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Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — July 1980


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 7 (July 1980)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Masaya (Nicaragua) Large plume; high SO2 output

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1980. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) (Squires, D., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 5:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198007-344100



11.9844°N, 86.1688°W; summit elev. 594 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Emission of a very large plume continued in June. Remote sensing of SO2 gas revealed high output rates. The gas plume allowed only brief glimpses of the small pit crater in which an active lava lake had been observed on many occasions since 1970. The lake was not seen during the brief clear moments, nor did a glow appear in photographs of the pit. The lake's characteristic roaring noise, if present, was masked by the sounds created by gas emission. There were no night observations at Masaya.

Geological Summary. Masaya volcano in Nicaragua has erupted frequently since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold" until it was found to be basalt rock upon cooling. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras caldera and is itself a broad, 6 x 11 km basaltic caldera with steep-sided walls up to 300 m high. The caldera is filled on its NW end by more than a dozen vents that erupted along a circular, 4-km-diameter fracture system. The NindirĂ­ and Masaya cones, the source of observed eruptions, were constructed at the southern end of the fracture system and contain multiple summit craters, including the currently active Santiago crater. A major basaltic Plinian tephra erupted from Masaya about 6,500 years ago. Recent lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and there is a lake at the far eastern end. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals have caused health hazards and crop damage.

Information Contacts: R. Stoiber and S. Williams, Dartmouth College; M. Carr and J. Walker, Rutgers Univ.; A. Creusot, INETER.