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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 6 December-12 December 2000


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
6 December-12 December 2000
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2000. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 6 December-12 December 2000. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (6 December-12 December 2000)



19.023°N, 98.622°W; summit elev. 5393 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A reduction in volcanic activity at Popocatépetl led CENAPRED to reduce the Alert Level on 6 December from Yellow Phase III to Phase II, thus reducing the high-risk zone from 10 to 7 km. The Washington VAAC reported that a small steam-and-ash exhalation sent an ash cloud to ~6.7 km a.s.l. at ~2034 on 6 December. Later in the week they reported that at 1607 on 12 December a massive exhalation of ash and steam sent a cloud to ~ 8.8-10.6 km a.s.l. The ash cloud was visible on CENAPRED's Popocatépetl "Web Cam" and GOES-8 imagery. The eruption ended by approximately 1830 and by 1845 GOES-8 imagery showed that the ash cloud extended 37 km to the NE and was 14 km wide. Imagery through 2315 showed two main areas of ash; the most dense area was at an altitude of ~10.6 km a.s.l., and the other area was between 4.9 and 5.5 km a.s.l. The local airport was alerted to the eruption and as of 12 December the volcano remained at Alert Level Yellow Phase II.

Geological Summary. Volcán Popocatépetl, whose name is the Aztec word for smoking mountain, rises 70 km SE of Mexico City to form North America's 2nd-highest volcano. The glacier-clad stratovolcano contains a steep-walled, 400 x 600 m wide crater. The generally symmetrical volcano is modified by the sharp-peaked Ventorrillo on the NW, a remnant of an earlier volcano. At least three previous major cones were destroyed by gravitational failure during the Pleistocene, producing massive debris-avalanche deposits covering broad areas to the south. The modern volcano was constructed south of the late-Pleistocene to Holocene El Fraile cone. Three major Plinian eruptions, the most recent of which took place about 800 CE, have occurred since the mid-Holocene, accompanied by pyroclastic flows and voluminous lahars that swept basins below the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions, first recorded in Aztec codices, have occurred since Pre-Columbian time.

Sources: Notimex, Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED), Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)