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Report on Fuego (Guatemala) — April 1999


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 24, no. 4 (April 1999)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Fuego (Guatemala) Eruption on 21 May dropped up to 40 cm of ash on local population; small lava flow

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1999. Report on Fuego (Guatemala) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 24:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199904-342090



14.473°N, 90.88°W; summit elev. 3763 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Reports from INSIVUMEH described an eruption during late May 1999, the first from Fuego since 1987. At 1000 on 21 May observers noted that small quantities of ash fell on the cities of Villa Nueva, Barbarena, Cuilapa, Jutiapa, and Chiquimula. At 1800 on 21 May an eruption sent ash to the S, SE, and SW. The regional ashfall affected areas including the peak ~4 km N (Yepocapa), the cities of Alotenango, Escuintla, Santa Lucia, Cotzumalguapa, Palin, Amatitlán, and the slopes of Pacaya volcano. Ash thicknesses at proximal sites were 10-40 cm. At 2100 the activity diminished, but continued with moderate 3-minute explosions. The Aeronautica Civil recommended that planes should not go any closer than 40 km from the volcano. At 2200 a lava flow ~200 m long was seen on the W side of the Barranca Honda drainage. By this time, the atmospheric ash had settled, and the Aeronautica Civil recommended not flying closer than 15 km from the volcano.

INSIVUMEH reported that NOAA detected ash over much of Guatemala to 14-15 km altitudes. It was not possible to see the activity in the crater, and the meteorological conditions for the next 24 hours consisted of electrical thunderstorms with rain in the afternoon and evening. At 0530 the seismic station "FG" located in the FICA La Reunion, 3.5 km E of the crater, registered movement beneath the volcano. Every hour for three hours, explosions sent gases and moderate ash to heights of 600-800 m.

Geological Summary. Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is also one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between Fuego and Acatenango to the north. Construction of Meseta dates back to about 230,000 years and continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene. Collapse of Meseta may have produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km onto the Pacific coastal plain. Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at the mostly andesitic Acatenango. Eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

Information Contacts: Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia e Hidrologia (INSIVUMEH), Ministero de Communicaciones, Transporto, Obras Públicas y Vivienda, 7a. Av. 14-57 zona 13 ciudad de Guatemala 01013, Guatemala.