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Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — July 1979

Piton de la Fournaise

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 4, no. 7 (July 1979)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Small lava flows from two radial fissures

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1979. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (Squires, D., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 4:7. Smithsonian Institution.

Piton de la Fournaise


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A small eruption began when two radial fissures opened almost simultaneously on the N and S flanks of Cratère Dolomieu (the central crater) at about 1845 on 13 July. A line of three small fountains, each 50 m high, formed along the N flank fissure and aa lava flowed 400 m downslope. N flank activity ended at about 2200. Ten spatter cones were generated by the 0.5-km-long S-flank fissure and a second aa flow traveled 1.5 km before the eruption stopped at 1130 on 14 July.

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: M. Krafft, Cernay.