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Report on Colima (Mexico) — October 1998


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 23, no. 10 (October 1998)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Colima (Mexico) Lava dome begins erupting, fills crater, and spills out

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1998. Report on Colima (Mexico) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 23:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199810-341040



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Rapid lava effusion began from Colima's summit lava dome in late November. The 1998 lava extrusion, the first since 1991, followed months of seismic unrest and a subsequent explosion at the summit on 6 July, leading to local evacuations.

The night of 19 November was marked by strong seismicity and a large number of rockfalls (lasting 2-4 minutes) down the summit's W, SW, and S sectors. Although a previous helicopter flight could not confirm the prescence of new lava, at 0730 on 20 November geologists saw that the crater formed by explosions in 1994 contained a fresh, nearly black circular lava dome with a rough, wrinkled surface. At that time, based on the 1994 crater's dimensions (135 m in diameter and 50 m deep), the dome was approximately 30 x 50 x 15 m in size. Fumaroles were noted along the dome's margins. Other fumaroles in the area of the N-NW summit continued to emit a high output of gases. By 1800 on 20 November both seismicity and rockfalls had dropped to low levels.

Surprisingly rapid dome growth took place that night, and a 0730 flight on 21 November disclosed that the 1994 crater (~3.8 x 105 m3 in volume) was then full and new lava spilled out the S side. Up to this point Colima's eruption appeared quite similar to the 1991 lava extrusion episode, but the new lava erupted at a considerably higher rate. In 1991 it took about 16 days to form a dome of comparable size.

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: Carlos Navarro Ochoa, Colima Volcano Observatory, Universidad de Colima, Ave. 25 de Julio 965, Colima 28045, Colima, México.