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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 19 February-25 February 2003


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
19 February-25 February 2003
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 19 February-25 February 2003. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (19 February-25 February 2003)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Several emissions of steam, gas, and ash occurred during 19-25 February associated with the continued destruction of Popocatépetl's lava dome. One of the larger emissions occurred on 21 February at 1820 and produced a NE-drifting ash cloud to a height of 4 km above the volcano. It was followed by an emission the next day at 0239, which produced a NE-drifting ash cloud to 2 km above the volcano. Both emissions ejected incandescent fragments ~1.5 km from the volcano, causing fires in pasture land. According to the Washington VAAC, emissions on the 22nd produced two ash plumes that were visible on satellite imagery; one extended from the central Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula at a height ~10.7 km a.s.l., and a second smaller plume was over the Bay of Campeche at ~9.4 km a.s.l. Later that day, ash was visible on satellite imagery extending from Lake Okeechobee, Florida, NE into the Atlantic Ocean.

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