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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 19 December-25 December 2001


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
19 December-25 December 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, 19 December-25 December 2001. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (19 December-25 December 2001)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A period of lava-dome destruction and possible new dome growth during 18 to at least 26 December included several explosions and episodes of harmonic tremor. During a 3-minute-long eruption on 19 December starting at 1926, volcanic fragments were hurled 2 km to the E and NE. In addition, an ash cloud was probably produced, but was obscured by meteorological clouds. Another notable explosion, on 22 December at 1735, produced an ash cloud that rose 2.5 km above the volcano and drifted to the NE. After this event a small amount of ash fell in the town of Puebla, ~50 km E of the volcano. By 23 December volcanic activity decreased, with fewer eruptions, less fumarolic activity, and short episodes of high-frequency tremor. According to CENAPRED, the activity during the week was related to destruction of the lava dome first seen on 21 November 2001. They warned that similar activity may occur in the following days or weeks. The volcano remained at Alert Level Yellow Phase II.

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