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Report on Cotopaxi (Ecuador) — 10 May-16 May 2023


Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 10 May-16 May 2023
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2023. Report on Cotopaxi (Ecuador) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 10 May-16 May 2023. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (10 May-16 May 2023)



0.677°S, 78.436°W; summit elev. 5911 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

IG reported that moderate eruptive activity continued at Cotopaxi during 9-16 May. Daily seismic activity was characterized by long-period earthquakes and tremors indicating emissions; a few volcano-tectonic earthquakes were recorded during the week. Emissions of steam, gas, and variable amounts of ash were observed on most days. During 9-10 May plumes with moderate amounts of ash rose 2-3 km above the crater rim and drifted SW, N, and NE. Ashfall was reported in areas to the SW, including San Joaquín and San Agustín de Callo. On 11 May gas-and-steam plumes rose 700 m above the summit and drifted to the E and SE. Emissions with moderate ash content on 12 May rose 1-2 km above the crater rim and drifted to the SE; later that day ash plumes rose 700 m. On 13 May steam-and-gas emissions with low or no ash content rose 900 m above the summit and drifted S, and gas-and-ash plumes rose 800 m and drifted SE. On 15 May steam-and-ash plumes rose 400 m and drifted W and SW. Weather clouds often prevented views during 14-16 May. Servicio Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos y Emergencias (SNGRE) maintained the Alert Level at Yellow (the second lowest level on a four-color scale).

Geological Summary. The symmetrical, glacier-covered, Cotopaxi stratovolcano is Ecuador's most well-known volcano and one of its most active. The steep-sided cone is capped by nested summit craters, the largest of which is about 550 x 800 m in diameter. Deep valleys scoured by lahars radiate from the summit of the andesitic volcano, and large andesitic lava flows extend to its base. The modern edifice has been constructed since a major collapse sometime prior to about 5,000 years ago. Pyroclastic flows (often confused in historical accounts with lava flows) have accompanied many explosive eruptions, and lahars have frequently devastated adjacent valleys. Strong eruptions took place in 1744, 1768, and 1877. Pyroclastic flows descended all sides of the volcano in 1877, and lahars traveled more than 100 km into the Pacific Ocean and western Amazon basin. Smaller eruptions have been frequent since that time.

Sources: Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG-EPN), Servicio Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos y Emergencias (SNGRE)