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Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — November 2005

Piton de la Fournaise

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 30, no. 11 (November 2005)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Eruption on 5 October follows four months of heightened activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2005. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 30:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200511-233020

Piton de la Fournaise


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Increased seismicity and ground deformation from late June 2004 through 9 August preceded the third eruption of 2004, which started on 13 August (BGVN 29:12). During that eruption ~ 750 m of National Road 2 was overrun by lava. Eruptive activity ceased on the morning of 7 September 2004 (BGVN 29:12). Eruptions occurred again during February and October-December 2005.

Eruption during February 2005. A new period of heightened seismicity began on 17 February 2005 around 1300, consisting of about 100 seismic events within 90 minutes. After that, the number of events decreased, but recommenced at 1638 with several hundred events. Strong deformation was recorded at the same time by tiltmeters and the extensometer network. Eruption tremor began around 2035, becoming strong at 2050. The eruption site seemed to be situated close to Nez Coupé de Sainte Rose (on the N side of the volcano), and lava flows were observed in the Grand Brûlé area.

After a period of relative quiet on 19 February, eruption tremor increased to high levels again on 21 February. Two eruption sites were active: the principal vent at 1,600-m elevation above the Plaine des Osmondes, and a vent at about 1,200-m elevation in the Plaine des Osmondes. The principal vent released a volcanic plume and several pahoehoe lava flows, but no lava fountains were visible. The second vent also released a very fluid pahoehoe lava flow. The flows covered a large area within the Plaine des Osmondes, and smaller lava flows traveled to about 600-m elevation in the Grand Brûlé.

On 24 February, shallow seismicity began beneath Dolomieu crater. It increased over time and by 26 February, several hundreds of seismic events up to M 3 occurred. According to the Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise (OVPDLF), these events may have indicated formation of a new pit crater within Dolomieu crater. On 24 February, visible signs of activity stopped within the Plaine des Osmondes, while eruption tremor slowly increased.

On the evening of 25 February, a lava flow from Plaine des Osmondes traveled down the Grandes Pentes, cutting the National Road on its way to the sea. The lava flow covered a distance of ~ 5 km in about 2 hours. At the same time, seismicity increased on the NE rift zone above Bois Blanc, and a new vent opened within the Trou de Sable on the N border of the caldera at 450-m elevation. This vents lava flow stopped about 100 m from the National Road.

Eruptions during October-December 2005. Another eruption started on 4 October 2005 at 1426 after 4 months of almost continuous inflation and increased seismicity. The eruption was immediately preceded by a 56-minute-long sequence of seismicity and strong summit inflation. A low-intensity eruption at Dolomieu crater produced pahoehoe lava flows that covered a small area of the western part of the crater.

Immediately after the end of the 4 October eruption at Dolomieu crater, the permanent GPS network and extensometer network continued to show strong surface deformation, which was a precursor for a new eruptive event. On 29 November 2005 at 0559 a seismic crisis began, and at 0625 tremor indicated the beginning of an eruption. A vent opened in the western part of Dolomieu crater and another vent opened on the N flank. Very little projected volcanic material was visible. A large, fast-moving lava flow traveled down the N flank in the direction of Piton Kapor. Inclement weather prohibited further observations. The Toulouse VAAC reported that ash from the eruption was not visible on satellite imagery.

Following the 29 November eruption, further summit inflation was recorded by the permanent GPS network. On 26 December at 1444 a seismic crisis started beneath Dolomieu crater. Within the next 2 hours seismic activity shifted to the NE, towards Nez Coupé de Sainte Rose. A first fissure opened at 1715 at the NE base of Piton de la Fournaise; at 2200 eruptive fissures opened in the caldera wall about 500 m E of Nez Coupé de Sainte Rose and lava flowed into the Plaine des Osmondes. By 28 December, eruptive activity was almost constant. An aa-type lava flow crossed the Grandes Brûlé and reached a point 3 km upslope from the national road.

Geological Summary. Piton de la Fournaise is a massive basaltic shield volcano on the French island of RĂ©union in the western Indian Ocean. 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 scarps formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5,000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping, leaving caldera-sized embayments open to the E and SE. Numerous pyroclastic cones are present on the floor of the scarps and their outer flanks. Most recorded eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest scarp, which is about 9 km wide and about 13 km from the western wall to the ocean on the E 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 outside the scarps.

Information Contacts: Thomas Staudacher, Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 14 RN3 le 27 ème km, F-97418 La Plaine des Cafres, La Réunion, France (URL: http://www.ipgp.fr/fr/ovpf/observatoire-volcanologique-piton-de-fournaise); Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Météo-France, 42 Avenue G. Coriolis, 31057 Toulouse Cedex, France (URL: http://www.meteo.fr/vaac/).