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Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala) — 15 December-21 December 2021

Santa Maria

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
15 December-21 December 2021
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2021. Report on Santa Maria (Guatemala). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 15 December-21 December 2021. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (15 December-21 December 2021)

Santa Maria


14.757°N, 91.552°W; summit elev. 3745 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

INSIVUMEH reported that in recent months the dome in Caliente crater, the active part of Santa María’s Santiaguito lava-dome complex, has grown due to a higher rate of extrusion. Blocky lava descending the W flank of the dome produced block avalanches, though avalanches often descended the flanks in multiple directions. A larger number of volcano-tectonic earthquakes began to be recorded on 11 December simultaneously with increased surficial activity. The lava extrusion rate increased on 16 December at the WSW part of the dome, causing intense incandescence at the dome, an increase in block avalanches on the W, S, and E flanks, and higher gas emissions. On 17 December strong explosions produced ash plumes that rose as high has 2 km above the dome and drifted 30 km W. Strong explosions continued to be recorded though 19 December; explosions were weak during 20-21 December. Ash fell in areas downwind including San Marcos Palajunoj (8 km SW) and Loma Linda (6 km WSW) during 16-18 December. Strong incandescence and block avalanches on the W, SW, and S flanks continued through 21 December.

Geological Summary. Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa María volcano is part of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rise above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. The sharp-topped, conical profile is cut on the SW flank by a 1.5-km-wide crater. The oval-shaped crater extends from just below the summit to the lower flank, and was formed during a catastrophic eruption in 1902. The renowned Plinian eruption of 1902 that devastated much of SW Guatemala followed a long repose period after construction of the large basaltic-andesite stratovolcano. The massive dacitic Santiaguito lava-dome complex has been growing at the base of the 1902 crater since 1922. Compound dome growth at Santiaguito has occurred episodically from four vents, with activity progressing W towards the most recent, Caliente. Dome growth has been accompanied by almost continuous minor explosions, with periodic lava extrusion, larger explosions, pyroclastic flows, and lahars.

Source: Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meteorologia, e Hidrologia (INSIVUMEH)