Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — January 1981
Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 1 (January 1981)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.
Masaya (Nicaragua) Gas emission event continues
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 1981. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua). In: McClelland, L. (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 6:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198101-344100.
11.984°N, 86.161°W; summit elev. 635 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
The gas emission event that began in fall 1979 continued with a steady release of very large amounts of SO2 in early 1981. Strong winds carried the gas plume onto populated areas at high elevations. A day of notable rockfall activity in the crater was followed for 1 day by a significantly larger rate of gas release.
Geologic Background. Masaya is one of Nicaragua's most unusual and most active volcanoes. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras pyroclastic shield volcano and is 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 twin volcanoes of Nindirí and Masaya, the source of historical 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 6500 years ago. Historical lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and have confined a lake to the far eastern end of the caldera. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Masaya has been frequently active since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold." Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals cause health hazards and crop damage.
Information Contacts: R. Stoiber and S. Williams, Dartmouth College; D. de Jerez, IRENA, Managua; D. Fajardo B., Instituto de Investigaciones Sísmicas.