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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 11 April-17 April 2012


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
11 April-17 April 2012
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2012. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 11 April-17 April 2012. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (11 April-17 April 2012)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

CENAPRED reported that during 11-15 April steam-and-gas emissions from Popocatépetl occasionally contained ash; emissions contained a substantial amount of ash on 12 April. Seismicity increased on 13 April and at 2220 an explosion ejected incandescent blocks that landed on the NE flank as far as 500 m away from the crater rim. A larger explosion at 2236 ejected incandescent blocks that landed even further away on all flanks; an ash plume rose 2 km above the crater and drifted ENE. Ashfall was reported in San Pedro Benito Juarez (10-12 km SE), where the explosion was also heard. On 14 April gas-and-steam plumes that contained small amounts of ash drifted SW. Multiple emissions occurred with increased incandescence from the crater. Ejected incandescent blocks landed back in the crater or on the flanks 500-800 m from the rim. Gas-and-ash plumes drifted ESE. Ashfall was reported in multiple towns, including Puebla (50 km to the E), San Pedro Benito Juarez, Santiago Xalitzintla (15 km NE), Tianguismanalco, and Atlixco (25 km SE).

On 15 April an ash plume rose 1.5 km above the crater and drifted E. Gas-and-ash emissions rose 1 km above the crater on 16 April and were accompanied by ejected incandescent fragments that were deposited on the flanks, especially to the N and NE. Later that day ash plumes rose 2 km above the crater and drifted E. Ashfall was again reported in Puebla. CENAPRED increased the Alert Level at the volcano from Yellow Phase Two to Yellow Phase Three. During 16-17 April incandescence extended 300 m above the crater and gas-and-steam emissions were constant. Gas-and-ash plumes rose from the crater on 17 April.

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)