Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — 17 September-23 September 2008
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 17 September-23 September 2008
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2008. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 17 September-23 September 2008. 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)
OVPDLF reported an eruption from Piton de la Fournaise on 21 September. Lava flows issued from a fissure about halfway up the W wall of Dolomieu crater and ponded at the bottom. A strong concentration of sulfur dioxide was detected near the edge of the crater. On 22 September, Pele's hair was found scattered around the summit area and the lava flow rate decreased. This marked the first eruptive activity in the Dolomieu crater since the major collapse in April 2007 that enlarged the crater to 800 by 1,100 m wide and 340 m deep.
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.