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Report on Turrialba (Costa Rica) — September 2018


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 43, no. 9 (September 2018)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke. Research and preparation by Paul Berger.

Turrialba (Costa Rica) Ongoing variable ash emissions and crater incandescence through August 2018

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2018. Report on Turrialba (Costa Rica) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 43:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN201809-345070


Costa Rica

10.025°N, 83.767°W; summit elev. 3340 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

This report summarizes activity at Turrialba during January-August 2018. Activity became more constant after September 2014, with cycles of explosions with numerous, sometimes persistent, weak and passive ash plumes and emissions usually rising no more than 500 m above the active crater. This activity continued during this reporting period (table 7). Most of the data were provided by monthly bulletins of the Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA) and alerts from the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC).

Table 7. Ash emissions at Turrialba, January-August 2018. Information was provided by OVSICORI-UNA, Washington VAAC, and RSN: UCR-ICE.

Date Time Max. Plume height above crater rim Drift Remarks
08 Jan 2018 0600 400-500 m NW --
08 Jan 2018 1319 400-500 m NE --
08 Jan 2018 2005 800 m SW --
09 Jan 2018 0630 300 m SW --
09 Jan 2018 1412 -- -- --
15 Jan 2018 0400 -- -- Ashfall in areas N of Pacayas (Pinos, Buenos Aires, and Santa Rosa de Oreamuno); sulfur odor noted in Santa Rosa de Oreamuno.
22 Jan 2018 0000 500 m NW --
26 Jan 2018 1101 100-200 m SW --
26 Jan 2018 1427 100-200 m SW --
30 Jan 2018 0920 100-200 m SW --
05 Feb 2018 0830 200 m SW --
06 Feb 2018 0730 1 km SW According to The Costa Rica Star, the activity continued for almost one hour; smaller explosion at 0832. Ashfall in several W-flank communities in San Jose (Goicoechea, Curridabat, Coronado) and Heredia.
27 Feb 2018 0800 100 m SW --
06 Mar 2018 2240 500 m NW Activity intensified around midnight with dense ash emissions and ejection of incandescent blocks, and remained elevated almost until 0300 on 7 March. At 1740 activity again intensified; emissions with increased ash volume occurred 1801-1820 drifting W.
08 Mar 2018 1515 300 m SW --
13 Mar 2018 0920 300 m NW --
23 Mar 2018 0605 100 m SW --
31 Mar 2018 1802 400 m SW --
01 Apr 2018 0838 500 m NW --
03 Apr 2018 0700 500 m NW --
05 Apr 2018 1230 500 m S --
09 Apr 2018 0609 300 m W --
11 Apr 2018 -- -- -- --
26 Apr 2018 0700 300 m W --
10 May 2018 -- -- -- Ashfall in La Pastora de Santa Cruz de Turrialba and Pacayas. No specific date: strong emissions of SO2, accompanied by vigorous fumarolic activity and jetting noises.
13 May 2018 0920 300-500 m -- Weak steam and gas, apparently no ash. Seismicity low, with low-amplitude long-period earthquakes and tremor. Continuous low-amplitude tremor.
21 May 2018 0900 -- -- --
28 May 2018 0930 300 m SE --
23 Jul-04 Aug 2018 -- 300 m NW, W, SW Series of weak, sporadic, and almost daily gas-and-ash emissions. On 24 July, ashfall in Coronado, Tibás (35 km WSW), Goicoechea (28 km WSW), Moravia (31 km WSW), and other areas in the Valle Central. On 31 July, ashfall in Tres Ríos (27 km SW). Sulfur odor occasionally reported.
02 Aug 2018 0023 1 km W --
02 Aug 2018 0700 300 m W --
04 Aug 2018 1600 300 m -- --
10 Aug 2018 -- -- W Pulsating, passive ash emissions. Strong sulfur odor in parts of Heredia (38 km W) and San José (36 km WSW) on 11 Aug.
27-28 Aug 2018 -- 200 m SW Continuous emissions.
30 Aug 2018 1340 200 m SW --
31 Aug-01 Sep 2018 -- 200 m SW, W Continuous gas-and-ash emissions.

According to an online news report (Q Costa Rica), a group of volcanologists called Volcanes sin Fronteras (Volcanos Without Borders) flew a drone over the volcano several times in December 2017 and first the two weeks of January 2018. On their Facebook page, they indicated that activity was dominated by intense degassing from the active crater, with sporadic explosions every 30-60 minutes, releasing gas and ash that rose to more than 300 m above the crater. They also observed phreato-magmatic explosions.

OVSICORI reported that pulses of ash emissions were common in January (figure 49), and incandescence was occasionally observed at night. Activity decreased after the middle of February, but strong incandescence was observed during early March.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 49. Webcam photo of an ash emission at Turrialba on 22 January 2018. Courtesy of Red Sismologica Nacional (RSN: UCR-ICE); published by the Costa Rica Star.

Eruptive activity resumed during the middle of May, but faded toward the end of the month to weak passive emissions, and finally ended. The volcano continued with a stable permanent Strombolian activity at the bottom of the crater. During June, the volcano was stable, with strong incandescence at night reflecting the presence of minor Strombolian activity that continued through at least early July.

On 3 July a weak explosion occurred and a thin layer of ash fell on the park ranger house and the Pica seismic station (2.5 km NW). A jet-like sound was heard on 4 July from a lookout. On 16 July incandescence continued at a low level. OVSICORI reported frequent weak ash emissions from 18 July through 2 August; the ash had a very low proportion of juvenile material and a high proportion of altered material. According to a news account (The Costa Rica Star) citing the RSN, persistent tremor accompanied these emissions, and a lahar descended the Toro Amarillo River on the W flank. Weak short-lived ash emissions resumed during the last half of August, and weak to moderate incandescence could still be observed.

Seismicity and deformation. During the first week of January, weak long-period (LP) earthquakes were recorded, but no volcanic-tectonic (VT) earthquakes or tremor. In February-April, weak VT earthquakes, a few LP earthquakes, and harmonic tremor were recorded. By May, seismic activity was almost non-existent, with VT signals below the crater and sporadic tremor. The latter disappeared by the end of May.

On 16 July, seismicity increased, particularly low-frequency earthquakes, to reach about 200 events the next day, but then decreased to normal on 18 July, with sporadic short tremor. During the last week of July, seismicity again increased until an internal explosion on 27 July, after which seismicity decreased. Tremor activity increased on 4 August, and by the middle of August, about 50 LP earthquakes per day were recorded, along with spasmodic tremor of low amplitude. This heightened activity continued during the following week.

Since June 2017, the volcano tended toward deflation, but then in early 2018 became stable until the middle of February, when inflation was recorded. By June, deformation was longer measured. No significant deformation was found in July or August.

Thermal anomalies. MODIS satellite instruments processed using the MODVOLC algorithm only recorded thermal anomalies on 22 March, 2 April, and 27 April (2 pixels). The MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) system recorded one hotspot during February, numerous hotspots between mid-March and mid-May, and only several hotspots after mid-May through the end of August. All recorded MIROVA anomalies were within 2.5 km of the volcano and of low radiative power.

Sulfur dioxide measurements. Significant sulfur dioxide levels near the volcano were recorded by NASA's satellite-borne ozone instruments between 30 March and 3 June, especially between 6-15 April.

According to OVSICORI, the CO2/SO2 ratio increased to a peak of 8 during the night of 21-22 January, then remained stable until the first week of February, when it decreased. By 20 February, the ratio was stable at about 4. The ratio was low during the middle of March, but rose on 29 March. On 10 April, the SO2 flow was normal (below 1000 t/d) and remained low until the middle of May, when CO2 levels increased. High CO2/SO2 levels were measured at the end of May, but decreased in early June. On 12 and 25 June, SO2 levels were about 400 and 500 tons/day, respectively. During early July, the ratio remained low at 4, with short periods of high measurements (about 10 on 5 July). The ratio remained stable throughout the rest of July. The ratio increased on 6 August during the last phase of eruptive activity, but then decreased to normal and stable levels for the rest of the month. Near the end of August, the two gas monitoring stations were vandalized.

Geological Summary. Turrialba, the easternmost of Costa Rica's Holocene volcanoes, is a large vegetated basaltic-to-dacitic stratovolcano located across a broad saddle NE of IrazĂș volcano overlooking the city of Cartago. The massive edifice covers an area of 500 km2. Three well-defined craters occur at the upper SW end of a broad 800 x 2200 m summit depression that is breached to the NE. Most activity originated from the summit vent complex, but two pyroclastic cones are located on the SW flank. Five major explosive eruptions have occurred during the past 3500 years. A series of explosive eruptions during the 19th century were sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows. Fumarolic activity continues at the central and SW summit craters.

Information Contacts: Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica (URL: http://www.ovsicori.una.ac.cr/); Red Sismologica Nacional (RSN: UCR-ICE), Universidad de Costa Rica and Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (URL: http://rsn.ucr.ac.cr/); Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB), NOAA/NESDIS OSPO, NOAA Science Center Room 401, 5200 Auth Rd, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL: www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/vaac, archive at: http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/VAAC/archive.html); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://hotspot.higp.hawaii.edu/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (URL: https://sO2.gsfc.nasa.gov/); Costa Rica Star (URL: https://news.co.cr); Q Costa Rica (URL: https://qcostarica.com).