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). In: McClelland, L. (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 11:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198611-344100.
11.984°N, 86.161°W; summit elev. 635 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.
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.
Geologic Background. Masaya is one of Nicaragua's most unusual and most active volcanoes. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras pyroclastic shield volcano and is 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 twin volcanoes of Nindirí and Masaya, the source of historical 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 6500 years ago. Historical lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and have confined a lake to the far eastern end of the caldera. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Masaya has been frequently active since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold." Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals cause health hazards and crop damage.
Information Contacts: Douglas Fajardo and Petr Hradecky, INETER; Prensa Libre newspaper, Guatemala City, Guatemala.