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Report on Galeras (Colombia) — March 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 3 (March 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Galeras (Colombia) Three small explosions; ashfall to 65 km

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Galeras (Colombia) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199303-351080



1.22°N, 77.37°W; summit elev. 4276 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Small eruptions occurred on 23 March, 4 April, and 13 April. The seismic signal associated with the pyroclastic eruption at 2239 on 23 March (VEI 1) lasted 12 minutes, saturating the seismic network for 90 seconds. The eruption produced a column calculated to have been 8 km high, and ejected >8.35 x 105 m3 of material. About 6.35 x 105 m3 of ejecta went W and ashfall was noted 65 km from the volcano. Approximately 2 x 105 m3 of projectiles, some as large as 90 cm in diameter, fell within a 2 km radius of the vent and destroyed the communications station on the caldera rim, approximately 700 m from the active crater. Two policemen in the station at the time of the event were not injured. Incandescent ballistics and lightning were seen from Pasto and a loud roar was heard, but no shock wave was felt. During the 10 hours following the eruption, 445 seismic events, both long-period and tremor, were recorded. The mechanical characteristics of the eruption appeared to be the same as those for the July 1992 eruption; obstruction of the conduit at depth and subsequent explosion because of overpressurization.

Overflights of the crater after the eruption revealed a reactivation of circular and radial fractures associated with collapses on the border of the active crater. New craters and associated fumarolic activity were also noted. In the weeks prior to the eruption, SO2 flux was low, 37-81 t/d. Following the eruption, the SO2 flux rose to 800 t/d on 24 March, but then declined to 581 t/d on 26 March and to 132 t/d by 29 March.

Forty-two screw-type seismic events were recorded in March. They were located slightly W of the active crater at depths between 0.2 and 1.0 km. The dominant frequency for individual events ranged from 2.35 to 4.00 Hz, and the durations were between 22 and 185 seconds. The event lasting 185 seconds occurred on 12 March and had a dominant frequency of a 2.9 Hz.

An eruption at 1603 on 4 April produced a 5-km high ash column. The eruption was smaller than others this year and no ballistics fell outside the active crater. The seismic network recorded the eruption as a long-period event lasting 123 seconds, saturating the network for only 17 seconds. There were no precursors. After the eruption, SO2 flux was ~200 t/d, but fell to 100 t/d by the next day. Through 7 April, SO2 flux remained low and the amplitude and duration of long-period events declined.

An ash eruption at 0321 on 13 April lasted 140 seconds and saturated the seismic network for 33 seconds. An increase in gas emissions was noted later that morning during an overflight. Recorded in the preceding week were two small episodes of tremor, occasional screw-type events and a swarm of small, strongly impulsive seismic events.

Geological Summary. Galeras, a stratovolcano with a large breached caldera located immediately west of the city of Pasto, is one of Colombia's most frequently active volcanoes. The dominantly andesitic complex has been active for more than 1 million years, and two major caldera collapse eruptions took place during the late Pleistocene. Long-term extensive hydrothermal alteration has contributed to large-scale edifice collapse on at least three occasions, producing debris avalanches that swept to the west and left a large open caldera inside which the modern cone has been constructed. Major explosive eruptions since the mid-Holocene have produced widespread tephra deposits and pyroclastic flows that swept all but the southern flanks. A central cone slightly lower than the caldera rim has been the site of numerous small-to-moderate eruptions since the time of the Spanish conquistadors.

Information Contacts: M. Calvache, INGEOMINAS, Pasto; T. Fischer and D. Lescinsky, Arizona State Univ; J. Ewert and A. Lockhart, USGS.