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Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — December 1986

Piton de la Fournaise

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 11, no. 12 (December 1986)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Lava from fissure fills pit crater

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1986. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 11:12. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198612-233020

Piton de la Fournaise


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The eruptive activity on 26 November was followed by an increase in seismicity on 2 December, mainly centered below the summit crater (Dolomieu) at 700-1,500 m depth. The number of seismic events increased on 6 December at 0635, and half an hour later a N-S fracture opened in the W part of Dolomieu Crater, N of the 29 December 1985 cone. A second phase began 1 hour later (at 0803) inside the 29 March pit crater. Lava emanating from the fracture and a new cone in the SE part of Dolomieu filled the pit crater, already partially filled by 13 July and 12 November lava. Lava emission continued at a low rate but ceased from the initial fracture on 8 December. During December, almost 1.0 x 106 m3 of aphyric basalt was extruded onto the crater floor. The lava covered 2/3 of the floor with an average thickness of 1-2 m. Significant degassing accompanied the activity.

On 6 January, activity decreased in the four cones within Dolomieu and hornitos formed in the SE part of Dolomieu at the site of the lava-filled pit crater. The same day, a new eruptive phase began at the summit craters. Weak seismic events, barely detectable through the tremor, were recorded at summit stations beginning at 0855/0900. Seismicity was associated with strong deformation of the NE part of the summit of the Fournaise structure. At 1211, after eight summit events, a 700-m-long fracture opened on the slopes of the Osmondes Valley, NE of the summit, W of Piton de Crac, and very close to the April-May 1981 eruptive fissure. Lava flows and degassing were still being observed as of 15 January and the lava front had descended to 500 m altitude in the Grande Pentes region.

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: H. Delorme and B. Gillet, OVPDLF; P. Bachelery, Univ de la Réunion; A. Hirn, J-L. Le Mouel, J-L. Cheminee, P. Blum, and J. Zlotnicki, IPGP.