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Report on Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) — September 1987

Nevado del Ruiz

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 9 (September 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) Small ash emission; strong seismicity continues

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Nevado del Ruiz (Colombia) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198709-351020

Nevado del Ruiz


4.892°N, 75.324°W; summit elev. 5279 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

August data are from the Boletín Informativo, published by the Observatorio Vulcanológico de Colombia. Energy release from the high-frequency earthquake swarm of 31 July-1 August was the fourth largest since the seismic crisis of November-December 1985. Maximum magnitude of swarm events was 2.2. The number of both high- and low-frequency events increased slightly in August, to 299 and 585 from 162 and 445 in July, but shallow explosion events declined from 68 in July to 50 in August. All of the August high-frequency events were centered in a zone 3-6 km S-SE of the crater, about 2/3 with focal depths 2.5-4 km below the summit. The remainder were shallower. Swarm events had epicenters 3.5 km S of the crater with similar depth distributions. After the swarm, seismic energy release accumulated in August at a rate similar to that of July. Tremor amplitude and period varied considerably, but energy was generally lower during the month. Highest amplitudes were recorded on 17 August, associated with an apparent minor ash emission. A small amount of ash was also visible in the plume at about 1000 on 22 August; poor weather prevented observations during other periods of increased tremor. Measurements of rates of SO2 emission were hampered by large variations in wind direction and velocity; values varied from ~450 to 2,600 t/d. Deformation measurements showed no major changes.

A small ash emission on 10 September dispersed ash 4-5 km SW. Seismic activity associated with the ash emission was the strongest of the month and saturated the records of stations close to the crater for more than 10 minutes. A strong deformation change was recorded by the Refugio station (3.6 km W of Arenas Crater) a few minutes before the ash emission, but was not detected at other deformation stations.

Seismic activity in September was characterized by an oscillatory tremor signal that fluctuated between high and moderate levels. Three more seismic episodes similar to that of 10 September occurred during the month but did not saturate instruments. A swarm of high-frequency events occurred 25 September. September totals were 154 high-frequency and 533 low-frequency events. Deformation changes were minor. The rate of SO2 emission grew to an average of 2,000 t/d, compared to the year's average of 1,000 t/d.

Geological Summary. Nevado del Ruiz is a broad, glacier-covered volcano in central Colombia that covers more than 200 km2. Three major edifices, composed of andesitic and dacitic lavas and andesitic pyroclastics, have been constructed since the beginning of the Pleistocene. The modern cone consists of a broad cluster of lava domes built within the caldera of an older edifice. The 1-km-wide, 240-m-deep Arenas crater occupies the summit. The prominent La Olleta pyroclastic cone located on the SW flank may also have been active in historical time. Steep headwalls of massive landslides cut the flanks. Melting of its summit icecap during historical eruptions, which date back to the 16th century, has resulted in devastating lahars, including one in 1985 that was South America's deadliest eruption.

Information Contacts: E. Parra and A. Acevedo, INGEOMINAS, Manizales.