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Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) — June 1996


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 21, no. 6 (June 1996)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Arenal (Costa Rica) Sub-continuous Strombolian fountaining and lava flow details

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1996. Report on Arenal (Costa Rica) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 21:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199606-345033


Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During June, Arenal continued its unbroken eruptive sequence lasting nearly 28 years. In the second half of the month, the active crater, Crater C, increased the volume of pyroclastic emissions above that seen in recent months. Some plumes ascended over 1 km above Crater C. Bombs and blocks landed as far down on the flanks as 1,100 m elevation.

Gerardo Soto (ICE) sketched how lava flows had advanced ~2 km into the N sector and then paused at this point on 17 June (figures 77 and 78). A new, parallel flow that developed on the W side of the older one reached 1,100 m elevation on 20 June. The estimated volume of these flows was 2.5 x 106 m3. They spawned occasional avalanches off their margins. The lava's source vent was the scene of sub-continuous fountaining that formed a 30-m tall, horse-shoe shaped spatter cone open towards the escaping flows. W-flank ashfalls have increased in mass during the course of 1996 (table 16).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 77. Sketch map of Arenal and vicinity showing distribution of major lava flows, 1968-96. Courtesy of G. Soto (ICE).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 78. Sketch of Arenal in an oblique view from the N flank, mid-June 1996. Courtesy of G. Soto and F. Arias (ICE).

Table 16. The mass of Arenal's ash accumulating per day (collected 1.8 km W of the active vent). Courtesy of ICE.

Collection Interval Avg daily ashfall (grams/m2) Ash % 300+µ Ash % less than 300µ
22 Dec-06 Mar 1996 33 50 50
06 Mar-15 Apr 1996 43 50 50
15 Apr-16 May 1996 48 56 44
16 May-20 Jun 1996 58 20 70

OVSCICORI-UNA reported that during June low-frequency (<3.5 HZ) seismicity totalled 781 events; the majority of these events were associated with eruptions; some events were also recorded at a station 30 km SW of the active crater. Tremor durations of over 23 hours took place on 4, 6, 7, and 11 June; the total for the month was 375 hours. This tremor's dominant frequency was 2.1-3.4 hz.

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: Erick Fernández, Elicer Duarte, Vilma Barboza, Rodolfo Van der Laat, and Enrique Hernandez, Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica; Gerardo J. Soto, Guillermo E. Alvarado, and Francisco (Chico) Arias, Oficina de Sismología y Vulcanología, Departamento de Geología, Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Apartado 10032-1000, San José, Costa Rica.