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Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — November 1986


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

Masaya (Nicaragua) Rock landslides and wall collapse in Santiago Crater

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1986. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 11:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198611-344100



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Intensive rock landslides began at midday on 12 November on the S and W sides of Santiago Crater. Part of the SW wall collapsed, extending Santiago into a section of Nindirí crater (figure 2). A floor collapse accompanied the slides. Two seismographs near the crater have recorded only seismicity produced by rockfalls down the 350-m crater wall.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Topographic map of Masaya showing craters and lava flows (from Mooser and others, 1958).

Reactivation of two faults or fissure systems facilitated continued wall collapse. One prominent fault cuts NE/SW through the crater and the other extends NW around the edge of the crater. A substantial decrease in fumarolic activity followed the collapse with only several small fumaroles remaining along the NE/SW fault in the crater bottom.

Guatemalan newspapers reported that the Civil Defense staff closed access to Masaya Volcano National Park on 20 November. A government communique stated that the rock slides closed a fissure (possibly the pit crater) that formerly emitted large plumes and lava.

References. Stoiber, R.E., and Williams, S.N., 1986, Sulfur and halogen gases at Masaya Caldera Complex, Nicaragua: total flux and variations with time: JGR v. 91, no. B12, p. 12, 215-12, 231.

Mooser, F., Meyer-Abich, H., and McBirney, A., 1958, Catalogue of the active volcanoes of the world, Part VI, Central America, 146 p.

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: Douglas Fajardo and Petr Hradecky, INETER; Prensa Libre newspaper, Guatemala City, Guatemala.