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Report on Fuego (Guatemala) — July 1999


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 24, no. 7 (July 1999)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Fuego (Guatemala) Moderate Strombolian eruptions 21 May-1 September

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1999. Report on Fuego (Guatemala) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 24:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199907-342090



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Volcán Fuego erupted during late May 1999 (BGVN 24:04) for the first time since 1987. From 21 May through 1 September, Fuego generated moderate Strombolian eruptions. The interval between eruptive pulses was frequently 5-10 minutes; in some cases ash columns rose as high as 800 m above the summit. Ash fell up to 15 km away. At night, incandescent displays rose ~250-300 m above the crater rim. Fragmental lava ejected from the vent constructed a ~25-m-tall spatter cone that provided source material for hot rock avalanches, some with runout distances of several kilometers. Although seismicity remained weak, local residents heard very strong rumbling.

Prior to 15 July the activity hazard status of the volcano was Orange. This was downgraded to Yellow on 15 July only to be increased to Orange again on 19 July as of result a lava extrusion and frequent small ash eruptions starting around 1600 and continuing throughout the day. Small ash emissions occurred on 20-21 July. INSIVUMEH reported that 13 explosions occurred between 2300 on 20 July and 0300 on the 21st, sending some tephra up to 700 m above the summit. The hazard status was raised to Orange and pilots reported ash to altitudes of 5,500 m W of Guatemala City. For the next seven days, the volcano remained unsettled; NOAA reported that near-infrared satellite images displayed an occasional hot spot. Small ash eruptions began again on 28 July with ash clouds again attaining altitudes of 5,500 m. By that evening, eruptions were comprised mainly of steam and the status was reduced to Yellow, although INSIVUMEH advised that the volcano had the potential for an explosive eruption with little or no warning. This situation persisted with occasional ash emissions and satellite observations of hot spots until 9 August. Activity then decreased and no explosive eruptions were detected though the evening of 11 August. As of 2 September, no additional reports regarding Fuego had been issued by NOAA's Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center.

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: Otoniel Matías and Eddie Sánchez, 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; Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, NOAA Satellite Services Division, NESDIS E/SP23, NOAA Science Center, Room 401, 5200 Auth Road, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL: http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/vaac/).