVAM produced a follow-up report devoted to the eruption, including some of Fernando Alvarado's photographs of the pyroclastic flows and brief comparisons and contrasts with somewhat similar events in 1975 and 1993 (Alvarado and others, 1998).

OVSICORI-UNA reported that a lava flow that began to be extruded in April trended N (see map, BGVN 23:04) and spawned avalanches in the early days of the month. This flow stopped at 1,100 m elevation a few days after the pyroclastic flows of 5 May. Another lava flow emerged soon after the pyroclastic flows and began descending along their channel (BGVN 23:04). On 26 May this lava flow ceased its advance with its front at 800 m elevation. The lava filled the channel's lower stretches. Excepting the 5 May event, the eruptive vigor was low in May and June both in terms of the quantity of pyroclastic material ejected and the height of the eruptive plume. During May, OVSICORI-UNA noted that plumes rarely ascended over 500 m above Crater C. As typical, Crater D fumaroles continued to emit gases.

A lava flow began extruding on 12 May; it went NW and its front eventually halted at 780 m elevation. Another such flow began in mid-June; at the end of the month it had reached 850 m elevation. During June it was noted that the NE, E, and SE flanks continued to receive ash falls and acidic rainfall. Also, on some parts of the edifice, cold avalanches have descended. These began on steep slopes, where areas of poorly consolidated alluvium and high amounts of rainfall have caused the vegetation to recede, leaving gullies that continue to widen and deepen.

The network of distance stations continue showing a general pattern of contraction. Dry tilt at the base of the volcano shows slow deflation. No significant changes were registered in relation with the activity (collapse of part of the summit wall and pyroclastic flows) of May 5th.

Reference. Alvarado, Guillermo E., Soto, Gerardo J., and Taylor, Waldo D., 1998, La Actividad del volcán Arenal (5 de Mayo de 1998) y sus implicaciones para la amenaza de las obras del ICE e infraestrutura cercana: Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICELEC) Oficina de Sismología y Vulcanología (OSIVAM), Mayo de 1998, Informe OSV.98.04.ICE, 14 p.

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, E. Duarte, R. Saenz, E. Malavassi, M. Martinez, and Rodolfo Van der Laat, Observatorio Vulcanologico y Sismologico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica; G.J. Soto, G.E. Alvarado, and W. D. Taylor, Oficina de Sismologia y Vulcanologia del Arenal y Miravalles (OSIVAM), Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Apartado 10032-1000, San José, Costa Rica.