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Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — September 1988

Piton de la Fournaise

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 9 (September 1988)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Deformation precedes fissure eruption

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1988. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 13:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198809-233020

Piton de la Fournaise


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During most of August, only weak summit-area microseismicity was detected. Permanent tiltmeter stations recorded inflation of a few µrads/week, similar to previous months. Seismicity increased in late August, and on the 31st at 1523, deformation measurements documented the onset of magma intrusion into the SE part of the summit (Dolomieu) crater. As the intrusion migrated W during the following 2.5 hours, tilt data provided good location estimates of the initial eruption fissures. These began to open at 1748, on the SW flank of neighboring Bory crater, and gradually propagated downslope from 2,250 to 2,150 m altitude (S of Rivals Crater and E of December 1983 Crater). Aphyric basalt extrusion was significant during the first 5 days and then declined until ceasing around 10 September [but see 13:11]. Lava production was <4 x 106 m3. Since the eruption, activity has been limited to strong degassing and continuous weak tremor.

During September, deep earthquakes (30-50 km) were recorded NW of the volcano between Piton de la Fournaise and Piton des Neiges. One event (M 3.0) was felt by the population in the "Cirque de Mafate" and in the N island area.

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, P. Nerbusson, J. Delmond, and P. Taochi, OVPDLF; J. Dubois, J-L. Cheminee, P. Blum, A. Hirn, J. LePine, J. Zlotnicki, IPGP.