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Report on Mayon (Philippines) — May 2001


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 26, no. 5 (May 2001)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Mayon (Philippines) April 2000-May 2001 summary; dome growth beginning in January 2001

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2001. Report on Mayon (Philippines) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 26:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200105-273030



13.257°N, 123.685°E; summit elev. 2462 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Since the last report (BGVN 25:04), activity was variable at Mayon. The following report covers activity during April 2000-May 2001, but does not include the event that began on 24 June 2001; details of that eruption will appear in a subsequent issue. This report was compiled from reports posted on the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) website.

April-June 2000. Mayon's hazard status remained at 2 (on a scale of 0-5) as of 2 April. At that time, no entry was allowed within the 6-km-radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) and the 7-km-radius Extended Danger Zone (EDZ) in the SE sector. Low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) earthquakes, and short-duration HF tremors, were recorded. Around this time, SO2 flux increased from 3,600 metric tons/day (t/d) to 6,210 t/d. The summit crater emitted a weak to moderate steam plume which drifted WSW. Faint crater glow was observed during the evening. Similar activity continued through the end of April, although the SO2 emission rate had decreased to 4,061 t/d as of 26 April.

Seismicity during 2-3 May included seven LF earthquakes with relative amplitudes of 55-56 mm, but there was no other variation in activity. On May 3 PHIVOLCS raised the Alert Level from 2 to 3. The next Mayon volcano bulletin, issued on 1 June, noted that SO2 flux on 21 May was 680 t/d, slightly above the baseline of 500 t/d.

By 1 June the hazard status had been decreased to Alert Level 0. Seismicity had also decreased markedly; only two HF events and two short- duration HF tremors were reported on 1 June. Crater illumination resumed the same day. SO2 flux readings were not available for the month.

July 2000. On 16 July at 0629 a phreatic explosion occurred that was visible only from the E due to thick clouds on the other sides. The explosion produced a small volume of gray ash as well as steam clouds that rose ~1 km above the summit before drifting NNE. Mayon Volcano Observatory at Ligñon Hill (MVO) seismographs recorded an explosion-type seismic signal that lasted for 1.5 minutes. Tiltmeters at Buang and Mayon Resthouse stations did not, however, detect significant ground movement, which suggested that the explosion was caused by shallow activity.

On 30 July at 1315, Mayon produced a mild ash ejection. MVO reported a small ash plume that rose 1 km. Seismicity associated with the event lasted for about 1 minute. As with the 16 July event, other monitoring, including SO2 flux readings, did not indicate further activity. Mayon's Alert Level was undisclosed for the month.

August-December 2000. A mild ash ejection at 1432 on 31 August sent a small gray ash cloud ~1 km above the summit. An activity update on 1 September noted that small explosions similar to those in July had occurred in the previous weeks. PHIVOLCS suggested that these shallow explosions were probably due to rainwater seepage into the February-March 2000 lava deposits (BGVN 25:04). No further reports were issued in 2000.

January 2001. A resurgence of activity was observed as of [8] January. MVO reported an apparently growing lava dome which emitted voluminous gases from its summit. During the previous week there had been increases in both the number of earthquakes and in tilt, presumably due to magma ascent. [These] events led PHIVOLCS to set the Alert Level to 2.

On 10 January aerial observers noted that the dome appeared to have a spiny, blocky surface, which resulted from the crater floor being pushed upward by rising magma. Slight incandescence was also emanating from the crater. Correlation spectrometer (COSPEC) measurements detected an elevated SO2 emission rate of 2,300 t/d. Seismicity also remained elevated. Ground deformation measured on the N flank continued to indicate tilting. Over the next week, activity remained high. Crater glow, however, was weak, and only visible from a distance with a telescope.

Activity escalated further after 19 January. Sixty seismic events occurred on 20 January, and a high number of earthquakes continued to occur. SO2 flux spiked up to ~8,070 t/d. A brown steam puff rose from the lava dome at 0932 on 22 January. This brief emission of ash-laden steam coincided with a volcanic earthquake. A second ash emission occurred later the same day. Alert Level 3 became effective as of 25 January. Five ash emissions rose from Mayon's summit on 28 January followed by two more the next day. Plumes rose ~500 m and generally drifted WNW or NW. The earthquakes associated with these late January events were noticeably larger than those in previous weeks. Inflation of the edifice was also detected.

February-May 2001. The Alert Level remained at 3 for the entire period; high seismicity and moderate steaming prevailed. Inflationary trends were shown by tiltmeter readings through the end of March, when uplift tapered off slightly. On 24 February a small ash-and-steam plume rose 250 m and was blown ENE. SO2 flux decreased through February with a reading of 2,889 t/d on the 28th. Crater glow was observed rarely during February, and not at all during March.

On 2 April the SO2 flux rose to 7,205 t/d, but then dropped to 444 t/d two days later. SO2 emission rates ranged from ~2,000 to 4,000 t/d during the rest of April. Low-intensity crater glow was observed sporadically during the month. On 7 May more intense crater glow was observed. A small ash emission occurred at 1752 on 11 May and sent material 50 m above the summit.

On 12 May a series of explosions were detected by a seismometer S of the summit. Ash ejection occurred, and late in the day the SE portion of the dome partially collapsed, causing a small lava avalanche that reached ~300 m down into Bonga Gully. Following the avalanche, MVO workers noted incandescence at the dome and continuing rockfalls into the gully. Workers speculated that active magma transport upward toward the crater was increasing.

Rockfalls due to molten lava fragments rolling down from the dome dominated activity during 13-14 May. When conditions cleared briefly on 14 May observers saw that the partial dome collapse had produced a V-shaped gash; this breach was the source of the outpouring lava. Avalanches had reached 500 m downslope as of this date.

Rockfalls and lava emissions ceased on 15 May but resumed the following day. Fresh lava began to refill the previously formed gash. SO2 flux remained high, and tiltmeters detected consistent inflation through 31 May. Similar activity, accompanied by elevated seismicity that included rockfall-induced signals, continued through the month.

Geological Summary. Beautifully symmetrical Mayon, which rises above the Albay Gulf NW of Legazpi City, is the Philippines' most active volcano. The structurally simple edifice has steep upper slopes averaging 35-40 degrees that are capped by a small summit crater. Historical eruptions date back to 1616 and range from Strombolian to basaltic Plinian, with cyclical activity beginning with basaltic eruptions, followed by longer term andesitic lava flows. Eruptions occur predominately from the central conduit and have also produced lava flows that travel far down the flanks. Pyroclastic flows and mudflows have commonly swept down many of the approximately 40 ravines that radiate from the summit and have often devastated populated lowland areas. A violent eruption in 1814 killed more than 1,200 people and devastated several towns.

Information Contacts: Raymundo S. Punongbayan and Ernesto Corpuz, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), C.P. Garcia Avenue, U.P. Diliman, 1101 Quezon City, Philippines (URL: http://www.phivolcs.dost.gov.ph/).