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Report on Galeras (Colombia) — February 1999


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 24, no. 2 (February 1999)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Galeras (Colombia) Low seismicity; fumarole and tilt measurements

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1999. Report on Galeras (Colombia) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 24:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199902-351080



1.22°N, 77.37°W; summit elev. 4276 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Seismicity remained low during January and February 1999. Volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes were common from two sources at depths of 0.2-18.8 km and had a coda magnitude range between -0.6 and 3. The first area was below the active cone, and the second was NNE of Galeras. The most significant VT event registered on 3 January at 0714 with a coda magnitude of 3, an epicenter ~14 km NNE of the volcano, and felt earthquakes in Pasto. Other types of VT events located toward the E flank have been called "trenes" (trains) because they are recorded consecutively, to make up packets of 2-5 events. They were small events, recorded at only four of the nine stations in the Galeras network. Those events had a depth range of 3.3-7.3 km and a coda magnitude range between -0.6 and 0.9.

Previous VT events at times have preceded seismic sequences, such as those during November-December 1993 and March 1995, as well as a small seismic sequence in July 1997. However, events have also been recorded in periods of no seismic sequences.

Quasi-monochromatic volcanic tremor episodes were recorded during 4-6 January. The maximum amplitudes were obtained on the E-W components of the broadband stations whereas the minimal amplitudes were recorded on the vertical components of those stations. The spectral frequencies show stable values with small variations of 0.5 Hz. Analysis of the tremor episodes suggested that the source directions of these events were toward the active cone of the volcano.

The electronic tiltmeter Peladitos, on the E flank of Galeras, showed stable behavior with small variations (<1 µrad) in both radial and tangential components. The Chorrillo and Huairatola portable tiltmeters showed stable behavior in the tangential components whereas the radial components continued a descending trend that began at the end of September 1998. Through 26 January, the cumulative decline in the Chorrillo radial component was ~35 µrad, and the Huairatola radial component decline was ~600 µrad.

Most of the radon stations showed stable behavior of the Rn-222 gas emission with changes <200 pCi/l. In contrast, the Meneses-1 station showed variations of ~ 3,300 pCi/l on an ascending trend; the Meneses-3 stations, ~2,700 pCi/l on a descending trend.

When the Alfa Deformes fumarole was measured in December 1998, it had a pH of 0.6. The next measurement, in May 1998, revealed a pH of 2.3, followed by a gradual decline to a value of 0.3 on 25 February. Measured fumarole temperatures generally remained stable, although the La Joya fumarole had increased to 181°C on 6 March from 148°C on 25 February. Scientists observed numerous fissures emitting gas during a summit visit, as well as cracks that could generate small landslides on the main cone.

Geological Summary. Galeras, a stratovolcano with a large breached caldera located immediately west of the city of Pasto, is one of Colombia's most frequently active volcanoes. The dominantly andesitic complex has been active for more than 1 million years, and two major caldera collapse eruptions took place during the late Pleistocene. Long-term extensive hydrothermal alteration has contributed to large-scale edifice collapse on at least three occasions, producing debris avalanches that swept to the west and left a large open caldera inside which the modern cone has been constructed. Major explosive eruptions since the mid-Holocene have produced widespread tephra deposits and pyroclastic flows that swept all but the southern flanks. A central cone slightly lower than the caldera rim has been the site of numerous small-to-moderate eruptions since the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

Information Contacts: Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Pasto (OVSP), Carrera 31, 18-07 Parque Infantil, PO Box 1795, Pasto, Colombia (URL: https://www2.sgc.gov.co/volcanes/index.html).