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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — February 1981


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 2 (February 1981)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Arenal (Costa Rica) Lava extrusion continues; vigorous gas emission

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1981. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 6:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198102-345033


Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The vent located at 1,450 m elevation at the W end of the elliptical summit crater area continued to emit block lava and vapor. The lava flow that began to descend the NW flank in early July had reached 1,100 m by November and continued to advance. Two other flows that had been active in July on the SW and W flanks had stopped advancing by November. A newer flow, the 34th since 1968, descended the W flank to 1,300 m elevation, where it bifurcated into lobes moving W and NW over the channels of older flows. The front of the W lobe was at 800 m elevation on 11 November, and the other (NW) lobe had reached 1,200 m elevation by 12 November. A mean velocity of 1.5 km/hour was measured on blocks in the central flow channel on the upper W flank.

The vapor emissions observed 15-20 August were a little more voluminous than normal, included small quantities of ash, and were accompanied by rumblings. The constant noise from the violently escaping gases was occasionally loud enough to be heard in nearby villages. Vegetation on the upper part of the volcano's E flank had been burned by the effects of the vapor eruptions. The loss of vegetation had noticeably augmented fluvial erosion.

In a separate communication, Jorge Umaña reports that as of early February Arenal continued to emit lava and vapor from the summit area. The gases had a high chlorine content.

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: J. Barquero H., Univ. Nacional, Heredia; J. Umaña, ICE.