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Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — January 1984

Piton de la Fournaise

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 1 (January 1984)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Second phase of lava emission

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1984. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 9:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198401-233020

Piton de la Fournaise


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"A second eruptive phase began on 18 January at 0454, preceded by inflation of the summit area that began in early January. A seismic swarm of about 50 low-energy events occurred between 0313 and 0454 on 18 January when harmonic tremor began. The eruptive fissure of the first phase, which began on 4 December, was still active (but with virtually no explosive activity and a low level of effusive activity) when the second phase began, but apparently ceased during the day on 18 January.

"Two new eruptive fissures formed ~400 m NNW of the main first phase fissure. Activity at the upper one rapidly decreased, and stopped at 0200 on 19 January. The other, ~200 m long, sustained lava fountaining more than 80 m high 18-19 January. The fountains produced a large amount of Pele's hair that was transported SW by wind and deposited on inhabited areas, causing a potential hazard for livestock grazing in the area. Emergency measures were taken by local authorities; fortunately, heavy rains and wind 19-23 January washed away most of the tephra that remained on the grass.

"During 18 January, the lava discharge was vigorous (up to 100 m3/s). At 1200 the flow extended 4 km from the vents. Inflation, possibly related to the emplacement of an intrusion, was measured on 18 January, showing the same pattern as after the start of the first phase on 4 December.

"On 24 January, the eruption was localized at two vents that were building two cinder cones. On 27 January, only one of the vents was still active. Eruptive activity was continuing as of 8 February."

Geological Summary. The massive Piton de la Fournaise basaltic shield volcano on the French island of RĂ©union in the western Indian Ocean is one of the world's most active volcanoes. 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 calderas formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping of the volcano. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the floor of the calderas and their outer flanks. Most historical eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest caldera, which is 8 km wide and breached to below sea level on the eastern 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 on the outer flanks of the caldera. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory, one of several operated by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, monitors this very active volcano.

Information Contacts: J. Lenat, A. Bonneville, C. Hemond, F. Lalanne, and P. Tarits, OVPDLF, Réunion; P. Bachelery and J. Bougeres, Univ. de la Réunion.