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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 20 February-26 February 2002


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
20 February-26 February 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, 20 February-26 February 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (20 February-26 February 2002)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

On 19 February frequent small-to-moderate emissions of steam, gas, and minor amounts of ash occurred at Popocatépetl. In addition, small explosions occasionally threw incandescent volcanic fragments short distances from the crater. During 0750-0900 small amounts of ash fell in Paso de Cortés. Also, isolated episodes of harmonic tremor were registered. On 23 February at 2156 a small explosion threw incandescent fragments up to 200 m that fell within the crater and a low-volume ash column rose 700 m above the crater and drifted to the W. Later, isolated harmonic tremor was detected. According to CENAPRED, the activity on the 19th and 23rd was related to the partial destruction of the lava dome in the crater and low-level explosive activity was considered possible in the next days or weeks.

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)