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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — January 1998


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 23, no. 1 (January 1998)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Popocatepetl (Mexico) Minor ash ejections on 26 January and 11 February

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1998. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 23:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199801-341090



19.023°N, 98.622°W; summit elev. 5393 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

In the weeks following a 1 January explosion that caused ashfalls and ignited grass fires (BGVN 22:12), stable activity prevailed. During 21 January-12 February, the volcano was the scene of low seismicity, low- to moderate-intensity exhalations, and moderate amounts of gas and steam.

On 26 January, a M 1.9 type-A tectonic earthquake occurred 1.5 km SE of the crater at a depth of 5 km. Two small 5- and 8-minute exhalations on 27 January sent ash puffs, gas, and steam ~1.5 km above the summit. Another eruption later that day dropped ash on a nearby village.

On 31 January, activity increased slightly when a 6-minute-long series of low-magnitude tectonovolcanic events began at 0104. These earthquakes were followed by several short-lived episodes of harmonic tremor. These events may have indicated movement of magma within the lava dome and magma extrusion; however, there was no significant change in activity afterwards. The volcano was not affected by a 3 February M 6.4 earthquake located on the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. On 4 February, a M 2.2 tectono-volcanic earthquake occurred 10 km NE of the crater.

In the morning of 11 February, a larger exhalation that lasted ~2 minutes produced ash that was detected on radar images. After the event, activity returned to normal with small exhalations and light emissions of gas, steam and some ash. By 12 February, seismic and fumarolic activity showed a significant reduction; CENAPRED suggested that the reduction was caused by obstruction of the vents and that a new eruptive event was possible.

Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for "smoking mountain," towers above Mexico City and is the second highest volcano in North America. The stratovolcano is generally symmetrical, contains a steep-walled, 250-m-deep crater, and is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. The current summit was formed by repeated lava effusions until about 1,200 BP, after which the current, dominantly explosive phase began. Frequent historical eruptions have been recorded since the beginning of the Spanish era.

Geological Summary. Volcán Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, rises 70 km SE of Mexico City to form North America's 2nd-highest volcano. The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 x 600 m wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris-avalanche deposits covering broad areas to the south. The modern volcano was constructed south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone. Three major Plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 CE, have occurred since the mid-Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions, first recorded in Aztec codices, have occurred since Pre-Columbian time.

Information Contacts: Roberto Meli, Roberto Quaas Weppen, Alejandro Mirano, Bertha López Najera, Alicia Martinez Bringas, A. Montalvo, G. Fregoso, and F. Galicia, Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED).