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Late Holocene Peléan-style eruption at Tacaná volcano, Mexico and Guatemala: past, present, and future hazards

August 1, 2000

Tacaná volcano, located on the border between Mexico and Guatemala, marks the northern extent of the Central American volcanic chain. Composed of three volcanic structures, it is a volcanic complex that has had periodic explosive eruptions for at least the past 40 k.y. The most recent major eruption occurred at the San Antonio volcano, the youngest volcanic edifice forming the complex, about 1950 yr ago. The Peléan style eruption, issued from the southwest part of the dome, and swept a 30° sector with a hot block and ash flow that traveled about 14 km along the Cahoacán ravine. Deposits from this event are well exposed around the town of Mixcun and were therefore given the name of that town, the Mixcun flow deposit. The Mixcun flow deposit is, in the channel facies, a light gray, massive, thick (>10 m), matrix-supported unit with dispersed lithic clasts of gravel to boulder size, divisible in some sections into a variable number of flow units. The overbank facies is represented by a thin (<1 m), massive, matrix-supported unit. In both of these facies the deposit has disseminated charcoal, fumarolic pipes, and juvenile lithics with cooling joints. The Mixcun flow deposit contains clasts of (1) light gray, dense andesite, (2) dark gray, glassy and banded andesite, and (3) minor altered red andesite from the edifice, set in a matrix of sand and silt. The Mixcun flow deposit covers an area of at least 25 km2 and has a minimum estimated volume of 0.12 km3. Basaltic-andesite inclusions (54% SiO2) and various signs of disequilibrium in the mineral assemblage of the two-pyroxene andesitic products (60%–63% SiO2) suggest that magma mixing may have triggered the eruption. Following deposition of the Mixcun flow deposit andesitic to dacitic (62%–64% SiO2) lava flows were extruded and a dacitic dome (64.4% SiO2) at the San Antonio summit formed. Syn-eruptive and posteruptive lahars flooded the main drainages of the Cahoacán and Izapa-Mixcun valleys in the area of the present city of Tapachula (population 250000) and the pre-Hispanic center of Izapa. Three radiocarbon ages date this event between A.D. 25 and 72 (range ±1σ, 38 B.C.–A.D. 216), which correlates with a halt in construction at Izapa (Hato phase of ca. 50 B.C.–A.D. 100), probably due to temporary abandonment of the city caused by lahars. Another similar event would produce extensive damage to the towns (population of about 68,000 people) now built upon the Mixcun flow deposit. The main summit of Tacaná volcano continues to show signs of fumarolic activity; the most recent period of activity in 1985–1986 culminated in a minor phreatic explosion.

Publication Year 2000
Title Late Holocene Peléan-style eruption at Tacaná volcano, Mexico and Guatemala: past, present, and future hazards
DOI 10.1130/0016-7606(2000)112<1234:LHPEAT>2.0.CO;2
Authors J. L. Macías, J. M. Espíndola, A. Garcia-Palomo, K. M. Scott, S. Hughes, J C. Mora
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geological Society of America Bulletin
Index ID 70073903
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Cascades Volcano Observatory