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Pico de Orizaba

Photo of this volcano
  • Mexico
  • México and Central America
  • Stratovolcano
  • 1846 CE
  • Country
  • Volcanic Region
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 19.03°N
  • 97.27°W

  • 5564 m
    18255 ft

  • 341100
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

Most Recent Bulletin Report: April 1994 (BGVN 19:04) Citation IconCite this Report

Low seismicity, no fumarolic activity, and no crater changes

Seismic activity was monitored on 22-24 April using one station located at 4,480 m elevation on the S flank. The station consisted of a 1-Hz vertical component seismometer, operating at 78 dB amplification with a band-pass filter between 0.3 and 30.0 Hz. The station registered five B-type events within a 5.5 hour time period on 23 April, and three events within 15 minutes of each other on 24 April. Coda duration was 10-18 seconds long; frequencies were in the 3-6 Hz range. Maximum peak-to-peak amplitudes measured 1-3 mm.

Observers who ascended to the summit found no fumarolic activity. Crater morphology was unchanged since visits in October 1992 and 1989. Water discharge from the "La virgen" spring at 4,400 m elevation had decreased to 0.5 liters/hour from 10 liters/hour in 1992.

Information Contacts: Guillermo González-Pomposo1 and Carlos Valdés-González, Departamento de Sismología y Volcanología, Instituto de Geofísica, UNAM, Cd. Universitaría, 04510 D.F., México; 1 Also at Benemérita Univ Autótonoma de Puebla, México.

The Global Volcanism Program has no Weekly Reports available for Pico de Orizaba.

Bulletin Reports - Index

Reports are organized chronologically and indexed below by Month/Year (Publication Volume:Number), and include a one-line summary. Click on the index link or scroll down to read the reports.

11/1992 (BGVN 17:11) Seismic monitoring finds little activity

04/1994 (BGVN 19:04) Low seismicity, no fumarolic activity, and no crater changes




Information is preliminary and subject to change. All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


November 1992 (BGVN 17:11) Citation IconCite this Report

Seismic monitoring finds little activity

During four days of seismic monitoring at Pico de Orizaba (10-13 October), only a single A-type event was recorded by an analog seismic station at 4,680 m above sea level on the S flank. The M 2.7 shock, on 12 October at 0124, had an S-P of 1.5 seconds, consistent with a depth of 8 km. The station, a 1-component (Z) 1-second seismometer, was operated at 72 dB amplification at 0.3-30 Hz. No fumarolic activity was observed and crater morphology has remained unchanged since the team's initial observation in 1989. Geologists plan a continued monitoring program.

Information Contacts: G. Pomposo, Benemérita University, Puebla; A. Martín del Pozzo, UNAM, México D.F.


April 1994 (BGVN 19:04) Citation IconCite this Report

Low seismicity, no fumarolic activity, and no crater changes

Seismic activity was monitored on 22-24 April using one station located at 4,480 m elevation on the S flank. The station consisted of a 1-Hz vertical component seismometer, operating at 78 dB amplification with a band-pass filter between 0.3 and 30.0 Hz. The station registered five B-type events within a 5.5 hour time period on 23 April, and three events within 15 minutes of each other on 24 April. Coda duration was 10-18 seconds long; frequencies were in the 3-6 Hz range. Maximum peak-to-peak amplitudes measured 1-3 mm.

Observers who ascended to the summit found no fumarolic activity. Crater morphology was unchanged since visits in October 1992 and 1989. Water discharge from the "La virgen" spring at 4,400 m elevation had decreased to 0.5 liters/hour from 10 liters/hour in 1992.

Information Contacts: Guillermo González-Pomposo1 and Carlos Valdés-González, Departamento de Sismología y Volcanología, Instituto de Geofísica, UNAM, Cd. Universitaría, 04510 D.F., México; 1 Also at Benemérita Univ Autótonoma de Puebla, México.

This compilation of synonyms and subsidiary features may not be comprehensive. Features are organized into four major categories: Cones, Craters, Domes, and Thermal Features. Synonyms of features appear indented below the primary name. In some cases additional feature type, elevation, or location details are provided.

Eruptive History

There is data available for 27 Holocene eruptive periods.

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
1846 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1687 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1613 Unknown Confirmed 0 Historical Observations
1569 1589 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1566 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1545 1555 (?) ± 10 years Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
[ 1533 ] [ 1539 ] Uncertain 2  
[ 1351 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
1260 ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
[ 1187 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
1175 Unknown Confirmed 3 Anthropology
[ 1157 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain 2  
0220 ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0140 ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0090 ± 40 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0040 ± 40 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
0780 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
1500 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
2110 BCE ± 100 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
2300 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) La Perla unit
2500 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
2780 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
4690 BCE ± 300 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
6220 BCE ± 75 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
6710 BCE ± 150 years Unknown Confirmed 5 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Upper Citlaltépetl ignimbrite
7030 BCE ± 50 years Unknown Confirmed 4 Radiocarbon (uncorrected) Lower Citlaltépetl ignimbrite
7530 BCE ± 40 years Unknown Confirmed   Radiocarbon (uncorrected)
Deformation History

There is no Deformation History data available for Pico de Orizaba.

Emission History

There is no Emissions History data available for Pico de Orizaba.

Photo Gallery

Pico de Orizaba (Volcán Citlaltépetl) rises to 5675 m at the southern end of volcanic chain the extends north to Cofre de Perote volcano. Orizaba is seen here from its NW flank with the snow-free peak of Sarcofago halfway down the left skyline. Periodic major explosions during the Holocene from North America's highest volcano were separated by long quiescent periods. Eruptions during the past 5000 years have primarily produced dacitic lava flows. Historical activity has consisted of minor ash eruptions and the extrusion of viscous lava flows.

Copyrighted photo by Katia and Maurice Krafft, 1978.
These large hills on the outskirts of the city of Huatusco, 35 km from Orizaba, are hummocks of the Jamapa debris avalanche and debris flow deposit, which covers 350 km2. The avalanche occurred during the late Pleistocene by collapse of the northern side of Torrecillas volcano, a predecessor to Orizaba, and created a 3.5-km-wide horseshoe-shaped scarp. The rapidly moving avalanche was able to ride up and over a ridge into drainages that do not originate from Orizaba.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1997 (Smithsonian Institution).
Pico de Orizaba (Volcán Citlaltépetl) rises 4,500 m above the Gulf of Mexico coastal plain. Its summit contained a 500-m-wide crater that was 300 m deep at the time of this 1997 photo. It is seen here from the NNE with the Jamapa glacier to the right above the NW-flank peak of Sarcofago (right center). The present summit cone was constructed during the Holocene, overtopping previously collapsed edifices.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 1997 (Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México).
Pico de Orizaba, also known as Citlaltépetl ("Mountain of the Star") is seen here from the south. The snow-free peak to the left is Sierra Negra, a Pleistocene volcano that was active simultaneously with Orizaba. These volcanoes mark the southernmost extent of the Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba volcanic chain.

Photo by José Macías, 1996 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
The evening sun illuminates the Pico de Orizaba western flank. The smaller peak to the left is the NW-flank peak of Sarcofago. The NW-dipping lavas of Sarcofago, which is part of the Espolón de Oro edifice, were exposed by edifice collapse. The collapse event forming a horseshoe-shaped crater, inside which the modern cone was constructed.

Photo by José Macías, 1995 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
The N-S-trending Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba volcanic chain is perpendicular to the trend of the Mexican Volcanic Belt. This view looking southward from the Cofre de Perote summit towards glacier-capped Pico de Orizaba in the background shows two lesser known volcanic complexes in between. The La Gloria volcanic field, also known as the Desconocido-Tecomales volcanic field, forms the eroded area in the center of the photo, and Las Cumbres volcano is the broad range that extends from in front of Orizaba to the right-center horizon.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Pico de Orizaba volcano towers above ridges of Cretaceous limestone on its ENE flank. The glaciated volcano was constructed during three stages and has undergone edifice collapse on several occasions. Collapse of the initial Torrecillas edifice during the Pleistocene produced the massive Jamapa debris avalanche. It traveled down the Jamapa river and overtopped gaps in limestone foothills to reach the current area of the city of Huatusco, beyond where this photo was taken.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Pico de Orizaba volcano rises above the escarpment at the eastern margin of the Mexican Altiplano. It is seen here from the SE, along the road between Puebla and Orizaba. Like other volcanoes of the Pico de Orizaba-Cofre de Perote chain, deposits of Orizaba are asymmetrically distributed around the summit vent, and extend farther to the east towards the coastal plain.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
A massive columnar jointed lava flow is exposed in a valley NE of Orizaba volcano. The roughly 530,000-year-old Calcahualco lava flow was erupted during the Torrecillas stage, from the first of three major volcanic edifices forming the volcano. The source vent of this flow is now buried.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Like other volcanoes in the Cofre de Perote-Pico de Orizaba chain, Orizaba was constructed on the edge of the Altiplano and consequently has higher relief on the eastern side facing the Atlantic coastal plain. Glaciated Orizaba towers 4,200 m above fields near the town of Coscomatepec on its eastern flank. The valley to the left was impacted by the voluminous clay-rich Tetelzingo debris avalanche and lahar during the late Pleistocene.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Pico de Orizaba volcano is seen here at sunrise above the town of Calcahualco. The volcano is named for the city of Orizaba below its SE flank, but is also known by the Aztec name of Citlaltépetl (Star Mountain). The volcano has a rich cultural history. Its lower slopes host Aztec villages, pyramids, and temples, and it is depicted in Aztec hieroglyphics.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
Pico de Orizaba volcano is seen here from the south, with snow-free Sierra Negra volcano to its left. Sierra Negra is the southernmost major vent of the roughly NNE-SSW-trending Pico de Orizaba-Cofre de Perote volcanic chain. The construction of Sierra Negra was contemporaneous with the mid-Pleistocene early stages in the formation of Orizaba volcano. Sierra Negra is composed largely of lava flows and produced numerous pyroclastic flows mainly to the SW and W.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 1998 (Smithsonian Institution).
México's highest volcano, Pico de Orizaba, is seen here in an aerial view from the SE. The modern Citlaltépetl cone, marking the upper part of the volcano, was constructed within horseshoe-shaped scarps formed by previous edifice collapse events. The orange-brown ridges at the middle left and center are remnants of the oldest edifice, Torrecillas. The lighter-colored area between these two ridges is a thick, historical, lava flow that was erupted from the modern cone.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 1997 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
Glaciated Pico de Orizaba (Citlaltépetl) rises 50 km to the SW above rolling terrain south of the town of Xico, on the lower flanks of Cofre de Perote.

Photo by Lee Siebert, 2000 (Smithsonian Institution).
The lava flow descended the SW flank of Pico de Orizaba is about 110 m thick and up to 1.3 km wide at its terminus 5.5 km from the summit, and. has at least eight individual flow lobes. A portion of the flow that was diverted by topography to the west can be seen half-way up the flank. The smaller peak on the lower SW flank to the left of the lava flow is Cerro Colorado, a less than 90,000-year-old lava dome.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 2002 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
The Pico de Orizaba summit crater is 400 x 500 m with a crater floor 300 m below the summit on the NW side of the rim. Climbers' tracks can be seen on the Jamapa Glacier to the lower right.

Photo by Gerardo Carrasco-Núñez, 1997 (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México).
Pico de Orizaba (Volcán Citlaltépetl) formed on the margin of the Altiplano and has substantially higher relief on its eastern (right) side. Debris avalanches and lahars produced by edifice collapse have swept down the eastern flanks onto the coastal plain. A lava flow with lateral levees is visible on the lower SW flank below the summit. The eroded peak to the lower left beyond the lava flow terminus is Sierra Negra, the southernmost peak of the Cofre de Perote-Orizaba volcanic chain.

NASA Landsat satellite image, 1999 (courtesy of Loren Siebert, University of Akron).
GVP Map Holdings

The maps shown below have been scanned from the GVP map archives and include the volcano on this page. Clicking on the small images will load the full 300 dpi map. Very small-scale maps (such as world maps) are not included. The maps database originated over 30 years ago, but was only recently updated and connected to our main database. We welcome users to tell us if they see incorrect information or other problems with the maps; please use the Contact GVP link at the bottom of the page to send us email.


Title: Cordoba
Publisher: Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografia e Informatica
Country: Mexico
Year: 1996
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:50,000
Map of Cordoba

Title: Carta Geolica de la Republica Mexicana
Publisher: Recursos Minerales and Institute de Gelogia
Country: Mexico
Year: 1992
Map Type: Geology
Scale: 1:2,000,000
Map of Carta Geolica de la Republica Mexicana

Title: Huatusco
Publisher: Instituto Nacional de Estadistica Geografia e Informatica
Country: Mexico
Year: 1990
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:50,000
Map of Huatusco

Title: Orizaba
Publisher: INEGI
Country: Mexico
Year: 1985
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:50,000
Map of Orizaba

Title: Mexico
Publisher: DMA Aerospace Center
Country: Mexico
Year: 1985
Series: ONC
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:1,000,000
Map of Mexico

Title: Bath of Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean Sea
Publisher: AAPG, Williams & Heintz Map Corp.
Country: US/ C.Am/ S.Am
Year: 1984
Map Type: Bathymetric
Scale: 1:3,289
Map of Bath of Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean Sea

Title: Coscomatepec
Publisher: SPP & INEGI
Country: Mexico
Year: 1983
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:50,000
Map of Coscomatepec

Title: Veracruz
Publisher: INEGI
Country: Mexico
Year: 1982
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:250,000
Map of Veracruz

Title: Estado de Tamaulipas Veracruz
Publisher: USGS /SAHOP
Country: Mexico
Year: 1982
Series: SAHOP Landsat
Map Type: Satellite
Scale: 1:1,000,000
Map of Estado de  Tamaulipas Veracruz

Title: Estado de Oaxaca
Publisher: USGS /SAHOP
Country: Mexico
Year: 1982
Series: SAHOP Landsat
Map Type: Satellite
Scale: 1:1,000,000
Map of Estado de Oaxaca

Title: Estado de Puebla
Publisher: USGS /SAHOP
Country: Mexico
Year: 1982
Series: SAHOP Landsat
Map Type: Satellite
Scale: 1:500,000
Map of Estado de Puebla

Title: Belize, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico
Publisher: DMA Aerospace Center
Country: Mexico
Year: 1981
Series: ONC
Map Type: Topographic
Scale: 1:1,000,000
Map of Belize, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico
Smithsonian Sample Collections Database

The following 1 samples associated with this volcano can be found in the Smithsonian's NMNH Department of Mineral Sciences collections, and may be availble for research (contact the Rock and Ore Collections Manager). Catalog number links will open a window with more information.

Catalog Number Sample Description Lava Source Collection Date
NMNH 61330 Hornblende Andesite -- --
External Sites