Logo link to homepage

Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — April 1996


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 21, no. 4 (April 1996)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Masaya (Nicaragua) Incandescent vent in Santiago crater emitting large amounts of gas

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1996. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 21:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199604-344100



11.9844°N, 86.1688°W; summit elev. 594 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Masaya was visited on 15-16 March by a joint team from the Open University, the Universite de Montreal, Reading University, and INETER. Large amounts of gas exiting a 5-m-wide vent at the bottom of Santiago crater formed a distinct plume clearly visible from the Managua airport. The vent was intensely incandescent, even during mid-day. Eight correlation spectrometer (COSPEC) traverses beneath the gas column on 16 March measured an SO2 flux of 600 ± 290 metric tons/day (t/d). These fluxes are similar to those measured during the degassing crisis of the early to mid-1980's (Stoiber and others, 1986). Microgravity measurements revealed a continued decline of the gravity field in the summit region since re-activation of the volcano in 1993 (BGVN 18:06). Systematic decreases of up to 160 microgals have been recorded during this time near the active crater.

Reference. Stoiber, R.E., Williams, S.N., and Huebert, B.J., 1986, Sulfur and halogen gases at Masaya caldera complex, Nicaragua: Total flux and variations with time: Journal of Geophysical Research, v. 91, p. 12,215-12,231.

Geological Summary. Masaya volcano in Nicaragua has erupted frequently since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold" until it was found to be basalt rock upon cooling. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras caldera and is itself a broad, 6 x 11 km basaltic caldera with steep-sided walls up to 300 m high. The caldera is filled on its NW end by more than a dozen vents that erupted along a circular, 4-km-diameter fracture system. The NindirĂ­ and Masaya cones, the source of observed eruptions, were constructed at the southern end of the fracture system and contain multiple summit craters, including the currently active Santiago crater. A major basaltic Plinian tephra erupted from Masaya about 6,500 years ago. Recent lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and there is a lake at the far eastern end. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals have caused health hazards and crop damage.

Information Contacts: Hazel Rymer and Mark Davies, Department of Earth Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, United Kingdom; John Stix, Dora Knez, Glyn Williams-Jones, and Alexandre Beaulieu, Departement de Geologie, Universite de Montreal, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3J7, Canada; Nicki Stevens, Department of Geography, University of Reading, Reading RG2 2AB, United Kingdom; Martha Navarro and Pedro Perez, INETER, Apartado Postal 2110, Managua, Nicaragua.