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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 24 May-30 May 2023


Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 May-30 May 2023
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2023. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 May-30 May 2023. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (24 May-30 May 2023)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

CENAPRED reported that during 23-30 May activity at Popocatépetl consisted of seismic tremors, very few minor and moderate explosions, near-constant emissions of steam, gas, and sometimes ash, and ejections of incandescent material. Overall activity slightly decreased during the week. A total of approximately 140 hours of high-frequency tremors of variable duration and intensity were recorded.

A M 1.2 volcano-tectonic earthquake was recorded at 0340 on 24 May. Less than two hours later, at 0503, a minor explosion generated an ash plume that rose to 1 km above the summit and ejected incandescent material onto the flanks. A moderate explosion occurred at 1343. The Washington VAAC reported continuous ash emissions that rose 8.5-10.7 km (28,000-35,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SE. Ashfall was reported in Nealtican (21 km E), San Pedro Cholula (34 km E), San Andrés Cholula (36 km E), Tzicatlacoyan (65 km E), Tianguismanalco (22 km SE), Atlixco (25 km SE), Huaquechula (30 km SE), Ocoyucan (33 km SE), San Diego La Mesa Tochimiltzingo (39 km SE), San Juan Atzompa (71 km SE), Tehuitzingo (85 km SE), Tepexi de Rodríguez (88 km SE), Atzitzihuacán (23 km S), and Tilapa (48 km S).

Emissions were sometimes continuous during the night of 24 May into the early morning of 25 May; the plumes drifted SE and were occasionally visible in webcam images. According to the VAAC ash emissions rose 7.6-8.5 km (25,000-28,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted S, SSE, and SE. Ashfall was reported at 0045 in Atlixco, San Pedro Cholula, and the capital of Puebla. Minor ashfall was reported at 0600 in the municipality of Tetela del Volcan of Estado de Morelos. Incandescent material was ejected onto the flanks close to the crater on 25 May.

The Secretary of Navy (SEMAR) conducted a drone flight during the morning of 25 May to collect information about crater activity for the Comité Científico Asesor (CCA), or Scientific Advisory Committee. During a meeting on 26 May that included the CCA, CENAPRED, CNPC, and other agencies it was shared that the drone footage of the crater showed no new lava dome, and that ash and incandescent material had significantly filled in the inner crater.

Periods of continuous or nearly continuous ash emissions were recorded during 26-30 May and incandescent material was sometimes ejected short distances from the crater rim. At 1726 on 26 May a minor explosion generated steam, gas, and ash plume and ejected incandescent material. At 1926 on 29 May a minor explosion was recorded. During 26-30 May ash, steam, and gas emissions rose 5.2-7.9 km (17,000-26,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SE, E, and ESE according to the VAAC. Ashfall was reported in Nopalucan (87 km NE), San Pedro Cholula (34 km E), Cuautlancingo (38 km E), Puebla Capital, Amozoc (61 km E), Chietla (56 km S), Tlapanalá (39 km SE), Nopalucan (87 km NE), Tepexco (43 km S), Chila de la Sal (104 km S), Chila de las Flores (144 km SE), Tulcingo del Valle (111 km S), Atzala (53 km S), Xochiltepec (53 km SE), Yecapixtla (30 km SW), Amecameca (18 km NW), Atlixco, Atzitzihuacán (23 km S), Ayapango (21 km NW), San Pedro Benito Juárez (10-12 km SE), Acatlán de Osorio, Tlacotepec (110 km SE), Ecatzingo (15 km SW), Tochimilco (16 km SSE), Hueyapan (17 km SW), Tetela del Volcán, Tianguismanalco (22 km SE), Atlixco, Tenango del Aire (29 km NW), Huaquechula, Chautla (36 km NE), and Zacualpan (31 km SW).

The eruption continued to impact residents. Air quality alerts were issued in Puebla on a few of the days during the first part of the week. According to the government of Puebla on 25 May the Ministry of Health warned residents to protect themselves from airborne ash with protective clothing and to stay inside when possible due to a reported increase in illnesses relating to ash exposure. By 26 May over one million students were able to return to classrooms.

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), Coordinación Nacional de Protección Civil (CNPC), Gobierno de Puebla, Cuenta Oficial de la Coordinación General de Protección Civil del Estado de Puebla