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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 24 January-30 January 2001


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
24 January-30 January 2001
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2001. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 January-30 January 2001. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (24 January-30 January 2001)



19.023°N, 98.622°W; summit elev. 5393 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During the week several small-to-moderate sized eruptions occurred, with light ashfall reported in two towns and a pyroclastic flow stopping 8 km short of a town. The Washington VAAC reported that on 25 January an ash plume, which was produced by rockfall activity, rose to ~7 km a.s.l and was visible on GOES-8 imagery. According to CENAPRED, at 1338 on the same day an exhalation produced an ash cloud that rose to 3 km above the volcano and blew to the NW, depositing ash in San Pedro Nexapa, ~15 away. A minor eruption at 1212 on 27 January produced an ash cloud that rose to 6.4 km a.s.l. and blew to the NE, depositing light ash in the town of Santiago Xalitzintla, ~15 km from the volcano. An ash-and-steam eruption at 1155 on 28 January produced an ash cloud that that rose to 7 km and blew to the NE. Based on information from the Mexico City MWO, the Washington VAAC reported that an eruption occurred at 1104 on 29 January. A pilot report stated that the ash cloud from the eruption rose to ~11.9 km a.s.l., while CENAPRED reported that the cloud rose to ~8 km a.s.l. and blew to the NE. The eruption sent pyroclasts out to 1 km from the crater and produced pyroclastic flows that traveled down the NE flank of the volcano, stopping 8 km before reaching the town of Santiago Xalitzintla. The pyroclastic flows caused some melting of the summit glacier located primarily on the upper N and W flanks. The volcano remained at Alert Level Yellow Phase III, with a 12-km-radius restricted area.

Geological Summary. Volcán Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, rises 70 km SE of Mexico City to form North America's 2nd-highest volcano. The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 x 600 m wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris-avalanche deposits covering broad areas to the south. The modern volcano was constructed south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone. Three major Plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 CE, have occurred since the mid-Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions, first recorded in Aztec codices, have occurred since Pre-Columbian time.

Sources: Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED), Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Associated Press