Fuego Volcano, Guatemala


Location: 14.5N, 90.9W
Elevation: 12,342 feet (3,763m)

Twilight photo of Fuego eruptions of 1966, showing incandescent block and ash flow materials descending the barrancas.
Image Source: Michigan Technological University Volcanoes Page

Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between 3763-m-high Fuego and its twin volcano to the north, Acatenango. Collapse of the ancestral Meseta volcano about 8500 years ago produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km onto the Pacific coastal plain. Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. In contrast to the mostly andesitic Acatenango volcano, eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded at Fuego since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

Steaming hot mudflow materials in Barranca Honda, east of Fuego's summit. Photo by Sam Bonis, October 1974.
Image Source: Michigan Technological University Volcanoes Page

Simplified tectonic map. Subduction of the Cocos Plate beneath the Caribbean Plate produces the Central American arc.
The arc is defined by the line of volcanoes (black triangles). Modified from Duffield and others (1989).

Photograph copyrighted and provided by Steve O'Meara of Volcano Watch International.

Fuego has erupted more than 60 times since 1524, making it Central America's historically most active volcano. Three of these eruptions caused fatalities. Typically, violent vulcanian eruptions last a few hours to several days and produce pyroclastic flows. This photo shows Fuego (foreground) and Acatenango (background). The most recent large eruptions at Fuego were in October of 1974. Over a ten day period there were four distinct pulses in vulcanian activity, each lasting 4-17 hours. An ash cloud shot more than 4 miles (7 km) above the volcano. Glowing avalanches mov ed down the slopes of Fuego at 35 miles per hour (60 km/hr). Atmospheric effects were reported for months following the eruption.

There are active fumaroles in the crater at the summit.

Close-up aerial view of actively fuming crater of Fuego. View is directly from the south, with Acatenango in the background.
Photo by Bill Rose, 1980. Image Source: Michigan Technological University Volcanoes Page

Additional Information

Sources of Information:

Bonis, S., and Salazar, O., 1973, The 1971 and 1973 eruptions of volcano Fuego, Guatamala, and some socio-economic considerations for the volcanologist: Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 37, p. 394-400.

Chesner, C.A., and Rose, W.I., 1984, Geochemistry and evolution of the Fuego volcanic complex, Guatemala: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 21, p. 25-44.

Duffield, W.A., Heiken, G.H., Wohletz, K.H., Maassen, L.W., Dengo, G., and McKee, E.H., 1989, Geology & geothermal potential of the Tecuamborro volcano area of Guatemala: Geothermal Resource Council Transactions, v. 13, p. 125-131.

Martin, D.P., and Rose, W.I., 1981, Behavioral patterns of Fuego volcano, Guatemala: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 10, p. 67-81.

McClelland, L., Simkin, T., Summers, M., Nielsen, E., and Stein, T.C., 1989, Global Volcanism 1975-1985: Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 655 p.

Mercado, R., Rose, W.I., and Matias, O., 1988, Eruptive history and volcanic hazard assessment of Fuego, Guatemala (abs.): Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, v. 69, p. 506.

Rose, W.I., Anderson, A.T., Woodruff, L.G., and Bonis, S., 1978, The October 1974 basaltic tephra from Fuego volcano Guatemala: description and history of the magma body: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 4, p. 3-53.

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the World: Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona, 349 p.

Stoiber, R.E., and Carr, M.J., 1973, Quaternary volcanic and tectonic segmentation of Central America: Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 37, p. 304-325.

Volz, F.E., 1975, Volcanic twilights from the Fuego eruption: Science, v. 189, p. 48 -50.

Williams, H., McBirney, A.R., and Dengo, G., 1964, Geologic reconnaissance of southeastern Guatemala: University of California Publications in Geolological Science, 50, p. 1-62.

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