Report on Pacaya (Guatemala) — 24 March-30 March 2021
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
24 March-30 March 2021
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2021. Report on Pacaya (Guatemala). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 March-30 March 2021. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
14.382°N, 90.601°W; summit elev. 2569 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
INSIVUMEH reported moderate to strong explosions at Pacaya’s Mackenney Crater during 24-30 March, accompanied by abundant ash plumes that rose to 2.9-4.5 km (9,500-13,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted in multiple directions as far as 15-20 km. Resulting ashfall was reported in El Pepinal (7 km N), San Francisco de Sales (5 km N), El Cedro (9 km NNW), Calderas (3 km N), Mesías Altas, Mesías Baja (5 km NE), El Rodeo (4 km WSW), El Patrocinio (5 km W), and San Vicente Pacaya (5 km NW). The lava flow that began on 18 March was 2.5 km long, continuing down the SW flank; the height of the flow was 2.5 m with a width of 400 m, but the advancing front was 250 wide and set fire to nearby vegetation. Incandescent material ejected 150-300 m above the rim fell around the crater on 25 and 27 March. On 30 March ash plumes drifted 7 km S, causing ashfall in El Chupadero (2-2.5 km S) and Los Pocitos (5.5 km S).
Geological Summary. Eruptions from Pacaya, one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, are frequently visible from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. This complex basaltic volcano was constructed just outside the southern topographic rim of the 14 x 16 km Pleistocene Amatitlán caldera. A cluster of dacitic lava domes occupies the southern caldera floor. The post-caldera Pacaya massif includes the ancestral Pacaya Viejo and Cerro Grande stratovolcanoes and the currently active Mackenney stratovolcano. Collapse of Pacaya Viejo between 600 and 1500 years ago produced a debris-avalanche deposit that extends 25 km onto the Pacific coastal plain and left an arcuate somma rim inside which the modern Pacaya volcano (Mackenney cone) grew. A subsidiary crater, Cerro Chino, was constructed on the NW somma rim and was last active in the 19th century. During the past several decades, activity has consisted of frequent strombolian eruptions with intermittent lava flow extrusion that has partially filled in the caldera moat and armored the flanks of Mackenney cone, punctuated by occasional larger explosive eruptions that partially destroy the summit of the growing young stratovolcano.