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Report on Irazu (Costa Rica) — June 1991


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 6 (June 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Irazu (Costa Rica) Tectonic earthquake swarm; new fumaroles but temperatures remain <100°C

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Irazu (Costa Rica) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199106-345060


Costa Rica

9.979°N, 83.852°W; summit elev. 3436 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A swarm of tectonic earthquakes, centered near the summit at 0-8 km depth, began in late May (16:05) and continued through June. The swarm followed aftershocks of the 22 April earthquake (16:05), and has been interpreted as representing reactivation of a fault zone. A similar earthquake swarm in January (16:1-2) was interpreted as fault reactivation caused by an [M 5.7] earthquake on 22 December [50 km WSW] of Irazú.

During the second week of June, a group of new fumaroles formed in the NE, N, NW, and S parts of the crater. Temperatures of up to 94°C were measured during fieldwork the next week, similar to NW-flank fumarole temperatures (80-90°C) since 1965. Temperatures and activity at other fumaroles remained unchanged. The seasonal crater lake, which began to fill the last week of June, remained at ambient temperature except around fumaroles, where the water was 30-48°C and had a pH of 5.9 (similar to pH measurements in 1986 and 1987). Small landslides occurred down the E, NE, and SW crater walls. Deformation measurements indicated no significant changes.

Several small tremor episodes (durations <=60 seconds) and low-frequency events were recorded during June. Univ Nacional scientists suggested that the tremor could be related to shallow hydrothermal activity and degassing beneath the crater.

Geological Summary. The massive Irazú volcano in Costa Rica, immediately E of the capital city of San José, covers an area of 500 km2 and is vegetated to within a few hundred meters of its broad summit crater complex. At least 10 satellitic cones are located on its S flank. No lava effusion is known since the eruption of the Cervantes lava flows from S-flank vents about 14,000 years ago, and all known Holocene eruptions have been explosive. The focus of eruptions at the summit crater complex has migrated to the W towards the main crater, which contains a small lake. The first well-documented eruption occurred in 1723, and frequent explosive eruptions have occurred since. Ashfall from the last major eruption during 1963-65 caused significant disruption to San José and surrounding areas. Phreatic activity reported in 1994 may have been a landslide event from the fumarolic area on the NW summit (Fallas et al., 2018).

Information Contacts: J. Barquero, E. Fernández, V. Barboza, R. Van der Laat, and E. Malavassi, OVSICORI; R. Barquero, Guillermo Alvarado, Mario Fernández, Hector Flores, and Sergio Paniagua, ICE.