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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — January 1986


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 1 (January 1986)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Popocatepetl (Mexico) Increased fumarolic activity in summit crater

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1986. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 11:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198601-341090



19.023°N, 98.622°W; summit elev. 5393 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Members of the Mountain Climbers Group of the National Univ of México decended into the summit crater (elliptical shaped, [658 x 440] m) 25-26 January. The lower part of the main crater rim was 5,250 m above sea level and the crater was some 250 m deep. On its E floor there was a smaller circular crater about 200 m in diameter and 50 m deep with a small, roughly circular lake about 40 m in diameter and 10 m deep. The water was warm (29°C) and very clear with a greenish color. This small lake is not permanent and its dimensions are season-dependent. The main crater floor appeared somewhat changed since a previous visit in 1978, when the rim of the interior crater was at a lower level. On the bottom of both the main and inner craters were many small fumaroles with sulfur deposits around them. The temperatures of three fumaroles sampled in the bottom of the inner crater were in the range 97-99°C. In the E inner wall of the small crater were several fumaroles with vents that appeared to have greater activity. Their inaccessibility made it impossible to measure their temperatures but during the night they had a reddish glow, suggesting much higher temperatures. This kind of glow has not been reported inside the crater since 1938."

Geological Summary. Volcán Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, rises 70 km SE of Mexico City to form North America's 2nd-highest volcano. The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 x 600 m wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris-avalanche deposits covering broad areas to the south. The modern volcano was constructed south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone. Three major Plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 CE, have occurred since the mid-Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions, first recorded in Aztec codices, have occurred since Pre-Columbian time.

Information Contacts: H. Delgado Granados and S. de la Cruz-Reyna, UNAM; Manuel Casanova, D.G.A.D. Y.R., UNAM.