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Report on Sabancaya (Peru) — July 1990


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 7 (July 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Sabancaya (Peru) Ash emissions decreasing in intensity; more information on June activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Sabancaya (Peru) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199007-354006



15.787°S, 71.857°W; summit elev. 5960 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A joint mission by Minard Hall, Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Quito, Ecuador, and scientists from the Instituto Geofísico del Perú (IGP) and the Univ Nacional, San Agustín (UNSA) in Arequipa, was conducted 16-24 June to evaluate the status of activity at Sabancaya. The following is Hall's report on the mission (translated by John Ewert) which supplements information in 15:5-6.

"The first indication of the reactivation . . . began in December 1986 with the appearance of summit crater fumarolic activity, which increased during 1988. In June and July 1987, a swarm of felt earthquakes was reported in the region but could not be confirmed. During a visit to the area by the [USGS] Volcano Disaster Assistance Program and the author in June 1988, the inhabitants of Huanca (25 km S from Sabancaya) reported that nothing new had occurred at the volcano other than an increase in summit fumarolic activity.

"On 28 May 1990, the inhabitants of the region informed Civil Defense of an eruption . . . consisting of a steam and ash plume that ascended several kilometers above the volcano. IGP and UNSA were informed at the same time. More intense activity was reported 2-4 June, leaving a thin (1 mm) deposit of ash in the valley E of the volcano. From 12 June until this writing (23 June) the volcano has apparently shown the same level of activity, consisting of violent emission of gases and ash forming a light-gray to medium-gray cloud that rose 2-3 km above the summit. Emissions lasted less than a minute before stopping and typically occurred every 20-30 minutes. Between emissions the volcano maintained a vapor plume several hundred meters high.

"During the mission a trace of gray ash fell over an extensive area to the N, NE, and E of Sabancaya, causing considerable worry among the inhabitants. Nevertheless, the quantity of ash that has fallen since 12 June is not significant and we confirmed that only 1 cm of ash had accumulated at the E foot of the cone since that date. All of the cone, including its snow and ice, is covered with several centimeters of ash. The two neighboring volcanoes are also covered with a trace of gray ash. It should be noted that neither of these neighboring volcanoes are displaying abnormal activity."

Since the time of Hall's report, there has been a gradual decrease in activity (column height and frequency of explosive events) at Sabancaya.

Geological Summary. Sabancaya, located in the saddle NE of Ampato and SE of Hualca Hualca volcanoes, is the youngest of these volcanic centers and the only one to have erupted in historical time. The oldest of the three, Nevado Hualca Hualca, is of probable late-Pliocene to early Pleistocene age. The name Sabancaya (meaning "tongue of fire" in the Quechua language) first appeared in records in 1595 CE, suggesting activity prior to that date. Holocene activity has consisted of Plinian eruptions followed by emission of voluminous andesitic and dacitic lava flows, which form an extensive apron around the volcano on all sides but the south. Records of observed eruptions date back to 1750 CE.

Information Contacts: M. Hall, Instituto Geofísico, Quito, Ecuador; N. Banks, CVO.