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Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico) — 30 March-5 April 2016


Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
30 March-5 April 2016
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2016. Report on Popocatepetl (Mexico). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 30 March-5 April 2016. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (30 March-5 April 2016)



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

At 1200 on 30 March CENAPRED reported that during the previous 24 hours the seismic network at Popocatépetl recorded 179 emissions and four explosions. Ash plumes from the explosions rose as high as 3.5 km above the crater; ash from the explosions caused Puebla's airport to close from 2000 on 29 March to 0600 on 30 March.

During 30 March-5 April there were 38-136 emissions and as many as six explosions detected daily; some emissions corresponded with increased crater incandescence. An explosion at 0103 on 31 March produced an ash plume that rose 1.8 km and drifted ENE, and ejected incandescent fragments 1 km away onto the ESE flank. An explosion at 1521 generated an ash plume that rose 2 km and drifted ENE. With the assistance of the Federal Police, on 2 April CENAPRED scientists conducted an overflight of the crater and observed an inner crater that was 325 m in diameter and 50 m deep; the crater had previously been filled with a lava dome, destroyed in January, which had grown to an estimated volume of 2,000,000 cubic meters. Small landslides had occurred on the E wall of the inner crater. An explosion at 2031 on 3 April generated an ash plume that rose 2 km and drifted NE. Incandescent fragments were ejected as far as 3.5 km onto the E and SE flanks, generating fires in that part of the forest. Ash fell in the towns of Juan C. Bonilla (32 km ENE) and Coronango (35 km ENE), both in the state of Puebla. SINAPRED noted that the explosion was the strongest recorded in the previous three years. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, Phase Two.

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), Sistema Nacional para la Prevención, Mitigación y Atención de Desastres (SINAPRED)