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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — September 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 9 (September 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Arenal (Costa Rica) Lava flow advances while overall level of eruptive activity declines

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199309-345033


Costa Rica

10.463°N, 84.703°W; summit elev. 1670 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

After the moderately explosive behavior seen on 28 August, the intensity of explosive activity at Arenal decreased in September. Lava flowing from crater C advanced farther to the NW, following the same drainages as the 28 August pyroclastic flows. By the end of September, lava in the Tabacón River valley had descended to 780 m elevation (see map in 18:08). In early September the rate of lava advance was about 50 m/day, slowing to ~20-25 m/day later in the month when flow fronts were ~1.5 km from the crater.

According to José Luis Sibaja, who lives on the E flank of the volcano, several degassing events in mid-September sent columns >1 km above the vent. Also, passive degassing was reported from crater D. On 15 September, due to atmospheric disturbances associated with a tropical storm, wind directions shifted and gases were swept toward the N and NE flanks, affecting forest vegetation.

The following discussion of seismicity is based on reports by OVSICORI. Total seismicity (number of events) in September was slightly higher than in May, July, or August. In contrast, the total hours of tremor for September decreased >3x compared to the previous two months, and is the lowest monthly level so far this year. Daily tremor chiefly remained below 4 hours/day from 1 to 27 September, then progressively increased to >20 hours/day on 30 September. The high total seismicity for September may be a result of abundant rockfalls and avalanches, some of which were visually documented. Rockfall and avalanche noise varies at different seismic stations, partly depending on the distance from the station to the noise source. The variable amount of noise contamination complicates simple comparison of seismic data collected by different research groups monitoring the volcano.

Geological Summary. Conical Volcán Arenal is the youngest stratovolcano in Costa Rica and one of its most active. The 1670-m-high andesitic volcano towers above the eastern shores of Lake Arenal, which has been enlarged by a hydroelectric project. Arenal lies along a volcanic chain that has migrated to the NW from the late-Pleistocene Los Perdidos lava domes through the Pleistocene-to-Holocene Chato volcano, which contains a 500-m-wide, lake-filled summit crater. The earliest known eruptions of Arenal took place about 7000 years ago, and it was active concurrently with Cerro Chato until the activity of Chato ended about 3500 years ago. Growth of Arenal has been characterized by periodic major explosive eruptions at several-hundred-year intervals and periods of lava effusion that armor the cone. An eruptive period that began with a major explosive eruption in 1968 ended in December 2010; continuous explosive activity accompanied by slow lava effusion and the occasional emission of pyroclastic flows characterized the eruption from vents at the summit and on the upper western flank.

Information Contacts: E. Fernández, J. Barquero, R. Van der Laat, F. de Obaldia, T. Marino, V. Barboza, and R. Sáenz, OVSICORI; G. Soto, ICE.