Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — 20 August-26 August 2003
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 20 August-26 August 2003
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 20 August-26 August 2003. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
Piton de la Fournaise
21.244°S, 55.708°E; summit elev. 2632 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
Following 5 months of slow inflation at Piton de la Fournaise and a series of eruptions during May to July, a new period of heightened seismicity began beneath Dolomieu crater on 23 August at 1848. The first fissure opened in Bory crater around 2120, and the second fissure opened at 2210 on the N flank at about 2,450 m altitude. Both fissures were active for short periods of time. The final fissure opened at 2330 around 2,200 m altitude on the N flank. A lava flow traveled into Plaine des Osmondes.
Geologic Background. The massive Piton de la Fournaise basaltic shield volcano on the French island of Réunion 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.