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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 23 January-29 January 2002


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
23 January-29 January 2002
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 23 January-29 January 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (23 January-29 January 2002)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

According to CENAPRED, on 23 January at 0517 a moderate eruption began at Popocatépetl. It was accompanied by continuous tremor. Incandescent volcanic fragments were ejected short distances from the crater, and a steam-and-ash cloud was produced. According to pilot reports, the cloud rose to ~9 km a.s.l. Satellite imagery showed that the cloud drifted to the NE; by 1845 it was visible near the city of Poza Rica, ~250 km to the NE. The cloud continued drifting NE and traveled over the Gulf of Mexico. Small amounts of ash fell in Paso de Cortés and the town of Tlaxcala. CENAPRED reported that the activity was related to the formation of a new lava dome. Following the 23 January eruption, Popocatépetl emitted small clouds of steam, gas, and generally minor amounts of ash. In addition, episodes of harmonic tremor were recorded.

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.

Source: Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED)