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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 24 December-30 December 2002


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
24 December-30 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, 24 December-30 December 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (24 December-30 December 2002)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A moderate explosion occurred at Popocatépetl on 23 December. The resultant ash cloud rose ~2 km above the volcano and deposited ash on nearby towns. CENAPRED indicated that this type of activity is related to the destruction of the lava dome. According to a news article, a series of small eruptions just before Christmas deposited ash in towns as far away as central Texas. According to the article, "Upper-level winds just happened to be flowing from the Pacific Ocean over central México towards Texas, and that 'jet stream' effectively transported the ash right into central Texas." There were reports of ashfall from San Antonio to New Braunfels, in addition to Austin, covering cars and vegetation with a light, white film.

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: Associated Press, Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED), News 8 Austin