Report on Masaya (Nicaragua) — 25 April-1 May 2001
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 April-1 May 2001
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2001. Report on Masaya (Nicaragua). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 April-1 May 2001. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
11.984°N, 86.161°W; summit elev. 635 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
INETER personnel reported that volcanic activity at Masaya decreased following the 23 April explosion. Small explosions were observed on 24 and 25 April, but by 27 April only the continuous emission of gas at normal levels was observed with few episodes of strong degassing. Likewise, after the 23 April explosion the level of SO2 emission decreased and normal levels of seismic activity were recorded. INETER warned that further explosions may occur that could affect areas near the crater (within ~500 m).
A tourist at the scene during the 23 April explosion stated that injuries were more serious than was reported either here or in news accounts. Over 100 tourists were near the crater when the explosion occurred, including infants and elderly persons. At least 15 people sustained injuries (bruises and cuts) and one person suffered a broken arm.
Geologic Background. Masaya is one of Nicaragua's most unusual and most active volcanoes. It lies within the massive Pleistocene Las Sierras pyroclastic shield volcano and is a broad, 6 x 11 km basaltic caldera with steep-sided walls up to 300 m high. The caldera is filled on its NW end by more than a dozen vents that erupted along a circular, 4-km-diameter fracture system. The twin volcanoes of Nindirí and Masaya, the source of historical eruptions, were constructed at the southern end of the fracture system and contain multiple summit craters, including the currently active Santiago crater. A major basaltic Plinian tephra erupted from Masaya about 6500 years ago. Historical lava flows cover much of the caldera floor and have confined a lake to the far eastern end of the caldera. A lava flow from the 1670 eruption overtopped the north caldera rim. Masaya has been frequently active since the time of the Spanish Conquistadors, when an active lava lake prompted attempts to extract the volcano's molten "gold." Periods of long-term vigorous gas emission at roughly quarter-century intervals cause health hazards and crop damage.