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Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — August 1987

Piton de la Fournaise

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 8 (August 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Lava flows from summit crater

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198708-233020

Piton de la Fournaise


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Seismicity beneath the summit continued after the 2 June intrusion. Minor inflation was recorded through 6 June. The volcano then remained stable until a new intrusion developed below the E summit zone at 0411 on 9 June. Seismicity ceased at 0500 but no eruption occurred. Hypocenters were concentrated along a N-S axis, 1-1.5 km under Dolomieu.

On 10 June, 50 µrads of inflation in the upper summit zone were recorded. At 1510 that day an eruption began in the S part of the crater along a 50-m N-S fissure. Lava broke out the next day in the E part of the crater (figure 18). About 106 m3 of aphyric basalt were extruded by 28 June. During this phase, two inflation pulses were recorded by the permanent tiltmeter network, on 18 and 22-26 June. After 28 June, moderate seismicity and slight deformation were recorded. Significant inflation was observed on 19 July from 0450 to 0630 during a new intrusion crisis, mainly in the NE part of Dolomieu. Seismicity shifted from N to S at about 0535. An eruption then occurred at two sites. The main eruption was 1 km S of the summit craters, close to Chateau-Fort (1948 eruption site), lasted ~32 hours, and produced slightly more than 106 m3 of aphyric basalt. Poor weather conditions prevented clear observation of the less-active site 1.5 km NNE of the summit. Deformation changes have not been significant since the eruptions, but weak summit-area seismicity began 15 August and was continuing in the first week of September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 18. Map of the summit area of Piton de la Fournaise showing 1987 lava flows. Courtesy of P. Bachélery.

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; J-L. Cheminee, A. Hirn, J. LePine, P. Blum, and J. Zlotnicki, IPGP.