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Report on Mayon (Philippines) — March 2003


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 28, no. 3 (March 2003)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Mayon (Philippines) Small ash puff on 11 October 2002; explosions on 17 March and 5 April 2003

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Mayon (Philippines) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 28:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200303-273030



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Until 11 October 2002, no significant volcanic activity had been reported since eruptions in June and July 2001 (BGVN 26:08). Subsequent deflation, combined with declining seismicity and sulfur dioxide flux, resulted in the Alert Level being lowered to 0 (no eruption is forecast in the foreseeable future, but entry in the 6-km radius Permanent Danger Zone (PDZ) is not advised because phreatic explosions and ash puffs may occur without precursors) in February 2002 (BGVN 27:04).

Mayon remains intermittently active, with tremor episodes, a small ash puff in October 2002, steam emission in January 2003, and an explosion and ash plume in March 2003. Small ash explosions on 5 May and 6 April will be described in the next Bulletin.

Activity during October 2002. At 0635 on 11 October 2002 the volcano produced a small ash puff that reached 500 m above the summit crater. The small ash cloud from this minor explosion quickly diffused and drifted E without noticeable deposits on the slopes. The ash puff followed a series of imperceptible volcanic tremors that began in the early hours of 22 September and occurred sporadically until the last tremor was recorded on 9 October. The 11 October report from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) also noted that slight swelling of the volcano's edifice was detected by an electronic tiltmeter on the S flank. However, the Alert Level remained at 0.

A 30 October notice from PHIVOLCS indicated that the number of volcanic earthquakes, although imperceptible, remained significantly above background levels since the ash emission of 11 October. Another notable observation was the occurrence of small volcanic tremors and consistent inflation detected by electronic tiltmeters, which suggested that magma was intruding into the volcano. Gas output from the summit had increased from recent emission rates of ~950 metric tons per day (t/d) to ~2,200 t/d on 29 October. Because of these consistent increases in monitored parameters, PHIVOLCS raised the Alert Level to 1. Although a major explosive eruption was still considered unlikely at this stage, the persistent unrest over the previous weeks clearly indicates a shift from its former period of repose. Alert Level 1 is meant to call attention to increased volcanic activity specifically an increased likelihood for steam-driven or ash explosions to occur with little or no warning. During the last week of October PHIVOLCS augmented its monitoring network around Mayon with additional personnel and equipment.

Activity during January 2003. A brief period of vigorous steam emission occurred at 1753 on 31 January after an episode of volcanic tremor the previous day. The steam ejection lasted for about a minute and produced a dirty white steam cloud that rose ~500 m above the summit crater. A low-frequency, short duration, harmonic tremor coincided with the steam venting. The sulfur dioxide emission rate increased slightly to 764 t/d on 31 January from the previous reading of 441 t/d taken on 21 January, which followed several episodes of low-frequency volcanic tremor during the previous weeks.

Activity during March 2003. An explosion from the crater at 1819 on 17 March sent ash and steam ~1 km above the summit before it was blown WNW by winds. The explosion was recorded as a high-frequency seismic signal, indicating a sudden release of pressure. No significant seismicity was apparent prior to the event. Measurements of SO2 flux within the emission plume between 0900 and 1100 earlier that morning averaged ~890 t/d, which is more than the usual 500 t/d typical during periods of repose. Electronic tiltmeters on the N and S flanks indicated slight inflation of the edifice beginning on 13 March. Due to the increased possibility of additional ash ejections, the hazard status was raised to Alert Level 1.

Geological Summary. Symmetrical Mayon, which rises above the Albay Gulf NW of Legazpi City, is the most active volcano of the Philippines. The steep upper slopes are capped by a small summit crater. Recorded eruptions since 1616 CE 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 damaged populated lowland areas. A violent eruption in 1814 killed more than 1,200 people and devastated several towns.

Information Contacts: Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS), Department of Science and Technology, PHIVOLCS Building, C.P. Garcia Avenue, University of the Philippines Campus, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines (URL: http://www.phivolcs. dost.gov.ph/).