Logo link to homepage

Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — October 2002


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 27, no. 10 (October 2002)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Popocatepetl (Mexico) Small explosions, earthquakes, and tremor during July-October 2002

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 27:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200210-341090



19.023°N, 98.622°W; summit elev. 5393 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During July-October 2002, volcanic activity at Popocatépetl consisted of small-to-moderate, but at times explosive, eruptions of steam, gas, and generally minor amounts of ash. Explosions on 1 and 2 July produced ash plumes that reached 2 km and 700 m above the crater, respectively. Volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes (M 1.8-2.9) occurred almost daily. The earthquakes were located mostly to the S and E at depths up to 8 km beneath the crater. Isolated episodes of low-amplitude harmonic tremor were registered, typically for a few hours daily.

The Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED) reported that during most of July through mid-August, up to 25 small-to-moderate emissions per day were accompanied by steam, gas, and sometimes small amounts of ash. The number of exhalations per day increased during 22-24 July (43, 80, and 55) and 15-17 August (68, 58, and 70). Around 25-45 exhalations occurred per day through the end of August. During September and October, no more than 26 exhalations were registered per day.

Activity reported by CENAPRED in July was probably related to changes in morphology of the intracrater dome (BGVN 27:02 and 27:06). Compared to an aerial photo taken on 29 April (figure 46), an image on 22 May 2002 (figure 47) showed that the dome had diminished in size.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 46. Vertical aerial photo of Popocatépetl taken on 29 April 2002. The top of the image is generally towards the N. Courtesy CENAPRED.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 47. Vertical aerial photo of Popocatépetl taken on 22 May 2002. The photo provided evidence that the dome was diminished in size compared to 29 April 2002 (figure 46). The top of the image is generally towards the NNW. Courtesy CENAPRED.

CENAPRED stated that future activity could consist of isolated minor explosions with emission of incandescent fragments out to short distances from the crater or emissions of variable quantities of ash. The Alert Level remained at 2, and CENAPRED recommended that people avoid the zone extending out to 12 km from the crater, although the road between Santiago Xalitzintla (Puebla) and San Pedro Nexapa (Mexico State), including Paso de Cortés, remained open for controlled traffic.

Geological Summary. Volcán Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, rises 70 km SE of Mexico City to form North America's 2nd-highest volcano. The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 x 600 m wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris-avalanche deposits covering broad areas to the south. The modern volcano was constructed south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone. Three major Plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 CE, have occurred since the mid-Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions, first recorded in Aztec codices, have occurred since Pre-Columbian time.

Information Contacts: Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED), Delfin Madrigal 665, Col. Pedregal de Santo Domingo, Coyoacan, 04360, Mexico D.F. (URL: https://www.gob.mx/cenapred/).