Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network

All reports of volcanic activity published by the Smithsonian since 1968 are available through a monthly table of contents or by searching for a specific volcano. Until 1975, reports were issued for individual volcanoes as information became available; these have been organized by month for convenience. Later publications were done in a monthly newsletter format. Links go to the profile page for each volcano with the Bulletin tab open.

Information is preliminary at time of publication and subject to change.

 Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network - Volume 43, Number 02 (February 2018)

Managing Editor: Edward Venzke

Aira (Japan)

Explosions gradually decrease in frequency during 2015-2016

Fernandina (Ecuador)

Brief fissure eruption sends lava flow down the SW flank in early September 2017

Tungurahua (Ecuador)

Ash emissions, explosions, and pyroclastic flows 26 February-16 March 2016; no further activity through 2017

Aira (Japan) — February 2018 Citation iconCite this Report



31.593°N, 130.657°E; summit elev. 1117 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Explosions gradually decrease in frequency during 2015-2016

Sakurajima rises from Kagoshima Bay, which fills the Aira Caldera near the southern tip of Japan's Kyushu Island. Frequent explosive and occasional effusive activity has been ongoing for centuries. The Minamidake summit cone has been the location of persistent activity since 1955; the Showa crater on its E flank has been the most active site since 2006. Tens of explosions and ash-bearing emissions have been occurring monthly for the last several years and were continuous through October 2015. After a three-month break, activity resumed in February 2016 and lasted through August 2016. No further activity was reported through December 2016. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) provided regular reports on activity, and the Tokyo VAAC (Volcanic Ash Advisory Center) issued hundreds of reports about ash plumes during 2015-2016.

The number of explosive events at the Showa crater of Sakurajima increased from January-May 2015. During the period, ash emissions commonly rose 3,000 m above the crater rim, and a few exceeded 4,000 m; tephra was often ejected 1.3 km and as far as 1.8 km from the crater. Incandescence was observed every week; multiple MODVOLC thermal alerts were reported monthly from January-June 2015. The Tokyo VAAC issued 845 reports between 1 January and 14 October 2015. The number of monthly explosions decreased sharply during June-August. Tiltmeter and strainmeter data indicated continuing inflation through mid-August when the inflation rate increased significantly for a brief period. This was followed by deflation for the remainder of 2015. Pyroclastic flows were reported in March, April, and June. Minor emissions occurred at Minamidake crater in May, June, and August. Activity increased at both craters during September, with the first substantial explosion at Minamidake in almost a year. An emission from Showa on 2 November 2015 was noted in a JMA weekly report, but its composition was not described; the last confirmed ash emission of the year was on 14 October 2015.

After three months of quiet, a substantial explosion at Showa in early February 2016 marked the beginning of a new eruptive episode that continued through the end of July, after which explosive activity ceased at Showa for the remainder of the year (figure 49). Minor emissions were reported at Minamidake through August 2016. Pyroclastic flows occurred in April and June from explosions at the Showa crater. Inflation was measured again beginning in April 2016 and continued through December 2016.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 49. Explosions from the Showa crater at Sakurajima, January 2013-December 2016. Data do not include activity at Minamidake crater, or passive (non-explosive) ash or steam emissions from Showa. After many years of multiple monthly explosions, activity decreased in September 2015. A smaller burst of activity occurred from February to July 2016. Data compiled from JMA reports.

Activity during January-May 2015. JMA reported 61 explosions from the Showa crater during January 2015, twice the number recorded in December 2014 (figure 50). Explosions on 4 and 30 January sent ejecta as far as 1.8 km from the crater. The maximum plume height reported by JMA was 4,000 m above the crater rim on 23 January. Lapilli up to 2 cm in diameter from recent explosions were found in Kurokami (3.5 km E) and Arimura (3 km S) during JMA field visits on 16 and 30 January.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 50. An ash emission at Sakurajima on 20 January 2015 was captured by a webcam in Kagoshima (10 km W). Courtesy of Volcano Discovery.

The number of explosions increased to 88 during February 2015, with events on 21 and 22 February sending tephra 1.8 km from the crater. Plumes rose as much as 3,500 m above the rim during the month. During a field survey on 4 March scientists observed ash deposits with fragments up to 2 cm in diameter, in an area 3 km S of Showa Crater. JMA reported that the largest number of explosions they have recorded in a month, 178, occurred at the crater in March. Numerous plumes rose 3,300 m above the crater. A small pyroclastic flow on 17 March traveled 600 m SE.

Seismicity below the island increased briefly between 31 March and 2 April 2015. An explosion on 17 April sent tephra 1.8 km from the crater rim. Two pyroclastic flows were reported on 18 and 28 April 2015; Showa crater had 112 explosions throughout the month. The pyroclastic flow on 28 April travelled 500 m down the SE flank. The highest ash plume rose 4,000 m on 24 April. JMA calculated that about 1.2 million tons of ash fell during April, the largest monthly amount recorded since 2006.

Several of the 169 explosions at the Showa crater during May 2015 produced ejecta that was deposited up to 1.8 km from the crater. Many explosions had plume heights exceeding 3,000 m. A small emission, rising 200 m, was observed from the Minamidaki crater on 12 May and was the first in several months. JMA scientists observed 2-cm-diameter tephra in the vicinity of Kurojin-cho, Kagoshima-shi on 14 May, likely from an explosion the previous day; significant ashfall covered the ground as well. The highest ash plume of the month rose 4,300 m above the Showa crater on 21 May 2015 (figures 51 and 52).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 51. An ash plume rose 4,300 m above Sakurajima on 21 May 2015, shown in this webcam image from Kagoshima. Courtesy of Volcano Discovery.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 52. A dense plume of ash drifted S and E from Sakurajima on 21 May 2015. This natural-color satellite image was taken by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8. Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory.

Activity during June-December 2015. Five of the 64 explosions recorded during June produced ejecta that landed up to 1.3 km from the Showa Crater (figure 53). A 3,300-m-high ash plume on 1 June was the highest for the month. After three explosions on 4 June, a small pyroclastic flow traveled 400 m down the E flank. A second small event on 22 June at Minamidake produced a gray plume that rose 200 m.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 53. Ash rose from Showa Crater at Sakurajima on 9 June 2015. Image taken by a drone managed by Naoto Yoshitome and Krishima Aerial Photography. Courtesy of Naoto Yoshitome, Twitter.

Activity decreased significantly beginning in July 2015, with 14 explosions reported from the Showa Crater, and declined further during August with only 5 explosions. A small explosion from the Minamidake crater on 16 July sent emissions likely containing ash (described as "non-white") to 200 m. A rapid increase in seismicity directly beneath Minamidake began on 15 August and lasted about 48 hours; along with tiltmeter and strainmeter observations of rapid inflation (figure 54), this led JMA to briefly raise the Alert Level from 3 (Do not approach the volcano) to 4 (Prepare to evacuate) an a scale of 2-5. They lowered it back to 3 on 1 September 2015. Only small explosions with tephra ejected up to 800 m were recorded during the rest of the August. Minor emissions occurred at Minamidake Crater on 30 August.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 54. An interference image of Sakurajima using PALSAR-2 high-resolution mode (3 m resolution) data comparing displacement between 4 January and 16 August 2015. The data showed a displacement toward the satellite (inflation) of about 16 cm maximum (within the white square), on the E side of the Minamidake summit crater. The synthetic aperture radar (PALSAR - 2) equipped with Daichi 2 (Land Observing Satellite No. 2 "Daichi 2" (ALOS- 2)) can measure the displacement of the ground surface (how much the ground moved) by taking the difference between two sets of observation data. Such an analysis method is called interference SAR analysis (or interferometry, InSAR). The color changes represent the differences in the two observations, a pattern of green to red to blue indicates movement of the surface towards the satellite (inflation); a pattern of green to blue to red indicates movement away from the satellite (deflation). Courtesy of JAXA (http://www.eorc.jaxa.jp/ALOS-2/img_up/jpal2_sakurajima_20150816-17.htm).

Incandescence at the Showa Crater was observed several times during September 2015; 46 explosive events were reported. The first significant explosions at the Minamidake summit crater since 7 November 2014 occurred on 13 and 28 September. The 28 September plume rose to 2,700 m above the crater rim. Tiltmeter data indicated no additional inflation since the rapid ground deformation of 15-16 August. The last explosive event of 2015 reported by JMA at the Showa crater was on 17 September and at the Minamidaki crater on 29 September.

The Tokyo VAAC reported an ash emission on 14 October 2015 that rose to 1.8 km and drifted SW. This was the last VAAC report until 5 February 2016. No explosions were recorded at the Showa crater in October, but minor ash emissions were reported on 14, 15, 21, 22, and 30 October. No activity was observed at Minamidake. Data from continuous GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) observations suggested that deflation began after the 15 August rapid inflation event.

A minor emission was reported by JMA from the Showa crater on 2 November 2015, the last emission reported for the year. After not having explosive activity since late September, JMA lowered the Alert Level to 2 (Do not approach the crater) on 25 November, reducing the exclusion area to 1 km around the two craters. Only steam plumes rising 50-200 m above the Showa crater and 50-600 m above the Minamidake crater were observed during December 2015.

Aerial observation on 2 December 2015 revealed 100-m-high steam plumes around the floor of the Showa crater. Thermal observations showed high heat flow around the edges and at the center of the crater floor, unchanged since the previous observation in August 2015; 200-m-high steam plumes around the Minamidake crater prevented observation of the crater floor.

Activity during 2016. No explosive activity was observed at Showa or Minamidake craters from October 2015 to 5 February 2016. JMA raised the Alert Level back to 3 after a substantial explosion on 5 February sent incandescent tephra up to 1.8 km from the Showa crater; lightning was observed in the ash cloud (figure 55). The Tokyo VAAC reported that an ash plume visible in satellite imagery was at 3 km altitude drifting SE. Multiple explosions continued from the Showa crater for the rest of February with ash plumes rising to 2.2 km above the crater, and tephra was frequently ejected 1.3 km from the crater. Four MODVOLC thermal alerts in February were the only alerts for 2016. At the Minamidake summit crater, minor emissions occurred on 8, 9, and 20 February with plumes rising 800 m above the crater rim.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 55. Incandescent tephra explodes from Showa crater at Sakurajima on 5 February 2016 after three months of inactivity. Photo by Kyoto News/AP. Courtesy of the Washington Post.

Eight explosions at the Showa crater were reported by JMA, and six at the Minamidake summit crater during March 2016. Ash plumes at Minamidake on 4, 8, and 11 March rose 1,600-1,900 m above the crater rim; on 25 and 26 March they rose 2,000 m. Minor emissions were also noted on 14 and 15 March. Three explosions from the Showa Crater on 26 March sent ash plumes 2,700 m high (figure 56); tephra as large as 8 mm in diameter was found in areas 4 km E.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 56. Multiple explosions on 26 March 2016 at Sakurajima sent tephra as large as 8 mm in diameter as far as 4 km from Minamidake crater. Image taken from a drone managed by Naoto Yoshidome. Courtesy of Naoto Yoshidome, Twitter.

Activity increased during April 2016 with 51 emission events that included 15 explosions at Showa, and JMA reported inflation again after several months of stability. Reports of falling tephra, 2 cm in diameter, came from a town 3 km S after explosions were witnessed during 1-3 April. On 1 April, an explosion at Minamidake summit crater produced an ash plume which rose 800 m above its crater rim; another on 3 April rose 1,700 m. Minor emissions also occurred at Minamidake on 5, 6, and 9 April. Explosions on 6 and 8 April at Showa sent ash plumes 3,500-3,700 m high and tephra 1.3 km. During the 8 April explosion at Showa, a small pyroclastic flow traveled 400 m down the E flank, the first since June 2015. A 2,200-m-high ash plume rose from Showa crater on 17 April. Minor emissions that rose 800 m were detected at Minamidake on 20 and 28 April. Two explosions occurred on 27 April at Showa, followed by additional explosions on 28, 29, and 30 April; the events generated ash plumes that rose 3,000 m. Pyroclastic flows were generated during the events of 28 and 30 April; they each flowed about 500 m, SE and E, respectively.

A large explosion at the Showa crater on 1 May sent an ash plume to 4,100 m above the crater rim (figure 57). It was the first time since 21 May 2015 that a plume rose higher than 4,000 m. At the Minamidake summit crater, ash emissions on 1 and 13 May rose 3,500 and 3,700 m, respectively, the first plumes at Minamidake over 3,000 m since October 2009. An explosion on 8 May at Showa sent an ash plume over 3,300 m above the crater rim, and tephra reached 1,300 m from the crater. Numerous ash emissions continued throughout the month, some with plumes rising to 3,500 m. The Tokyo VAAC issued 26 reports between 13 and 22 May. Activity diminished toward the end of the month, but minor inflation continued.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 57. An explosive eruption at Sakurajima's Showa Crater on 1 May 2016 sent an ash plume 4,100 m above the crater that drifted SE. It was the highest plume in the last year. Taken with the "Cattle Root" webcam, courtesy of JMA (May 2016 Monthly Sakurajima report).

Multiple ash emissions in early June 2016 produced plumes as high as 2,000 m above the Showa crater rim. An explosion on 3 June produced a pyroclastic flow that traveled 400 m SE, and tephra that was ejected 800 m from the crater. An emission at the Minamidake crater on 3 June rose 1,500m high. No further explosive activity was reported for June; only a minor emission from the Showa crater on 29 June. During the month, the Tokyo VAAC issued only six reports (during 2-3 June).

Two explosive events were recorded at Showa crater in July 2016. An explosion occurred on 2 July that produced a 1,200-m-high ash plume and sent large blocks 800 m from the crater. A substantial explosion on 26 July at Showa sent blocks 800 m from the crater, and produced an ash plume that rose 5,000 m. A minor amount of ashfall on the W and SW flanks of Sakurajima was observed, and ashfall was confirmed in a wide area from Kagoshima City (10 km W) to Hioki City (25 km NW). The Tokyo VAAC reported an ash plume drifting SW at 6.1 km altitude that day.

Minor emissions were observed at the Minamidake crater intermittently throughout August 2016, but no emissions or explosions were reported from Showa. The Tokyo VAAC reported a low-level ash plume on 22 August at 1.2 km altitude drifting 50 km SW (figure 58). This was the last VAAC report for 2016. Although there were no emissions or explosive activity reported from either crater during September-December 2016, inflation of the volcano continued, and thus the Alert Level remained at 3.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 58. An ash emission rose from Sakurajima's Minamidake crater on the morning of 22 August 2016. This was the last reported ash emission of 2016. Taken from the Tarumizu City MBC (Minaminihon Broadcasting Co., Ltd.) webcam no. 14, located about 14 km E. Courtesy of Minaminihon Broadcasting Co., Ltd. (http://www.mbc.co.jp/web-cam/).

Geologic Background. The Aira caldera in the northern half of Kagoshima Bay contains the post-caldera Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan's most active. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow accompanied formation of the 17 x 23 km caldera about 22,000 years ago. The smaller Wakamiko caldera was formed during the early Holocene in the NE corner of the Aira caldera, along with several post-caldera cones. The construction of Sakurajima began about 13,000 years ago on the southern rim of Aira caldera and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kitadake summit cone ended about 4850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minamidake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Otemachi, 1-3-4, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan (URL: http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/svd/vaac/data/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP), MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); NASA Earth Observatory, EOS Project Science Office, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/); Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) (URL: http://global.jaxa.jp/); Associated Press (URL: http://www.ap.org/); Tom Pfeiffer, Volcano Discovery (URL: http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/ ); Naoto Yoshidome, Twitter (URL: https://twitter.com); Minaminihon Broadcasting Co., Ltd (MBC). (http://www.mbc.co.jp/web-cam/).

Fernandina (Ecuador) — February 2018 Citation iconCite this Report



0.37°S, 91.55°W; summit elev. 1476 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Brief fissure eruption sends lava flow down the SW flank in early September 2017

Eruptions at Fernandina Island in the Galapagos often occur from vents located around the caldera rim along boundary faults and fissures, and occasionally from side vents on the flank. The last eruption in 2009 generated fountaining basaltic lava along several fissure vents. Lava flowed down the SW flank and entered the sea for a few weeks during April 2009. A new eruption began on 4 September 2017 after eight years of no surface activity, and lasted for about one week. Information about this new eruption was provided by Ecuador's Institudo Geofisica, Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG-EPN), the Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos (DPNG), the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), and several sources of satellite data.

A brief fissure vent eruption began on 4 September 2017 at Fernandina, located at the SW rim of the caldera. Small amounts of ash were noted in the plume that rose 2.5 km, but most of the emission was steam and SO2. Vegetation fires were ignited on the SW flank, but lava did not reach the ocean. There was no sign of volcanic activity within the summit crater. A significant area with thermal anomalies was seen in infrared satellite data through 7 September.

Eruption of early September 2017. After eight years of little activity, Fernandina (La Cumbre) began a new eruptive phase on 4 September 2017, at approximately 1225 (Galápagos time) (figure 22). Inflation between March 2015 and September 2017 was 17 cm centered on the caldera; 5 cm of that inflation occurred in the last two months before the eruption (figure 23).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 22. Fernandina began a new eruption on 4 September 2017. The initial plume was mostly steam, but contained significant SO2 and possibly minor ash. Photo by DPNG personnel, courtesy of IG-EPN (INFORME ESPECIAL VOLCÁN FERNANDINA N°1 – 2017, Lunes, 04 Septiembre 2017 16:49).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 23. Interferogram image of Fernandina between 19 March 2015 and 4 September 2017 shows about 17 cm of inflation in the caldera. Each concentric band of colors within the caldera represents several centimeters of inflation. Created by Yu Zhou and Mike Stock, courtesy of IG-EPN (INFORME ESPECIAL DEL VOLCÁN FERNANDINA N°2 – 2017, Miércoles, 06 Septiembre 2017 17:16).

Seismic activity began with hybrid-type earthquakes (fractures with fluid movements) followed by Long Period (LP) earthquakes (fluid movements). The seismic network of the Geophysical Institute installed in the Galapagos began to detect activity at the volcano around 0955 on 4 September 2017. The beginning of the eruption was associated with a volcanic tremor that began at 1225. At 1428, an eruptive column was visible in satellite imagery, interpreted at an approximate height of 4,000 m above the crater, drifting WNW (figure 24).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 24. This false-color satellite image of Fernandina on 4 September 2017 showed the eruption column drifting NW estimated at 4,000 m altitude. Source: http://goes.higp.hawaii.edu/cgi-bin/imageview?sitename=galapagos. Courtesy of IG-EPN (INFORME ESPECIAL VOLCÁN FERNANDINA N°1 – 2017, Lunes, 04 Septiembre 2017 16:49).

The Washington VAAC reported that satellite imagery indicated a lava eruption which produced a plume of steam and gas that rose to 2,400 m above sea level and extended about 60 km W of the summit. While initially no ash was reported in the plume, a few hours later a new VAAC report suggested that minor ash was possibly present, although it was most likely primarily SO2. Satellite data reported by the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center showed SO2 emissions on 4-6 and 8 September (figure 25).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 25. SO2 emissions from Fernandina were identified with the OMI instrument on the Aura satellite and the OMPS instrument on Japan's Suomi satellite during 4-8 September 2017. Upper left: A small SO2 emission emerges very close in time to the first reported observation of the eruption on 4 September. Upper right: The low-resolution OMPS image clearly shows a large plume drifting W about 24 hours later. Lower left and right: SO2 is present NW of the Galapagos over the eastern Pacific on 6 and 8 September. Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Thermal alerts indicative of fresh lava flows from the rim of the summit crater were first reported by MODVOLC on 4 September 2017 (UTC), and abundant through 7 September (figure 26). No thermal anomalies were recorded in MODVOLC data on 8 September. An additional group of alert pixels was recorded on 9 September, but it's not clear if they were caused by fresh lava flows or burning fires; a few more intermittent pixels were recorded through 20 September. The MIROVA system also captured a significant spike in heatflow at Fernandina during the same period (figure 27). Some of the anomalies measured by both systems were likely the result of the fires caused by the lava flows as well as the flows themselves.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 26. Map showing the location of new lava flows at Fernandina during 4-7 September 2017 using MODVOLC thermal alerts. Fires may have caused some of the alert pixels. Courtesy of HIGP MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 27. MIROVA thermal anomalies show a spike in activity at Fernandina during the period of the September 2017 eruption in this graph of log radiative power for the year ending on 16 October 2017. The initial spike that was located more than 5 km from the summit confirms the lava flows were located on the crater rim and flank and not in the summit crater. Some anomalies may also be due to the fires caused by the lava flows. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Incandescence was first observed during the night of 4 September (figure 28). Lava flows apparently originated from a circumferential fissure near the fissure of the 2005 eruption on the SSW rim of the caldera. The lava flowed down the S and SW flanks but did not reach the sea. Active lava flows were observed during the night of 5 September (figure 29). The intensity of the eruption decreased significantly after about 48 hours.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 28. Incandescence at Fernandina on 4 September 2017. Photo by Alex Medina, courtesy of IG-EPN (INFORME ESPECIAL DEL VOLCÁN FERNANDINA N°2 – 2017, Miércoles, 06 Septiembre 2017 17:16).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 29. A lava flow is visible on the SW flank of Fernandina on 5 September 2017. Photo by Alex Medina, courtesy of IG-EPN (INFORME ESPECIAL DEL VOLCÁN FERNANDINA N°2 – 2017, Miércoles, 06 Septiembre 2017 17:16).

A technical team from the Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (DPNG) made an aerial inspection using the seaplane Sea Wolf on 7 September 2017. They observed a radial fissure in the same area where the 2005 eruption occurred, and several lava flows. No recent volcanic activity or any landslides were seen inside the caldera. The lava flows had ceased movement, but there were isolated fires burning patches of vegetation surrounded by older lava flows (figures 30 and 31). The lava had traveled from the summit crater at about 1,200 m down to 500 m elevation. While lava was not observed flowing into the sea, coastal monitoring by the park rangers showed water vapor on the SW coast, so it was possible that lava had reached the ocean through subsurface lava tubes.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 30. Lava flows burn vegetation on Fernandina during the eruption of September 2017. Observers on a 7 September 2017 flyover by DPNG reported that the active flows had ceased, but vegetation was burning at four different sites. Courtesy of Directorate of the Galapagos National Park (DPNG) (11/09/2017– Sobrevuelo al volcán La Cumbre, en Galápagos).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. Vegetation on Fernandina burns on 7 September 2017 after lava flows erupted beginning on 4 September 2017. There was no evidence of flowing lava during the overflight. Courtesy of the Galapagos Conservancy.

Geologic Background. Fernandina, the most active of Galápagos volcanoes and the one closest to the Galápagos mantle plume, is a basaltic shield volcano with a deep 5 x 6.5 km summit caldera. The volcano displays the classic "overturned soup bowl" profile of Galápagos shield volcanoes. Its caldera is elongated in a NW-SE direction and formed during several episodes of collapse. Circumferential fissures surround the caldera and were instrumental in growth of the volcano. Reporting has been poor in this uninhabited western end of the archipelago, and even a 1981 eruption was not witnessed at the time. In 1968 the caldera floor dropped 350 m following a major explosive eruption. Subsequent eruptions, mostly from vents located on or near the caldera boundary faults, have produced lava flows inside the caldera as well as those in 1995 that reached the coast from a SW-flank vent. Collapse of a nearly 1 km3 section of the east caldera wall during an eruption in 1988 produced a debris-avalanche deposit that covered much of the caldera floor and absorbed the caldera lake.

Information Contacts: Instituto Geofísico (IG-EPN), Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Casilla 17-01-2759, Quito, Ecuador (URL: http://www.igepn.edu.ec ); Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos (DPNG), Isla Santa Cruz, Galápagos, Ecuador (URL: http://www.galapagos.gob.ec/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP), MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: http://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/index.html ); Galapagos Conservancy, (URL:https://www.galapagos.org).

Tungurahua (Ecuador) — February 2018 Citation iconCite this Report



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ash emissions, explosions, and pyroclastic flows 26 February-16 March 2016; no further activity through 2017

Episodic eruptive activity at Ecuador's Tungurahua has persisted since November 2011. Periods of activity over several weeks that included ash plumes, Strombolian activity, pyroclastic flows, and lava flows were often followed by quiescence for a similar time span. This type of activity continued throughout 2015 (BGVN 42:08, 42:12); Strombolian activity, significant ash emissions, and SO2 plumes in mid-November 2015 marked the last significant activity for that year. The next episode began in late February 2016 and is discussed below with information provided by the Observatorio del Volcán Tungurahua (OVT) of the Instituto Geofísico (IG-EPN) of Ecuador, aviation alerts from the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), and other sources of satellite data.

The latest eruptive episode at Tungurahua lasted from 26 February-16 March 2016. Multiple explosions with ash plumes that rose 3-8 km were frequent. Incandescent blocks were ejected up to 1,500 m down most flanks. Pyroclastic flows affected many of the ravines, although no communities reported damage. Significant SO2 emissions were recorded by satellite data between 27 February-8 March. An inflationary trend was recorded from early March through late September 2016, after which a period of deflation began. Tungurahua had occasional seismic swarms after the eruption, but no reported surface activity for the remainder of 2016 and 2017.

IG reported an ash emission on 5 January 2016 that rose 2 km above the crater and drifted NE, causing minor ashfall in the Pondoa and Bilbao sectors. Otherwise, no volcanic activity was reported until a new episode began on 26 February 2016 with a seismic swarm followed by a series of explosions and ash plumes that rose 3-8 km above the crater (figures 96 and 97). Incandescent blocks were ejected up to a kilometer down the NW, W, and SW flanks (figure 98). Pyroclastic flows were also generated that descended through the gorges of Juive, La Hacienda, Mandur and Cusúa, reaching distances of 500-1,500 m (figure 99).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 96. An ash emission at Tungurahua observed from OVT on 26 February 2016. Courtesy of IG-EPN, (Explosion en el Volcan Tunguraha, No. 20 [1], Informe especial Tungurahia No. 1).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 97. Ejecta traveled 1,000 m from the crater, an ash plume rose 2 km, and pyroclastic flows traveled down several drainages on the NW flank at Tungurahua on 26 February 2016 in this thermal image taken from the Mandur camera. Courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 836, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 23 de febrero al 01 de marzo de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 98. Incandescent blocks descended 1,000 m down the NW, W, and SW flanks of Tungurahua on 26 February 2016, and explosions were audible at OVT. Photo by F. Vásconez, courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 836, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 23 de febrero al 01 de marzo de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 99. Pyroclastic flows descended the Mandur, La Hacienda and other ravines on the W flank of Tungurahua on 26 February 2016 as far as 1 km. Photo by F. Vásconez, courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 836, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 23 de febrero al 01 de marzo de 2016).

Continuous emissions with low to moderate ash content drifted W and SW on 27 February. The communities most affected by ashfall were Choglontus, Cotaló, El Manzano, Palitahua, Bilbao, Pillate, Juive, Ambato, Tisaleo, Riobamba, and Quero. The ash was mostly fine-grained, except in the area near Pillate and Choglontus, where the grain size reached up to 3 mm and consisted of reddish, black, gray, and beige fragments (figure 100). On the morning of 1 March 2015, several pyroclastic flows were observed descending through the Juive, Mandur, Achupashal, La Hacienda, and Romero ravines; they traveled 1.5-1.7 km (figure 101).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 100. Coarse-grained ash fragments from Tungurahua collected in Ambato on 26 February 2016. Photo by Marco Montesdeoca (ECU911 Ambato), Courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (Explosion en el Volcan Tunguraha, No. 2, Informe especial Tungurahia No. 2, 26 de febrero del 2016 (16h45)).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 101. A pyroclastic flow descended 1.5 km down the Hacienda Ravine on 1 March 2016 at Tungurahua and was captured by the Mandur thermal camera. Courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 836, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 23 de febrero al 01 de marzo de 2016).

Ash emissions were constant throughout the first week in March (figures 102 and 103). During 1-5 March they drifted NW, SW and E, with ashfall reported in the towns of Pillate, Manzano, Choglontus, Palictahua and El Altar (figure 104). Incandescent blocks descended most of the flanks (figure 105). Beginning on 6 March, plumes drifted SW and S, with variable ash content. Pyroclastic flows along the W and NW flanks descended the Cusua, Juive, Mandur, Ashupashal, Romero, and Rhea drainages (figure 106), the farthest traveled went 2.2 km down the Ashupashal on 7 March. In addition to ash and other explosive debris, daily sulfur dioxide emissions were identified from 27 February-8 March 2016 by the OMI instrument on the Aura satellite (figure 107).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 102. Constant ash emissions rose at least 1 km above the summit of Tungurahua during the first week of March 2016. Photo take on 3 March 2016 by P. Espin. Courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 837, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 01 al 08 de marzo de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 103. A dark ash plume formed a mushroom cloud over Tungurahua on 5 March 2016; it rose 2 km above the summit and drifted SW. Photo by E. Telenchana , courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 837, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 01 al 08 de marzo de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 104. Ashfall in Choglontus on 6 March 2016 from Tungurahua. Photo by P. Espín, courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 837, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 01 al 08 de marzo de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 105. Strombolian explosions send incandescent blocks down the flanks of Tungurahua on 6 March 2016. Photo by E. Gaunt, courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 837, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 01 al 08 de marzo de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 106. Visual (upper) and thermal (lower) images of Tungurahua taken from Cotalo showing a pyroclastic flow extending down the Achupashal drainage on 6 March 2016. Photo by E. Gaunt, thermal image by M. Almeida, courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 837, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 01 al 08 de marzo de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 107. Substantial SO2 emissions from Tungurahua were measured daily during 27 February-8 March 2016 by the OMI instrument on the Aura satellite. The plumes drifted 300 km or more W on 27 February, 1, 3, and 5 March. Columbia's Nevado del Riuz (upper plume in images) also produced SO2 emissions during this same period. Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Beginning on 28 February, a strong inflationary trend (almost 3 cm) was observed in the GPS data at the Mazón (SW flank) station. Three inclinometers on the NW flank also indicated inflation during 28 February-4 March.

Episodic explosions on 8 March 2016 produced plumes with high ash contents that rose 6 km. Small pyroclastic flows descended the NW flank in the Mandur, Rea, Achupashal, and La Hacienda ravines. Sporadic emissions continued for most of the second week of March, with varying ash contents, reaching between 1.5 and 4 km above the crater and drifting to the SSW. Reports of ashfall were received in the sectors of Choglontús, Manzano, Pillate, El Altar, and Palitahua, and minor ashfall in Juive and Cusúa. Several ash plumes (figure 108) and a small pyroclastic flow were observed on 13 March 2016. The Manzano lookout reported loud noises on 14 March, and ashfall in the afternoon, but weather obscured views of emissions. Rainy weather on 16 March also obscured views, but Manzano, Chacauco, Cusúa, and Juive lookouts reported ashfall and explosions. There were no further reports from the observatory of ash emissions, ashfall, or explosions; only minor steam plumes were observed on clear days after 16 March 2016.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 108. An ash emission at Tungurahua on 13 March 2016 was the last photographed for the eruption. Photo by M. Córdova from OVT, courtesy of IG-EPN (INFORME No. 838, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 08 al 15 de marzo de 2016).

The Washington VAAC reported possible ash emissions on 31 March 2016, but information from OVT indicated no surface activity. Intense rain on 28 March generated a small lahar that descended through the La Pampa ravine. Significant rainfall on 2 April caused lahars to affect Vazcun, Juive, Pondoa, Bilbao, Achupashal, Chontapamba and Malpayacu drainages. Seismicity continued to decrease throughout April 2016. A small swarm of Long Period seismic events (LP's) occurred between 1 and 20 May that were associated with fluid movements. The Washington VAAC reported ash emissions on 3, 8, and 13 May, but OVT reported no surface activity during the entire month (figure 109).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 109. Clear skies on 31 May 2016 at Tungurahua revealed a snow-covered summit with no evidence of emissions. Photo by M. Córdova, courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 849, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 24 al 31 de mayo del 2016).

In a Special Report released on 2 June 2016, IG-EPN noted a clear inflationary trend in data collected from two stations at Tungurahua since the end of the eruption in mid-March. The Retu inclinometer, located N of the crater, showed inflation on the radial axis of about 600 μrad (microradians), and about 200 μrad on the tangential axis. The same axis at the Mandur inclinometer (on the NW flank) had a smaller but distinct (~30 μrad) inflationary signal (figure 110).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 110. The pattern of deformation registered at the Retu (Refugio Tungurahua) and Mndr (Mandur) inclinometers from 14 February-30 May 2016 at Tungurahua. The gray area corresponds to the eruption of 26 February -16 March. An inflationary trend is apparent on both axes at the Retu instrument and on the tangential axis of the Mndr site. Courtesy of IG-EPN (Informe Especial Volcán Tungurahua - N°6, 2 de Junio de 2016).

A Washington VAAC report on 1 June 2016 noted that the Guayaquil Meteorological Weather Office (MWO) reported an ash plume at Tungurahua, but OVT confirmed no surface activity. A very small lahar was recorded in the La Pampa ravine on 2 June. Although there were rains of varying intensity many days during June, they did not generate significant lahars, except one of medium size that occurred on 21 June in the Achupashal ravine. The Washington VAAC noted a report from the Guayaquil MWO of an ash emission on 5 July, but it was not detected in satellite imagery, and the OVT reported no surface activity. There was no surface activity reported by OVT from July to mid-September (figure 111), and internal seismicity remained very low. Occasional rainy periods generated muddy water in the ravines, but no significant lahars were reported.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 111. The summit of Tungurahua showed no sign of surface activity on 1 August 2016. Photo by Bernard J., courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 858, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 26 de julio al 02 de agosto de 2016).

A significant increase in the number of LP seismic events began on 12 September 2016, and a small seismic swarm was recorded on 18 September (figure 112). Small fumaroles were visible at the edges of the crater on 15 and 16 September (figure 113). At this same time, the inflationary trend that had been ongoing since the eruption earlier in the year switched to deflation as measured at the Retu inclinometer.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 112. The number of different types of seismic events and explosions recorded at Tungurahua between 1 January and 18 September 2016. The largest spike between 26 February and 16 March corresponds to the eruption of that period. Other episodes of seismicity were recorded during May and mid-September, but did not result in ash emissions or explosions. Courtesy of IG-EPN (Informe Especial Volcán Tungurahua - N°7, 18 de Septiembre de 2016).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 113. Closeup images of the summit of Tungurahua on 15 (top) and 16 (bottom) September 2016 reveal minor fumarolic activity. Top: Steam rises from two snow free areas on 15 September (INFORME No. 865, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 13 al 20 de septiembre de 2016). Bottom: Fumarolic activity was also apparent in this telephoto image taken from OVT on 16 September. Photo by P. Ramón (Informe Especial Volcán Tungurahua - N°7, 18 de Septiembre de 2016). Courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN.

Another increase in LP seismicity and tremors occurred on 24 September, but there were no reports of surface activity other than minor steam fumaroles. Seismicity remained elevated through early October; a one-hour tremor event was reported on 1 October. Seismicity decreased gradually over the following two weeks. Low-energy steam and gas emissions from fumaroles located on the S and SW flanks were observed during a flyover on 7 October 2016. This corresponded to the warmest areas revealed in the thermal image of the summit (figure 114). with a TMA (maximum apparent temperature) of 47.9°C and 36.5°C.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 114. A thermal image of the summit of Tungurahua taken during a flyover on 7 October 2016 showed two areas on the crater rim with slightly elevated temperatures where fumarolic activity was occasionally observed. Image by P. Ramón, courtesy of OVT, IG-EPN (INFORME No. 868, SÍNTESIS SEMANAL DEL ESTADO DEL VOLCÁN TUNGURAHUA, Semana: Del 4 al 11 de octubre de 2016).

Re-suspended ash from high winds in mid-November 2016 caused several VAAC notices to be issued, but no new emissions were reported by OVT through the end of 2016.

Tungurahua remained quiet throughout 2017. A 90-minute seismic swarm on 8 January 2017 and a minor increase in seismicity in the second half of March were the only seismic events above background levels. There were no emissions except for occasional minor fumarolic activity around the crater rim. Periods of heavy rainfall occasionally produced muddy water in the ravines; the only lahars were reported during 5-6 January, late April and 15 November.

Geologic Background. 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 itself collapsed about 3000 years ago and produced a large debris-avalanche deposit and a horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the west, inside which the modern glacier-capped stratovolcano (Tungurahua III) was constructed. 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.

Information Contacts: Instituto Geofísico (IG), Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Casilla 17-01-2759, Quito, Ecuador (URL: http://www.igepn.edu.ec ); NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/); Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB), NOAA/NESDIS OSPO, NOAA Science Center Room 401, 5200 Auth Rd, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL: www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/vaac, archive at: http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/VAAC/archive.html).

Search Bulletin Archive by Publication Date

Select a month and year from the drop-downs and click "Show Issue" to have that issue displayed in the Selected Bulletin tab.

Dropdowns to choose month and year for archived Bulletins.    

The default month and year is the latest issue available.

 Atmospheric Effects

The enormous aerosol cloud from the March-April 1982 eruption of Mexico's El Chichón persisted for years in the stratosphere, and led to the Atmospheric Effects section becoming a regular feature of the Bulletin. Descriptions of the initial dispersal of major eruption clouds remain with the individual eruption reports, but observations of long-term stratospheric aerosol loading will be found in this section.

View Atmospheric Effects Reports

 Special Announcements

Special announcements of various kinds and obituaries.

View Special Announcements Reports

 Additional Reports

Reports are sometimes published that are not related to a Holocene volcano. These might include observations of a Pleistocene volcano, earthquake swarms, or floating pumice. Reports are also sometimes published in which the source of the activity is unknown or the report is determined to be false. All of these types of additional reports are listed below by subregion and subject.

Kermadec Islands

Floating Pumice (Kermadec Islands)

1986 Submarine Explosion

Tonga Islands

Floating Pumice (Tonga)

Fiji Islands

Floating Pumice (Fiji)

Andaman Islands

False Report of Andaman Islands Eruptions

Sangihe Islands

1968 Northern Celebes Earthquake

Southeast Asia

Pumice Raft (South China Sea)

Land Subsidence near Ham Rong

Ryukyu Islands and Kyushu

Pumice Rafts (Ryukyu Islands)

Izu, Volcano, and Mariana Islands

Acoustic Signals in 1996 from Unknown Source

Acoustic Signals in 1999-2000 from Unknown Source

Kuril Islands

Possible 1988 Eruption Plume

Aleutian Islands

Possible 1986 Eruption Plume


False Report of New Volcano




La Lorenza Mud Volcano

Pacific Ocean (Chilean Islands)

False Report of Submarine Volcanism

Central Chile and Argentina

Estero de Parraguirre

West Indies

Mid-Cayman Spreading Center

Atlantic Ocean (northern)

Northern Reykjanes Ridge


Azores-Gibraltar Fracture Zone

Antarctica and South Sandwich Islands

Jun Jaegyu

East Scotia Ridge

 Additional Reports (database)

08/1997 (BGVN 22:08) False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption

False report of volcanism intended to exclude would-be gold miners

12/1997 (BGVN 22:12) False Report of Somalia Eruption

Press reports of Somalia's first historical eruption were likely in error

11/1999 (BGVN 24:11) False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption

UFO adherent claims new volcano in Sea of Marmara

05/2003 (BGVN 28:05) Har-Togoo

Fumaroles and minor seismicity since October 2002

12/2005 (BGVN 30:12) Elgon

False report of activity; confusion caused by burning dung in a lava tube

False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption (Philippines) — August 1997

False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption


7.975°N, 123.23°E; summit elev. 1510 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

False report of volcanism intended to exclude would-be gold miners

In discussing the week ending on 12 September, "Earthweek" (Newman, 1997) incorrectly claimed that a volcano named "Mount Pinukis" had erupted. Widely read in the US, the dramatic Earthweek report described terrified farmers and a black mushroom cloud that resembled a nuclear explosion. The mountain's location was given as "200 km E of Zamboanga City," a spot well into the sea. The purported eruption had received mention in a Manila Bulletin newspaper report nine days earlier, on 4 September. Their comparatively understated report said that a local police director had disclosed that residents had seen a dormant volcano showing signs of activity.

In response to these news reports Emmanuel Ramos of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) sent a reply on 17 September. PHIVOLCS staff had initially heard that there were some 12 alleged families who fled the mountain and sought shelter in the lowlands. A PHIVOLCS investigation team later found that the reported "families" were actually individuals seeking respite from some politically motivated harassment. The story seems to have stemmed from a local gold rush and an influential politician who wanted to use volcanism as a ploy to exclude residents. PHIVOLCS concluded that no volcanic activity had occurred. They also added that this finding disappointed local politicians but was much welcomed by the residents.

PHIVOLCS spelled the mountain's name as "Pinokis" and from their report it seems that it might be an inactive volcano. There is no known Holocene volcano with a similar name (Simkin and Siebert, 1994). No similar names (Pinokis, Pinukis, Pinakis, etc.) were found listed in the National Imagery and Mapping Agency GEOnet Names Server (http://geonames.nga.mil/gns/html/index.html), a searchable database of 3.3 million non-US geographic-feature names.

The Manila Bulletin report suggested that Pinokis resides on the Zamboanga Peninsula. The Peninsula lies on Mindanao Island's extreme W side where it bounds the Moro Gulf, an arm of the Celebes Sea. The mountainous Peninsula trends NNE-SSW and contains peaks with summit elevations near 1,300 m. Zamboanga City sits at the extreme end of the Peninsula and operates both a major seaport and an international airport.

[Later investigation found that Mt. Pinokis is located in the Lison Valley on the Zamboanga Peninsula, about 170 km NE of Zamboanga City and 30 km NW of Pagadian City. It is adjacent to the two peaks of the Susong Dalaga (Maiden's Breast) and near Mt. Sugarloaf.]

References. Newman, S., 1997, Earthweek, a diary of the planet (week ending 12 September): syndicated newspaper column (URL: http://www.earthweek.com/).

Manila Bulletin, 4 Sept. 1997, Dante's Peak (URL: http://www.mb.com.ph/).

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the world, 2nd edition: Geoscience Press in association with the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, Tucson AZ, 368 p.

Information Contacts: Emmanuel G. Ramos, Deputy Director, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Department of Science and Technology, PHIVOLCS Building, C. P. Garcia Ave., University of the Philippines, Diliman campus, Quezon City, Philippines.

False Report of Somalia Eruption (Somalia) — December 1997

False Report of Somalia Eruption


3.25°N, 41.667°E; summit elev. 500 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Press reports of Somalia's first historical eruption were likely in error

Xinhua News Agency filed a news report on 27 February under the headline "Volcano erupts in Somalia" but the veracity of the story now appears doubtful. The report disclosed the volcano's location as on the W side of the Gedo region, an area along the Ethiopian border just NE of Kenya. The report had relied on the commissioner of the town of Bohol Garas (a settlement described as 40 km NE of the main Al-Itihad headquarters of Luq town) and some or all of the information was relayed by journalists through VHF radio. The report claimed the disaster "wounded six herdsmen" and "claimed the lives of 290 goats grazing near the mountain when the incident took place." Further descriptions included such statements as "the volcano which erupted two days ago [25 February] has melted down the rocks and sand and spread . . . ."

Giday WoldeGabriel returned from three weeks of geological fieldwork in SW Ethiopia, near the Kenyan border, on 25 August. During his time there he inquired of many people, including geologists, if they had heard of a Somalian eruption in the Gedo area; no one had heard of the event. WoldeGabriel stated that he felt the news report could have described an old mine or bomb exploding. Heavy fighting took place in the Gedo region during the Ethio-Somalian war of 1977. Somalia lacks an embassy in Washington DC; when asked during late August, Ayalaw Yiman, an Ethiopian embassy staff member in Washington DC also lacked any knowledge of a Somalian eruption.

A Somalian eruption would be significant since the closest known Holocene volcanoes occur in the central Ethiopian segment of the East African rift system S of Addis Ababa, ~500 km NW of the Gedo area. These Ethiopian rift volcanoes include volcanic fields, shield volcanoes, cinder cones, and stratovolcanoes.

Information Contacts: Xinhua News Agency, 5 Sharp Street West, Wanchai, Hong Kong; Giday WoldeGabriel, EES-1/MS D462, Geology-Geochemistry Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545; Ayalaw Yiman, Ethiopian Embassy, 2134 Kalorama Rd. NW, Washington DC 20008.

False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption (Turkey) — November 1999

False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption


40.683°N, 29.1°E; summit elev. 0 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

UFO adherent claims new volcano in Sea of Marmara

Following the Ms 7.8 earthquake in Turkey on 17 August (BGVN 24:08) an Email message originating in Turkey was circulated, claiming that volcanic activity was observed coincident with the earthquake and suggesting a new (magmatic) volcano in the Sea of Marmara. For reasons outlined below, and in the absence of further evidence, editors of the Bulletin consider this a false report.

The report stated that fishermen near the village of Cinarcik, at the E end of the Sea of Marmara "saw the sea turned red with fireballs" shortly after the onset of the earthquake. They later found dead fish that appeared "fried." Their nets were "burned" while under water and contained samples of rocks alleged to look "magmatic."

No samples of the fish were preserved. A tectonic scientist in Istanbul speculated that hot water released by the earthquake from the many hot springs along the coast in that area may have killed some fish (although they would be boiled rather than fried).

The phenomenon called earthquake lights could explain the "fireballs" reportedly seen by the fishermen. Such effects have been reasonably established associated with large earthquakes, although their origin remains poorly understood. In addition to deformation-triggered piezoelectric effects, earthquake lights have sometimes been explained as due to the release of methane gas in areas of mass wasting (even under water). Omlin and others (1999), for example, found gas hydrate and methane releases associated with mud volcanoes in coastal submarine environments.

The astronomer and author Thomas Gold (Gold, 1998) has a website (Gold, 2000) where he presents a series of alleged quotes from witnesses of earthquakes. We include three such quotes here (along with Gold's dates, attributions, and other comments):

(A) Lima, 30 March 1828. "Water in the bay 'hissed as if hot iron was immersed in it,' bubbles and dead fish rose to the surface, and the anchor chain of HMS Volage was partially fused while lying in the mud on the bottom." (Attributed to Bagnold, 1829; the anchor chain is reported to be on display in the London Navy Museum.)

(B) Romania, 10 November 1940. ". . . a thick layer like a translucid gas above the surface of the soil . . . irregular gas fires . . . flames in rhythm with the movements of the soil . . . flashes like lightning from the floor to the summit of Mt Tampa . . . flames issuing from rocks, which crumbled, with flashes also issuing from non-wooded mountainsides." (Phrases used in eyewitness accounts collected by Demetrescu and Petrescu, 1941).

(C) Sungpan-Pingwu (China), 16, 22, and 23 August 1976. "From March of 1976, various large anomalies were observed over a broad region. . . . At the Wanchia commune of Chungching County, outbursts of natural gas from rock fissures ignited and were difficult to extinguish even by dumping dirt over the fissures. . . . Chu Chieh Cho, of the Provincial Seismological Bureau, related personally seeing a fireball 75 km from the epicenter on the night of 21 July while in the company of three professional seismologists."

Yalciner and others (1999) made a study of coastal areas along the Sea of Marmara after the Izmet earthquake. They found evidence for one or more tsunamis with maximum runups of 2.0-2.5 m. Preliminary modeling of the earthquake's response failed to reproduce the observed runups; the areas of maximum runup instead appeared to correspond most closely with several local mass-failure events. This observation together with the magnitude of the earthquake, and bottom soundings from marine geophysical teams, suggested mass wasting may have been fairly common on the floor of the Sea of Marmara.

Despite a wide range of poorly understood, dramatic processes associated with earthquakes (Izmet 1999 apparently included), there remains little evidence for volcanism around the time of the earthquake. The nearest Holocene volcano lies ~200 km SW of the report location. Neither Turkish geologists nor scientists from other countries in Turkey to study the 17 August earthquake reported any volcanism. The report said the fisherman found "magmatic" rocks; it is unlikely they would be familiar with this term.

The motivation and credibility of the report's originator, Erol Erkmen, are unknown. Certainly, the difficulty in translating from Turkish to English may have caused some problems in understanding. Erkmen is associated with a website devoted to reporting UFO activity in Turkey. Photographs of a "magmatic rock" sample were sent to the Bulletin, but they only showed dark rocks photographed devoid of a scale on a featureless background. The rocks shown did not appear to be vesicular or glassy. What was most significant to Bulletin editors was the report author's progressive reluctance to provide samples or encourage follow-up investigation with local scientists. Without the collaboration of trained scientists on the scene this report cannot be validated.

References. Omlin, A, Damm, E., Mienert, J., and Lukas, D., 1999, In-situ detection of methane releases adjacent to gas hydrate fields on the Norwegian margin: (Abstract) Fall AGU meeting 1999, Eos, American Geophysical Union.

Yalciner, A.C., Borrero, J., Kukano, U., Watts, P., Synolakis, C. E., and Imamura, F., 1999, Field survey of 1999 Izmit tsunami and modeling effort of new tsunami generation mechanism: (Abstract) Fall AGU meeting 1999, Eos, American Geophysical Union.

Gold, T., 1998, The deep hot biosphere: Springer Verlag, 256 p., ISBN: 0387985468.

Gold, T., 2000, Eye-witness accounts of several major earthquakes (URL: http://www.people.cornell.edu/ pages/tg21/eyewit.html).

Information Contacts: Erol Erkmen, Tuvpo Project Alp.

Har-Togoo (Mongolia) — May 2003



48.831°N, 101.626°E; summit elev. 1675 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Fumaroles and minor seismicity since October 2002

In December 2002 information appeared in Mongolian and Russian newspapers and on national TV that a volcano in Central Mongolia, the Har-Togoo volcano, was producing white vapors and constant acoustic noise. Because of the potential hazard posed to two nearby settlements, mainly with regard to potential blocking of rivers, the Director of the Research Center of Astronomy and Geophysics of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Bekhtur, organized a scientific expedition to the volcano on 19-20 March 2003. The scientific team also included M. Ulziibat, seismologist from the same Research Center, M. Ganzorig, the Director of the Institute of Informatics, and A. Ivanov from the Institute of the Earth's Crust, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Geological setting. The Miocene Har-Togoo shield volcano is situated on top of a vast volcanic plateau (figure 1). The 5,000-year-old Khorog (Horog) cone in the Taryatu-Chulutu volcanic field is located 135 km SW and the Quaternary Urun-Dush cone in the Khanuy Gol (Hanuy Gol) volcanic field is 95 km ENE. Pliocene and Quaternary volcanic rocks are also abundant in the vicinity of the Holocene volcanoes (Devyatkin and Smelov, 1979; Logatchev and others, 1982). Analysis of seismic activity recorded by a network of seismic stations across Mongolia shows that earthquakes of magnitude 2-3.5 are scattered around the Har-Togoo volcano at a distance of 10-15 km.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Photograph of the Har-Togoo volcano viewed from west, March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

Observations during March 2003. The name of the volcano in the Mongolian language means "black-pot" and through questioning of the local inhabitants, it was learned that there is a local myth that a dragon lived in the volcano. The local inhabitants also mentioned that marmots, previously abundant in the area, began to migrate westwards five years ago; they are now practically absent from the area.

Acoustic noise and venting of colorless warm gas from a small hole near the summit were noticed in October 2002 by local residents. In December 2002, while snow lay on the ground, the hole was clearly visible to local visitors, and a second hole could be seen a few meters away; it is unclear whether or not white vapors were noticed on this occasion. During the inspection in March 2003 a third hole was seen. The second hole is located within a 3 x 3 m outcrop of cinder and pumice (figure 2) whereas the first and the third holes are located within massive basalts. When close to the holes, constant noise resembled a rapid river heard from afar. The second hole was covered with plastic sheeting fixed at the margins, but the plastic was blown off within 2-3 seconds. Gas from the second hole was sampled in a mechanically pumped glass sampler. Analysis by gas chromatography, performed a week later at the Institute of the Earth's Crust, showed that nitrogen and atmospheric air were the major constituents.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Photograph of the second hole sampled at Har-Togoo, with hammer for scale, March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

The temperature of the gas at the first, second, and third holes was +1.1, +1.4, and +2.7°C, respectively, while air temperature was -4.6 to -4.7°C (measured on 19 March 2003). Repeated measurements of the temperatures on the next day gave values of +1.1, +0.8, and -6.0°C at the first, second, and third holes, respectively. Air temperature was -9.4°C. To avoid bias due to direct heating from sunlight the measurements were performed under shadow. All measurements were done with Chechtemp2 digital thermometer with precision of ± 0.1°C and accuracy ± 0.3°C.

Inside the mouth of the first hole was 4-10-cm-thick ice with suspended gas bubbles (figure 5). The ice and snow were sampled in plastic bottles, melted, and tested for pH and Eh with digital meters. The pH-meter was calibrated by Horiba Ltd (Kyoto, Japan) standard solutions 4 and 7. Water from melted ice appeared to be slightly acidic (pH 6.52) in comparison to water of melted snow (pH 7.04). Both pH values were within neutral solution values. No prominent difference in Eh (108 and 117 for ice and snow, respectively) was revealed.

Two digital short-period three-component stations were installed on top of Har-Togoo, one 50 m from the degassing holes and one in a remote area on basement rocks, for monitoring during 19-20 March 2003. Every hour 1-3 microseismic events with magnitude <2 were recorded. All seismic events were virtually identical and resembled A-type volcano-tectonic earthquakes (figure 6). Arrival difference between S and P waves were around 0.06-0.3 seconds for the Har-Togoo station and 0.1-1.5 seconds for the remote station. Assuming that the Har-Togoo station was located in the epicentral zone, the events were located at ~1-3 km depth. Seismic episodes similar to volcanic tremors were also recorded (figure 3).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Examples of an A-type volcano-tectonic earthquake and volcanic tremor episodes recorded at the Har-Togoo station on 19 March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

Conclusions. The abnormal thermal and seismic activities could be the result of either hydrothermal or volcanic processes. This activity could have started in the fall of 2002 when they were directly observed for the first time, or possibly up to five years earlier when marmots started migrating from the area. Further studies are planned to investigate the cause of the fumarolic and seismic activities.

At the end of a second visit in early July, gas venting had stopped, but seismicity was continuing. In August there will be a workshop on Russian-Mongolian cooperation between Institutions of the Russian and Mongolian Academies of Sciences (held in Ulan-Bator, Mongolia), where the work being done on this volcano will be presented.

References. Devyatkin, E.V. and Smelov, S.B., 1979, Position of basalts in sequence of Cenozoic sediments of Mongolia: Izvestiya USSR Academy of Sciences, geological series, no. 1, p. 16-29. (In Russian).

Logatchev, N.A., Devyatkin, E.V., Malaeva, E.M., and others, 1982, Cenozoic deposits of Taryat basin and Chulutu river valley (Central Hangai): Izvestiya USSR Academy of Sciences, geological series, no. 8, p. 76-86. (In Russian).

Geologic Background. The Miocene Har-Togoo shield volcano, also known as Togoo Tologoy, is situated on top of a vast volcanic plateau. The 5,000-year-old Khorog (Horog) cone in the Taryatu-Chulutu volcanic field is located 135 km SW and the Quaternary Urun-Dush cone in the Khanuy Gol (Hanuy Gol) volcanic field is 95 km ENE. Analysis of seismic activity recorded by a network of seismic stations across Mongolia shows that earthquakes of magnitude 2-3.5 are scattered around the Har-Togoo volcano at a distance of 10-15 km.

Information Contacts: Alexei V. Ivanov, Institute of the Earth Crust SB, Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia; Bekhtur andM. Ulziibat, Research Center of Astronomy and Geophysics, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulan-Bator, Mongolia; M. Ganzorig, Institute of Informatics MAS, Ulan-Bator, Mongolia.

Elgon (Uganda) — December 2005



1.136°N, 34.559°E; summit elev. 3885 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

False report of activity; confusion caused by burning dung in a lava tube

An eruption at Mount Elgon was mistakenly inferred when fumes escaped from this otherwise quiet volcano. The fumes were eventually traced to dung burning in a lava-tube cave. The cave is home to, or visited by, wildlife ranging from bats to elephants. Mt. Elgon (Ol Doinyo Ilgoon) is a stratovolcano on the SW margin of a 13 x 16 km caldera that straddles the Uganda-Kenya border 140 km NE of the N shore of Lake Victoria. No eruptions are known in the historical record or in the Holocene.

On 7 September 2004 the web site of the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation reported that villagers sighted and smelled noxious fumes from a cave on the flank of Mt. Elgon during August 2005. The villagers' concerns were taken quite seriously by both nations, to the extent that evacuation of nearby villages was considered.

The Daily Nation article added that shortly after the villagers' reports, Moses Masibo, Kenya's Western Province geology officer visited the cave, confirmed the villagers observations, and added that the temperature in the cave was 170°C. He recommended that nearby villagers move to safer locations. Masibo and Silas Simiyu of KenGens geothermal department collected ashes from the cave for testing.

Gerald Ernst reported on 19 September 2004 that he spoke with two local geologists involved with the Elgon crisis from the Geology Department of the University of Nairobi (Jiromo campus): Professor Nyambok and Zacharia Kuria (the former is a senior scientist who was unable to go in the field; the latter is a junior scientist who visited the site). According to Ernst their interpretation is that somebody set fire to bat guano in one of the caves. The fire was intense and probably explains the vigorous fuming, high temperatures, and suffocated animals. The event was also accompanied by emissions of gases with an ammonia odor. Ernst noted that this was not surprising considering the high nitrogen content of guano—ammonia is highly toxic and can also explain the animal deaths. The intense fumes initially caused substantial panic in the area.

It was Ernst's understanding that the authorities ordered evacuations while awaiting a report from local scientists, but that people returned before the report reached the authorities. The fire presumably prompted the response of local authorities who then urged the University geologists to analyze the situation. By the time geologists arrived, the fuming had ceased, or nearly so. The residue left by the fire and other observations led them to conclude that nothing remotely related to a volcanic eruption had occurred.

However, the incident emphasized the problem due to lack of a seismic station to monitor tectonic activity related to a local triple junction associated with the rift valley or volcanic seismicity. In response, one seismic station was moved from S Kenya to the area of Mt. Elgon so that local seismicity can be monitored in the future.

Information Contacts: Gerald Ernst, Univ. of Ghent, Krijgslaan 281/S8, B-9000, Belgium; Chris Newhall, USGS, Univ. of Washington, Dept. of Earth & Space Sciences, Box 351310, Seattle, WA 98195-1310, USA; The Daily Nation (URL: http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/); Uganda Tourist Board (URL: http://www.visituganda.com/).