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Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — December 1981


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 12 (December 1981)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Masaya (Nicaragua) Large white vapor plume and high SO2 emission rates continue

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1981. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 6:12. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198112-344100



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Emission of a very large white vapor plume continued in late November. SO2 emission rates, measured using COSPEC, were at the same high levels reported since February 1980. Acid rain and gas fumigation continued to cause problems downwind. Incandescence was seen in the bottom of the inner crater through the crust on the surface of Santiago Crater lava lake on 29 November. Park rangers reported that this incandescence has been visible since September 1981, but it was not noted by several observers who specifically looked for it while working around the crater 25-29 November. The roaring sound of gas emission (or possibly lava splashing) may have been louder than in March 1981."

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, S. Williams, H.R. Naslund, J.B. Gemmell, D. Sussman, Dartmouth College; D. Fajardo B., Instituto de Investigaciones Sísmicas.