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Report on Poas (Costa Rica) — August 2000


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 25, no. 8 (August 2000)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Poas (Costa Rica) Fumarolic activity and increased seismicity during January-June 2000

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2000. Report on Poas (Costa Rica) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 25:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200008-345040


Costa Rica

10.2°N, 84.233°W; summit elev. 2697 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The crater lake at Poás continued to bubble during January-June 2000, but activity remained chiefly either fumarolic (related to mass wasting) or seismic. Station POA2, located 2.8 km SW of the active crater, recorded the monthly seismic activity.

During January, the W flank of the volcano continued to slide toward the lake, and part of the terrace also continued collapsing toward the lake. Water in the prominent pyroclastic cone located in the crater's central area had a temperature of 95°C. Major pressure release and gas emission occurred in the N part of the cone. The fumaroles of the SSW crater flank disappeared, while those to the W remained with a temperature of 89°C. The fumaroles of the NNE terrace were at 94°C, depositing sulfur and emitting relatively small amounts of gas. New fumaroles on the crater floor had temperatures of 40 and 85°C.

The majority of fumaroles on the SSW flank disappeared in February. The upper part of the cone continued to crack and new fumaroles appeared with characteristic sulfur deposits. In February their temperatures were approximately 95°C, and on 16 March another measurement indicated heating up to 188°C. The thermal feature of the E flank had a temperature of 66°C and the feature on the NE flank was 89°C. The fumarolic activity on the NNE terrace remained at the same temperature and activity level.

In March the lake remained a turquoise color with particles of sulfur on the surface. Lake temperature was in the range of 35-41°C. At the end of March bubbling in the central part of the lake recommenced. The SE and E terrace continued collapsing toward the lake, as did the NNE flank of the pyroclastic cone. From that cone gas columns rose to 700 m over the point of origin and were carried by winds toward the W and SW flank.

In April the SSW edge and the central part of the crater lake continued to bubble. Small landslides traveled down the W flank toward the lake and there were fumaroles with low gas emission. The fumaroles on the NE and SSW flanks of the cone disappeared. The fumaroles concentrated on the NNE flank of the cone produced columns of gas that reached 500 m and blew W and SE. The E-flank fumaroles maintained a temperature of 95°C. Medium and high frequency earthquakes continued, and new fumaroles appeared inside of the main crater and the pyroclastic cone.

In May bubbling continued on the SSE border and in the central part of the crater lake. Bubbling occurred and a temperature of 40°C was measured on the NE shore of the lake at various points. A fumarole appeared on the NE side of the lake with minimal gas emission. The W flank of the cone continued to produce slides toward the lake. The E and SE terrace continued to collapse inwardly, as did as the NE flank of the pyroclastic cone. The NE-flank fumaroles released a moderate level of gas emissions. Points of major pressure release on the NNE flank continued to produce gas columns that reached altitudes up to 700 m over the crater floor and were carried by winds toward the W and SE. On the NE terrace new fumaroles appeared with low gas emission and sulfur deposition. The fumaroles of the NNE terrace maintained a temperature of 94°C with a level of emission that increased gradually. The back of the active crater continued to gradually inflate, while EDM lines of leveling and the dry inclinometers of the S flank did not show significant deformational changes. During 9 and 14 May, three earthquakes occurred ~6 km SW of the active crater with Richter magnitudes of 2.2 - 3.2 and depths of 1- 3 km. The increase in seismicity (table 10) during May 2000 coincided with the appearance of new fumaroles and high levels of emission from them.

Table 10. Summary of earthquakes at Poás during January to June 2000. Courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA.

Month Low-frequency Mid-frequency Volcano-tectonic Total
Jan 2000 -- -- -- --
Feb 2000 3,282 151 -- 3,437
Mar 2000 8,235 438 -- 8,698
Apr 2000 280 (daily) 594 -- 8,491
May 2000 339 (daily) 872 27 11,448
Jun 2000 9,365 428 11 9,817

During June the SSE, NE, and central surfaces of the crater lake bubbled. The SE and NE terraces continued to collapse toward the lake as did the NNE flank of the pyroclastic cone. At the cone columns of gases reached altitudes up to 600 m, and were carried by winds toward the W and SW. On 28 June an earthquake of M 4.0 occurred 100 km beneath the volcano. The earthquake was felt in the Central Valley and Puntarenas 50 km to the SW.

Geological Summary. The broad vegetated edifice of Poás, one of the most active volcanoes of Costa Rica, contains three craters along a N-S line. The frequently visited multi-hued summit crater lakes of the basaltic-to-dacitic volcano are easily accessible by vehicle from the nearby capital city of San José. A N-S-trending fissure cutting the complex stratovolcano extends to the lower N flank, where it has produced the Congo stratovolcano and several lake-filled maars. The southernmost of the two summit crater lakes, Botos, last erupted about 7,500 years ago. The more prominent geothermally heated northern lake, Laguna Caliente, is one of the world's most acidic natural lakes, with a pH of near zero. It has been the site of frequent phreatic and phreatomagmatic eruptions since an eruption was reported in 1828. Eruptions often include geyser-like ejections of crater-lake water.

Information Contacts: Observatorio Vulcanologico y Sismologico de Costa Rica, Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica.