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

Piton de la Fournaise

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

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Lava flows from fissures and tubes

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:12. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198712-233020

Piton de la Fournaise


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The small eruptive episodes of 6-7 November 1987 . . . produced <1 x 106 m3 of aphyric basalt. For the rest of the month, seismicity remained strong and at shallow depth below the NE part of the summit cone. A progressive increase in the number of these low-magnitude events during the second half of the month was accompanied by slight deformation in the E summit zone.

On 29 November, a very shallow seismic crisis began, accompanied by much fracturing. From 0630 the next day, seismic events were well-localized in the NE part of Dolomieu summit crater. The seismic record from the summit network was saturated between 0720 and 0750, when most of the deformation was recorded by the tilt network. At 0803, after a slight displacement of the seismicity and deformation, the first fissure opened at the S base of the central cone (2,240 m elevation). At 0932, three new fissures 100-200 m long and oriented N10°W, opened in the S part of the caldera, near the 1972 vents. Lava came mainly from the S-most fissure at 1,920 m elevation. Magnetic observations correlated well with the crisis.

Between 20 and 24 December, tremor completely ceased for 5-30-minute periods. Slight inflation (3-20 µrads) of the S flanks of the summit cone preceded new tremor, and explosions and deflation followed. On the 24th a more significant inflation of 25 µrads remained and there were no variations in tremor. Field observations were very well correlated with the tremor variations. After seven days of low-amplitude tremor, eruptive activity ended on 1 January at 1400. The accumulated inflation remained in the S part of the cone.

From 30 November to 24 December, ~6-8 x 106 m3 of aphyric basalt was carried through tubes and emitted in the S part of Enclos Caldera. Flows reached the S wall of the caldera.

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, D. Vandamme, and P. Nerbusson, OVPDLF; P. Bachelery, Univ de la Réunion; J-L. Cheminee, J. Dubois, A. Hirn, J. LePine, J. Zlotnicki, and P. Blum, IPGP.