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Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — August 2003

Piton de la Fournaise

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 28, no. 8 (August 2003)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Lava eruption from three fissures during 22-27 August

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 28:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200308-233020

Piton de la Fournaise


21.244°S, 55.708°E; summit elev. 2632 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Five months of slow inflation at Piton de la Fournaise and the eruptive series that occurred between May and July 2003 (BGVN 28:05 and 28:06) were followed by new activity in August. Ongoing eruptions in June at the Dolomieu crater had ceased by mid-July, but at 1848 on 22 August seismic activity was again detected beneath the crater. Around 2120 that night an eruptive fissure opened in the Bory crater (adjacent to Dolomieu on the W), followed at 2210 by a second fissure at ~2,450-2,470 m elevation on the N flank. Both fissures remained active for a short time.

At 2330 a final fissure opened on the N flank ~250 m below the second fissure, at 2,200 m elevation. Most of the activity was focused at this third fissure, opening a new crater ~50 m E of the 1998 Piton Kapor crater. During this activity on 22 August lava flowed down into la Plaine des Osmondes. The 36 hours following the initial activity were characterized by a substantial increase in tremor intensity and lava emissions, but by 2152 on 27 August the eruption abruptly ceased. A series of long-period events were observed after 27 August through at least 1 September.

Geological Summary. The massive Piton de la Fournaise basaltic shield volcano on the French island of RĂ©union in the western Indian Ocean is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Much of its more than 530,000-year history overlapped with eruptions of the deeply dissected Piton des Neiges shield volcano to the NW. Three calderas formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping of the volcano. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the floor of the calderas and their outer flanks. Most historical eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest caldera, which is 8 km wide and breached to below sea level on the eastern side. More than 150 eruptions, most of which have produced fluid basaltic lava flows, have occurred since the 17th century. Only six eruptions, in 1708, 1774, 1776, 1800, 1977, and 1986, have originated from fissures on the outer flanks of the caldera. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory, one of several operated by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, monitors this very active volcano.

Information Contacts: Observatoire volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 14 RN3, le 27Km, 97418 La Plaine des Cafres, La Réunion, France.