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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 11 December-17 December 2002


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
11 December-17 December 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, 11 December-17 December 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (11 December-17 December 2002)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During December there were several emissions of steam, gas, and minor amounts of ash at Popocatépetl. According to CENAPRED, new episodes of low-frequency tremor, beginning on 19 November, signaled the growth of a new lava dome within Popocatépetl's crater. Aerial photographs obtained by the Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transportation on 2 December confirmed the presence of a fresh lava dome measuring about 180 m in diameter at its base, and about 52 m high. The lava dome grew in episodes of variable duration, at a mean extrusion rate of 8-9 m3 per second.

These dome-growth episodes were distinctly recorded by the monitoring network as harmonic tremor. Small associated inflation was also recorded. CENAPRED stated that dome growth may continue and could conclude with dome-destruction episodes, which have occurred in the past. The Alert Level at Popocatépetl remained at Yellow.

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)