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Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — April 1990


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 4 (April 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Masaya (Nicaragua) Fumarolic activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199004-344100



11.985°N, 86.165°W; summit elev. 594 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During fieldwork on 17 and 25 April, gas emission in Santiago Crater was limited to a few patches of weakly fuming ground within the inner crater, below the level of the frozen 1965 lava lake. The highest temperature measured on the fuming ground (using an 8-14 µm infrared thermometer from the crater rim) was 50.7°C. Small rockfalls from the inner crater walls were frequently audible. Much of the floor of the innermost crater was covered by debris and the "cannon" vent (first reported in February 1989; 14:02) was no longer visible. However, an opening had formed at the site of a former incandescent vent N of the February-March 1989 lava lake. No incandescence was evident in the crater after dusk on 25 April. Tangential fissures crossing the S rim parking area and nearby had widened in recent weeks.

Geological Summary. Masaya is one of Nicaragua's most unusual and most active volcanoes. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras caldera and is itself a broad, 6 x 11 km basaltic caldera with steep-sided walls up to 300 m high. The caldera is filled on its NW end by more than a dozen vents that erupted along a circular, 4-km-diameter fracture system. The NindirĂ­ and Masaya cones, the source of historical eruptions, were constructed at the southern end of the fracture system and contain multiple summit craters, including the currently active Santiago crater. A major basaltic Plinian tephra erupted from Masaya about 6,500 years ago. Historical lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and there is a lake at the far eastern end. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Masaya has been frequently active since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold." Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals have caused health hazards and crop damage.

Information Contacts: C. Oppenheimer, Open Univ; B. van Wyk de Vries, INETER.