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Report on Poas (Costa Rica) — August 1981


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 8 (August 1981)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Poas (Costa Rica) Incandescent fissures; steam explosions; harmonic tremor and shallow discrete events

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1981. Report on Poas (Costa Rica) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 6:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198108-345040


Costa Rica

10.2°N, 84.233°W; summit elev. 2697 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

In January 1981, incandescent fissures were observed for the first time in the eroded cone that formed during the 1953-55 eruption. Although the hottest fissures were inaccessible, geologists measured temperatures of 875°C on the cone in February. Between March and June, maximum temperatures generally oscillated between 950 and 1,000°C, although a temperature of 1,020°C was recorded on 28 April. New fissures formed, widened, and grew hotter; on the E part of the cone, a fissure that on 4 March was 2 cm wide and had a temperature of 350°C, had by 19 April heated to 910°C, and on 28 June was 20 cm wide and had reached 940°C. Fumaroles reappeared in an area on the S portion of the cone where they had died out in 1979. Lake water temperatures increased from 43°C on 19 April to 51°C on 17 June. Lake level lowered 1.3 m between January and June; such lowerings are typical early in the year, but are usually reversed by rains in May.

Vapor emission was continuous and the more vigorous activity was occasionally visible from the area surrounding the volcano. The larger vapor emissions were typically accompanied by weak rumbling that could be heard only from within the crater. On 4 May a vapor column originating in the fumarolic area of the cone reached an estimated height of 2 km.

A seismograph was installed at Poás on 19 March. Through May, the instrument recorded harmonic tremor at frequencies of 3-4 Hz for a few minutes to a few hours daily; discrete events caused by internal rupturing; signals produced by degassing; explosion events accompanying vapor eruptions; very shallow (~1 km deep) B-type earthquakes; and a very few A-type earthquakes centered at depths of 1-10 km. An inverse relationship was evident between the daily duration of harmonic tremor and the daily number of discrete earthquakes, a phenomenon that had also been observed at Arenal in 1975 (T. Matsumoto, personal communication).

Geological Summary. The broad vegetated edifice of Poás, one of the most active volcanoes of Costa Rica, contains three craters along a N-S line. The frequently visited multi-hued summit crater lakes of the basaltic-to-dacitic volcano are easily accessible by vehicle from the nearby capital city of San José. A N-S-trending fissure cutting the complex stratovolcano extends to the lower N flank, where it has produced the Congo stratovolcano and several lake-filled maars. The southernmost of the two summit crater lakes, Botos, last erupted about 7,500 years ago. The more prominent geothermally heated northern lake, Laguna Caliente, is one of the world's most acidic natural lakes, with a pH of near zero. It has been the site of frequent phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruptions since an eruption was reported in 1828. Eruptions often include geyser-like ejections of crater-lake water.

Information Contacts: J. Barquero H. and E. Malavassi R., Univ. Nacional, Heredia; J. L. Cheminée, IPG, Paris; H. Delorme, Univ. de Paris; G. Avila and F. Guendel, ICE; T. Matsumoto, Univ. of Texas, Austin.