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Report on Anatahan (United States) — May 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 5 (May 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Anatahan (United States) Earthquake swarm; island declared off-limits

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Anatahan (United States) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199305-284200


United States

16.35°N, 145.67°E; summit elev. 790 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

An earthquake swarm beneath Anatahan 29 May prompted an announcement on 2 June by the Disaster Control Office placing the islands of Anatahan, Farallon de Medinilla, and Sariguan off-limits until further notice. Boaters and airmen were advised to remain >=80 km from the islands.

The 29 May earthquake swarm began gradually at about 0700 with microearthquakes of approximate magnitude 0.5. Scattered events continued with larger events at 0946 (M 2 and M 3), at 0949 (M 2.5), and at 0951 (M 2). Sometime during 1-2 June, 50 microearthquakes of M 0.5-2.0 occurred within about 30 minutes, most with magnitudes <1. Small flurries continued until 2 June; the last activity consisted of a short burst at 1853-59 with about 20 events of M 0.5-1.5. All of the microearthquakes detected were probably within 10 km of the surface. No harmonic tremor was associated with these swarms. A permanent, continuously recording seismic station on the S rim of the caldera telemeters data to Saipan. None of the seismicity was felt because the island is uninhabited. A temporary station was installed for two days to confirm that the activity was of local origin. Seismicity was continuing as of 12 June, when about 20 microearthquakes were recorded during a 10-minute burst between 0200 and 0300. Magnitudes were in the 0.5-3.0 range and focal depths were shallow.

Although some steaming has been reported from three ponds within the inner sub-crater, such activity is not unusual. Also within the region, a large earthquake (M 6.5) occurred on 6 June at 2323 about 105 km ESE of Anatahan and about 55 km E of Farallon de Medinilla.

Geological Summary. The elongate, 9-km-long island of Anatahan in the central Mariana Islands consists of a large stratovolcano with a 2.3 x 5 km compound summit caldera. The larger western portion of the caldera is 2.3 x 3 km wide, and its western rim forms the island's high point. Ponded lava flows overlain by pyroclastic deposits fill the floor of the western caldera, whose SW side is cut by a fresh-looking smaller crater. The 2-km-wide eastern portion of the caldera contained a steep-walled inner crater whose floor prior to the 2003 eruption was only 68 m above sea level. A submarine cone, named NE Anatahan, rises to within 460 m of the sea surface on the NE flank, and numerous other submarine vents are found on the NE-to-SE flanks. Sparseness of vegetation on the most recent lava flows had indicated that they were of Holocene age, but the first historical eruption did not occur until May 2003, when a large explosive eruption took place forming a new crater inside the eastern caldera.

Information Contacts: R. Koyanagi, HVO; R. Chong, Disaster Control Office, Saipan.