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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. Piton de la Fournaise is a massive basaltic shield volcano on the French island of RĂ©union in the western Indian Ocean. 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 scarps formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5,000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping, leaving caldera-sized embayments open to the E and SE. Numerous pyroclastic cones are present on the floor of the scarps and their outer flanks. Most recorded eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest scarp, which is about 9 km wide and about 13 km from the western wall to the ocean on the E 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 outside the scarps.

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.