Report on Pacaya (Guatemala) — 11 November-17 November 2020
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 11 November-17 November 2020
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2020. Report on Pacaya (Guatemala). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 11 November-17 November 2020. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
14.382°N, 90.601°W; summit elev. 2569 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
INSIVUMEH reported that Strombolian activity and lava effusion continued at Pacaya during 10-17 November. Explosions from the cone in Mackenney Crater ejected material as high as 300 m above the vent. Lava flows on the SW flank varied in length between 800 and 1,200 m during 11-13 November. Visual observations overnight during 13-14 November revealed a new lava flow from a vent higher up on the SW flank. In a special report issued on 15 November CONRED and INSIVUMEH stated that lava effusion had increased on the SW flank. Avalanches of material traveled as far as 500 m and generated plumes of ash; a white-and-blue gas plume rose 450 m above the summit. Strong explosions at the summit crater ejected material 300 m high. The two parallel flows, 300-1,000 m long, were active through 17 November.
Geologic Background. Eruptions from Pacaya, one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, are frequently visible from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. This complex basaltic volcano was constructed just outside the southern topographic rim of the 14 x 16 km Pleistocene Amatitlán caldera. A cluster of dacitic lava domes occupies the southern caldera floor. The post-caldera Pacaya massif includes the ancestral Pacaya Viejo and Cerro Grande stratovolcanoes and the currently active Mackenney stratovolcano. Collapse of Pacaya Viejo between 600 and 1500 years ago produced a debris-avalanche deposit that extends 25 km onto the Pacific coastal plain and left an arcuate somma rim inside which the modern Pacaya volcano (Mackenney cone) grew. A subsidiary crater, Cerro Chino, was constructed on the NW somma rim and was last active in the 19th century. During the past several decades, activity has consisted of frequent strombolian eruptions with intermittent lava flow extrusion that has partially filled in the caldera moat and armored the flanks of Mackenney cone, punctuated by occasional larger explosive eruptions that partially destroy the summit of the growing young stratovolcano.