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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 8 May-14 May 2013


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
8 May-14 May 2013
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2013. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 8 May-14 May 2013. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (8 May-14 May 2013)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

CENAPRED reported that an episode of high-amplitude spasmodic tremor detected at Popocatépetl began between 1928 on 7 May and 0159 on 8 May. The seismic increase was accompanied by an ash plume that rose 3 km above the crater and drifted SE, producing ashfall in San Pedro Benito Juarez (10-12 km SE), San Juan Tianguismanalco (22 km SE), Atlixco (23 km SE), and in some areas of Puebla (~50 km to the E). Incandescent tephra ejected from the crater landed 500 m away on the NE flank. On 8 May an explosion produced an ash plume that drifted SE. Incandescence from the crater was observed at night. The next day gas-and-steam plumes drifted SE.

On 10 May steam, gas, and ash plumes were detected; one of two explosions produced an ash plume that drifted E. A series of ash emissions and periods of harmonic tremor occurred between 1142 and 1443; cloud cover prevented clear views of the ash plumes. On 11 May steam, gas, and ash plumes were again detected. An explosion produced an ash plume that rose 1 km and drifted NE, and ejected incandescent tephra 500 m down the NE flank. Ash possibly fell in villages downwind. Gas-and-ash plumes rose 0.1-2 km and drifted ENE and NE. During 11-12 May periods of spasmodic and harmonic tremor were detected, and activity increased overall.

On 12 May CENAPRED noted that there had been an increase in activity during the previous two weeks, and another intensification that day prompting the Alert Level to be raised to Yellow, Phase Three. Access to the crater within a 12-km radius was prohibited. Stream-and-gas plumes with small amounts of ash rose from the carter. Sporadic ejections of incandescent tephra fell back into the crater and onto the NNE flank, 300 m from the crater rim. On 13 May steam-and-gas plumes were observed rising from the crater during periods of good visibility. On 14 May an explosive event generated an ash plume that rose 3 km and ejected incandescent tephra that landed 600 m away on the NE flank. Cloud cover again obscured summit views. Seismicity remained elevated.

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.

Source: Centro Nacional de Prevencion de Desastres (CENAPRED)