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Report on Tungurahua (Ecuador) — September 1999


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 24, no. 9 (September 1999)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Tungurahua (Ecuador) Elevated seismicity and SO2 fluxes led to an eruption on 5 October

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1999. Report on Tungurahua (Ecuador) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 24:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199909-352080



1.467°S, 78.442°W; summit elev. 5023 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

In mid-September, increasing seismic activity was recorded at the volcano, continuing into the first week of October. As a result of this increased activity, instrumentation for a new deformation network was installed on the W-side of the volcano and 10 new seismic stations were installed on the N-side and at other locations on the volcano. In late September, an inclinometer was installed adjacent to the seismically active area and a Yellow alert was declared, which continued as of 5 October.

Increased seismicity started on 14 September in conjunction with increased gas emissions, with plumes rising up to 3 km above the volcano. On 1 October, a column of vapor and gas rose to a height of 1 km. COSPEC measurements on 2 and 4 October indicated elevated SO2 fluxes of ~4,300 and ~9,500 tons/day, respectively. Then on the morning of 5 October three explosions at 0721, 0738, and 0743 threw blocks of rock and ash around the crater. The largest in this sequence, at 0738, yielded a reduced displacement of 25 cm2 and explosion hypocenters 4-5 km under the crater. During the night of the 4th, seismicity had reduced considerably and the activity that followed appeared to have produced a seal, leading to the subsequent explosions.

One particularly vulnerable town, Baños, was evacuated during the current crisis.

Reference. Hall, M., Robin, C., Beate, B., Mothes, P., Monzier, M., 1999. Tungurahua Volcano, Ecuador: structure, eruptive history and hazards. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 91, p. 1-21.

Geological Summary. Tungurahua, a steep-sided andesitic-dacitic stratovolcano that towers more than 3 km above its northern base, is one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes. Three major edifices have been sequentially constructed since the mid-Pleistocene over a basement of metamorphic rocks. Tungurahua II was built within the past 14,000 years following the collapse of the initial edifice. Tungurahua II itself collapsed about 3000 years ago and produced a large debris-avalanche deposit and a horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the west, inside which the modern glacier-capped stratovolcano (Tungurahua III) was constructed. Historical eruptions have all originated from the summit crater, accompanied by strong explosions and sometimes by pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached populated areas at the volcano's base. Prior to a long-term eruption beginning in 1999 that caused the temporary evacuation of the city of BaƱos at the foot of the volcano, the last major eruption had occurred from 1916 to 1918, although minor activity continued until 1925.

Information Contacts: Instituto Geofísico, Escuela Politécnica Nacional, Apartado 17-01-2759, Quito, Ecuador.