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Report on Cotopaxi (Ecuador) — 17 May-23 May 2023


Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 17 May-23 May 2023
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2023. Report on Cotopaxi (Ecuador) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 17 May-23 May 2023. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (17 May-23 May 2023)



0.677°S, 78.436°W; summit elev. 5911 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

IG reported that moderate eruptive activity continued at Cotopaxi during 17-23 May. Seismic activity was mainly characterized by long-period earthquakes and tremors associated with emissions that occurred almost daily; a total of six volcanic-tectonic earthquakes were recorded during the week. Emissions of steam, gas, and variable amounts of ash were observed on most days; clouds obscured views on 19 May. Weak steam-and-gas emissions that barely rose above the crater level were recorded during 17 and 20-22 May; the emissions drifted W on 22 May. Starting at 0510 on 18 May emissions of steam-and-ash rose 1-3 km above the crater and drifted N and NE; ashfall was reported in Machachi (23 km NW). During the morning of 23 May several steam-and-gas emissions with possible minor ash content were observed rising 1 km above the crater and drifting S. Servicio Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos y Emergencias (SNGRE) maintained the Alert Level at Yellow (the second lowest level on a four-color scale).

Geological Summary. The symmetrical, glacier-covered, Cotopaxi stratovolcano is Ecuador's most well-known volcano and one of its most active. The steep-sided cone is capped by nested summit craters, the largest of which is about 550 x 800 m in diameter. Deep valleys scoured by lahars radiate from the summit of the andesitic volcano, and large andesitic lava flows extend to its base. The modern edifice has been constructed since a major collapse sometime prior to about 5,000 years ago. Pyroclastic flows (often confused in historical accounts with lava flows) have accompanied many explosive eruptions, and lahars have frequently devastated adjacent valleys. Strong eruptions took place in 1744, 1768, and 1877. Pyroclastic flows descended all sides of the volcano in 1877, and lahars traveled more than 100 km into the Pacific Ocean and western Amazon basin. Smaller eruptions have been frequent since that time.

Sources: Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG-EPN), Servicio Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos y Emergencias (SNGRE)