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Report on Tungurahua (Ecuador) — 26 May-1 June 2010


Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 26 May-1 June 2010
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2010. Report on Tungurahua (Ecuador) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 26 May-1 June 2010. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (26 May-1 June 2010)



1.467°S, 78.442°W; summit elev. 5023 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The IG reported that on 26 May a strong explosion from Tungurahua generated pyroclastic flows and an ash plume that rose to an altitude of 12 km (39,400 ft) a.s.l. and drifted W and SW. Ashfall was reported in areas to the S and SW, including Riobamba (30 km S). Noises resembling "cannon shots" associated with the explosion were heard as far away as Guadalupe, 11 km N. The pyroclastic flows were small and traveled 800-1,000 m down the N, NW, W, and SW flanks; they did not reach populated areas. Poor visibility mostly prevented observations of the crater the next day, but no activity was seen when the crater was visible. Slight ashfall was reported in Cahuají.

On 28 May another strong explosion produced an ash plume that rose to an altitude of 15 km (49,200 ft) a.s.l. and drifted WSW. Pumice blocks fell in local neighborhoods (likely 6-8 km away), and ash fell in several areas between Tungurahua and Guayaquil (about 180 km SW), and beyond. Pyroclastic flows traveled as far as 3 km down the NW, W, and SW flanks, but again did not reach populated areas. According to news articles, residents from two towns about 8 km NW were evacuated and the airport in Guayaquil was temporarily closed because the runways were covered in ash. Other flights passing through the area were rerouted.

During 28-29 May seismicity increased and 5-10 explosions were detected per hour. Explosions ejected incandescent blocks that fell 1-2 km below the summit. Ashfall was heavy in Runtún, 6 km NNE, at night on 28 May, and lighter in Juive and Puntzán, 7 km NW, the next morning. During 29-30 May explosions occurred at a rate of about 10 per hour. Several roaring noises were noted and "cannon shot" noises caused large windows nearby to vibrate. Incandescence around the crater was seen occasionally at night, during periods of clearer viewing. On 31 May and 1 June explosions generated audible "cannon shots" and ejected incandescent blocks as high as 1.5 km above the crater rim; several of the blocks rolled nearly 1 km down the flanks. Steam-and-ash plumes rose to altitudes of 7-9 km (23,000-29,500 ft) a.s.l. and drifted W, SW, N, and NE, causing ashfall in areas downwind.

Geological Summary. Tungurahua, a steep-sided andesitic-dacitic stratovolcano that towers more than 3 km above its northern base, is one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes. Three major edifices have been sequentially constructed since the mid-Pleistocene over a basement of metamorphic rocks. Tungurahua II was built within the past 14,000 years following the collapse of the initial edifice. Tungurahua II collapsed about 3,000 years ago and produced a large debris-avalanche deposit to the west. The modern glacier-capped stratovolcano (Tungurahua III) was constructed within the landslide scarp. Historical eruptions have all originated from the summit crater, accompanied by strong explosions and sometimes by pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached populated areas at the volcano's base. Prior to a long-term eruption beginning in 1999 that caused the temporary evacuation of the city of Baños at the foot of the volcano, the last major eruption had occurred from 1916 to 1918, although minor activity continued until 1925.

Sources: Reuters, Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG-EPN)