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Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala) — July 1987

Santa Maria

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 7 (July 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Santa Maria (Guatemala) Block lava flow into canyon; constant avalanching

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198707-342030

Santa Maria


14.757°N, 91.552°W; summit elev. 3745 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

INSIVUMEH technicians visiting the volcano 12-13 May observed block lava from the active (Caliente) vent flowing south, forming a well-defined channel. The flow front was at 1,300 m elevation, farther downslope than in March, in a steep canyon that contains a tributary of the Nimá II river in the rainy season. Continuous avalanches of large blocks occurred from the flow margins, producing light-colored dust and ash clouds.

When INSIVUMEH personnel next visited the S flank, on 19 June, lava continued to flow from the S side of the dome. Since mid-May, the flow front had advanced 250 m and its elevation was nearly 60 m lower. Incandescent material was visible in one crack at the flow front and heat was felt 70 m away. Constant avalanches produced clouds of hot light-colored ash and were accompanied by tremors and rumbling. Rains continued to transport new material into river valleys.

Geological Summary. Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa MarĂ­a volcano is part of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rise above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. The sharp-topped, conical profile is cut on the SW flank by a 1.5-km-wide crater. The oval-shaped crater extends from just below the summit to the lower flank, and was formed during a catastrophic eruption in 1902. The renowned Plinian eruption of 1902 that devastated much of SW Guatemala followed a long repose period after construction of the large basaltic-andesite stratovolcano. The massive dacitic Santiaguito lava-dome complex has been growing at the base of the 1902 crater since 1922. Compound dome growth at Santiaguito has occurred episodically from four vents, with activity progressing E towards the most recent, Caliente. Dome growth has been accompanied by almost continuous minor explosions, with periodic lava extrusion, larger explosions, pyroclastic flows, and lahars.

Information Contacts: E. Sánchez, INSIVUMEH.