Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — 14 April-20 April 2021
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
14 April-20 April 2021
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2021. Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 14 April-20 April 2021. 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)
OVPF reported that the eruption at Piton de la Fournaise continued during 14-20 April. Lava fountaining was visible from both cones on most days, though sometimes inclement weather prevented visual observations of the eruption site. During an overflight on 16 April scientists observed that the most distal part of the lava flows had stopped advancing. The larger and more northern cone was 28 m high. The cone at a lower elevation, about 100 m away, had two vents. The smaller cone fed lava flows that traveled though tubes and emerged after 100 m, continuing to advance as many surficial breakout flows. The total length of the flow field was about 3.5 km and the maximum width was 750 m.
Sulfur dioxide emissions gradually increased between 400 and 859 tonnes per day during 9-12 April, peaked at 4,054 tonnes per day on 13 April, and then dropped to 2,100 tonnes per day on 14 April. OVPF estimated lava-flow rates based on the gas-emission rates, noting that weather conditions could affect the accuracy of the measurements. They estimated that the average flow rate in cubic meters per second was 20 during 9-10 April, an average of 24 with a maximum value of 59 on 13 April, 12.5 on 14 April, and 6.5-8.3 during 16-19 April. The Alert Level was raised to 2-2.
Geological Summary. 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.