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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 18 December-24 December 2002


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
18 December-24 December 2002
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 18 December-24 December 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (18 December-24 December 2002)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Moderate explosions occurred at Popocatépetl on 18 December. After a period of high-frequency tremor, an explosion occurred at 0148 that produced an ash cloud that reached 2 km above the crater. Later, at 0209 and 0214 two explosions sent ash to ~0.5 km above the crater. that drifted to the NE. Fragments were sent around the crater a distance of ~1.5 km. The volcano returned to its previous relatively low level of activity. Popocatépetl 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: Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED), EFE News Service, Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)