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Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) — 15 April-21 April 2020

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 15 April-21 April 2020
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2020. Report on Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 15 April-21 April 2020. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (15 April-21 April 2020)


Rincon de la Vieja

Costa Rica

10.83°N, 85.324°W; summit elev. 1916 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


OVSICORI-UNA reported periodic hydrothermal explosions at Rincón de la Vieja during 15-21 April. At 0306 on 15 April a phreatic eruption was recorded by the seismic network; weather conditions prevented visual confirmation, though local residents reported lahars in the Pénjamo, Azufrada, and Azul rivers. A steam plume from a phreatic event at 0929 on 18 April rose 200 m above the crater rim. Several small events were detected during the morning of 19 April but none produced plumes that rose above the rim. At 1014 a phreatic eruption ejected water and sediment 300 m above the crater rim and onto the flank, and produced a steam-and-gas plume that rose 1.5 km above rim. A lahar followed the activity. During 20-21 April several low-energy puffs of gas-and-steam were recorded. A low-energy event at 0626 on 21 April generated a steam plume that rose 1 km above the crater rim.

Geologic Background. Rincón de la Vieja, the largest volcano in NW Costa Rica, is a remote volcanic complex in the Guanacaste Range. The volcano consists of an elongated, arcuate NW-SE-trending ridge that was constructed within the 15-km-wide early Pleistocene Guachipelín caldera, whose rim is exposed on the south side. Sometimes known as the "Colossus of Guanacaste," it has an estimated volume of 130 km3 and contains at least nine major eruptive centers. Activity has migrated to the SE, where the youngest-looking craters are located. The twin cone of 1916-m-high Santa María volcano, the highest peak of the complex, is located at the eastern end of a smaller, 5-km-wide caldera and has a 500-m-wide crater. A plinian eruption producing the 0.25 km3 Río Blanca tephra about 3500 years ago was the last major magmatic eruption. All subsequent eruptions, including numerous historical eruptions possibly dating back to the 16th century, have been from the prominent active crater containing a 500-m-wide acid lake located ENE of Von Seebach crater.

Source: Observatorio Vulcanologico y Sismologico de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA)