Report on Piton de la Fournaise (France) — 28 April-4 May 2021
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
28 April-4 May 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, 28 April-4 May 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 28 April-4 May, though inclement weather obscured visual observations during most of the week. Both craters were active, producing lava flows that mainly traveled though lava tubes. Lava emerged from the end of the flow field, advancing E and setting fire to local vegetation. Minor inflation of the summit area was recorded. Lava fountaining was weak at the smaller vent to the SE during 3-4 May and a small lava pond occupied the crater of the larger cone, just NW at the higher elevation. On 4 May weak fountaining at the smaller cone occasionally ejected material just above the crater rim and the pond was active in the larger crater. The lava flow advanced another 180 m, reaching 1,500 m elevation. According to a news article two students in their 20s were found dead in the caldera on 22 April, near the active cones. The cause of death was not immediately known. The Alert Level remained at 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.