Logo link to homepage

Report on Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) — March 1986

Nevado del Ruiz

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 3 (March 1986)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) Continued seismicity; minor deformation; small ash emission

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1986. Report on Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 11:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198603-351020

Nevado del Ruiz


4.892°N, 75.324°W; summit elev. 5279 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Between mid-March and mid-April, the height of the vapor column varied between 300 and 1,000 m, with SO2 content, measured by COSPEC, of 300-1,000 t/d. Rates measured in early March were generally of the order of 500 t/d, down from ~1,000 t/d a month earlier. Ash contents of the plume were low.

Seismicity during the period generally remained similar to the previous month. The number of high-frequency events declined slightly to ~3/day, while low-frequency shocks increased somewhat to an average of 12 daily. Depths of high-frequency events were as much as 8 km (below a datum at 4.7 km altitude), with ~65% of the events deeper than 3 km. Epicenters were dominantly in the S part of the volcano. Around 21 March there was a small seismic crisis with 24 low-frequency and 13 high-frequency events that were associated with a small ash emission. On 6 and 7 April, two significant low-frequency events were registered, but they were not accompanied by any other activity. Colombian geologists noted that regional earthquakes could have some influence on the increase in low-frequency seismicity.

During the second week in April, data from EDM lines revealed slight deflation (of the order of 1 mm/day) at stations on the N and E sectors of the volcano. In contrast, a station in the SW sector (CISNE) indicated an inflation of ~3 mm daily during the same period. Dry and electronic tilt measurements have not shown significant changes. Rates of movement of ice near the summit have slowed since January to less than half the December rates.

Geological Summary. Nevado del Ruiz is a broad, glacier-covered volcano in central Colombia that covers more than 200 km2. Three major edifices, composed of andesitic and dacitic lavas and andesitic pyroclastics, have been constructed since the beginning of the Pleistocene. The modern cone consists of a broad cluster of lava domes built within the caldera of an older edifice. The 1-km-wide, 240-m-deep Arenas crater occupies the summit. The prominent La Olleta pyroclastic cone located on the SW flank may also have been active in historical time. Steep headwalls of massive landslides cut the flanks. Melting of its summit icecap during historical eruptions, which date back to the 16th century, has resulted in devastating lahars, including one in 1985 that was South America's deadliest eruption.

Information Contacts: A. Núñez and F. Muñoz, Observatorio Vulcanológico de Colombia (INGEOMINAS-UNICALDAS), Manizales.