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Report on Villarrica (Chile) — January 2009


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 34, no. 1 (January 2009)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Villarrica (Chile) Thermal anomalies throughout 2007; ash plumes November 2007 and October 2008

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2009. Report on Villarrica (Chile) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 34:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200901-357120



39.42°S, 71.93°W; summit elev. 2847 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Our last report on Villarrica (BGVN31:08) discussed the nearly continuous thermal anomalies between 1 January 2005 through 4 September 2006. This report updates this information through 10 February 2009 and suggests ongoing activity from the lava lake inside Villarrica's small, deep summit crater. Seismic and textural insights on the volcano are discussed by Gurioli and others (2008).

MODVOLC thermal alerts were issued nearly continuously during September 2006. Alerts then followed during 26 October 2006 through 18 February 2007, during 29 April 2007 through 5 June 2007, during 9-11 July 2007, and during 6 September 2007 through 25 December 2007 (24 December local time). The gaps between these periods may be due to cloud cover or other phenomena that obscured satellite observations.

From 26 December 2007 to as late as 10 February 2009, only two thermal anomalies were detected. One (MODIS) was on 2 June 2008, the other (ASTER) on 25 June 2008.

Villarrica has been relatively quiet since 4 September 2006. However, there have been reports of minor activity. According to the the Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), on 14 November 2007 an eruption plume rose to an altitude of 3.8 km and drifted E. Ash was not detected on satellite imagery.

On 26 October 2008, according to the Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur-Servico Nacional de Geologia y Mineria (SERNAGEOMIN), three gray plumes containing a small amount of ash were discharged from the main crater and rose 100 m above the crater rim. These plumes quickly dispersed E. A fourth and larger darker gray plume rose 200 m above the crater rim and, according to the Projecto Observación Visual Volcán Villarrica (POVI), deposited a thin layer of tephra several kilometers long on the E flank. Incandescence was not detected.

A SERNAGEOMIN report on 30 October 2008 characterized seismic activity during the previous several months as weak background tremor and small earthquakes. The report commented that this seismicity might be caused by shallow degassing in the main conduit, glacial melting increasing the volume of water in the hydrothermal systemand causing explosions, or conduit obstructions.

Reference. Gurioli, L., A. J. L. Harris, B. F. Houghton, M. Polacci, and M. Ripepe, 2008, Textural and geophysical characterization of explosive basaltic activity at Villarrica volcano: J. Geophys. Res., v. 113, p. B08206, doi:10.1029/2007JB005328.

Geological Summary. Glacier-clad Villarrica, one of Chile's most active volcanoes, rises above the lake and town of the same name. It is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes that trend perpendicular to the Andean chain. A 6-km-wide caldera formed during the late Pleistocene. A 2-km-wide caldera that formed about 3500 years ago is located at the base of the presently active, dominantly basaltic to basaltic-andesitic cone at the NW margin of the Pleistocene caldera. More than 30 scoria cones and fissure vents dot the flanks. Plinian eruptions and pyroclastic flows that have extended up to 20 km from the volcano were produced during the Holocene. Lava flows up to 18 km long have issued from summit and flank vents. Historical eruptions, documented since 1558, have consisted largely of mild-to-moderate explosive activity with occasional lava effusion. Glaciers cover 40 km2 of the volcano, and lahars have damaged towns on its flanks.

Information Contacts: Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Servicio Meteorológico Nacional-Fuerza Aérea Argentina, 25 de mayo 658, Buenos Aires, Argentina (URL: http://www.smn.gov.ar/vaac/buenosaires/productos.php); Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur-Servico Nacional de Geologia y Mineria (OVDAS-SERNAGEOMIN), Avda Sta María No. 0104, Santiago, Chile (URL: http://www.sernageomin.cl/); Projecto Observación Visual Volcán Llaima (POVI) (URL: http://www.povi.cl/llaima/).