Santa Maria, the 1902 crater, and Santiaguito (foreground).
Photographs are copyrighted and provided by Steve and Donna O'Meara of Volcano Watch International.
Click HERE for more examples of their excellent photography.


Symmetrical, forest-covered Santa María volcano is one of the most prominent of a chain of large stratovolcanoes that rises dramatically above the Pacific coastal plain of Guatemala. The 3772-m-high stratovolcano has a sharp-topped, conical profile that is cut on the SW flank by a large, 1.5-km-wide crater. The oval-shaped crater extends from just below the summit of Volcán Santa María 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 westward-younging vents, the most recent of which is Caliente. Dome growth has been accompanied by almost continuous minor explosions, with periodic lava extrusion, larger explosions, pyroclastic flows, and lahars. 


The first historic eruption of Santa Maria was the second largest (VEI=6) volcanic eruption in this century. It was the third large explosive eruption in 1902. Mount Pelee and Soufriere of St. Vincent erupted six months earlier. Santa Maria is a stratovolcano made of basaltic andesite. The 1902 eruption of Santa Maria lasted 19 days and produced 1.3 cubic miles (5.5 cubic km) of dacite pyroclastic debris. The largest plinian eruption was on October 25 and produced a column about 16 miles (28 km) high. The eruption formed a large crater in the southwest flank of the volcano. From 1903 to 1913 the volcano was active in the crater of the 1902 eruption. Small explosive eruptions occurred at a crater lake.


In 1922, a dacite lava dome, called Santiaguito, began growing in the crater. Santiaguito has been continuously active since 1922. Rose (1973) described the evolution of Santiaguito. From 1922 to 1972 there were four periods of rapid extrusion separated by periods of little magma production. Growth of the dome has produced pyroclastic flows. Photograph of Santiaguito on November 10, 1994, copyrighted and provided by Steve O'Meara of Volcano Watch International.


In May of 1992, explosive eruptions at Santiaguito produced columns 1,500 - 6,000 feet (500-2,000 m) high. The above photo shows an eruption column on November 26, 1992. 

Santiaguito (bottom left), Santa Maria, and the town of Quezaltenango (top). 

Michigan Tech University's Volcanoes page contains detailed information about Santa Maria.

Because of the high risk to people living near Santa Maria the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI)designated it a Decade Volcano. On November 7-13, 1993 an international workshop on Santa Maria was held in Guatemala. The final report of the workshop is available byclicking here.


Santa Maria and the steaming Santiaguito volcanoes.
Photograph courtesy of Bruce Nelson.

The southeast face of Santiaquito dome and the 1902 explosion caldera of Santa Maria. The headwaters of the Rio Nima II drainage are in the foreground at the southeast base of Santiaquito. A block lava flow, active in the late 1980's, crops out along the headwaters of the Rio Nima II. 

The active El Caliente vent of Santiaquito is in the center of the photo. Santa Maria's explosion crater is in the background.

The view is from the south looking north. 

Santiaquito dome complex as viewed from above and just north of the dome, so that the north face is observed.

To the east, El Caliente is passively degassing. 

The summit of the El Caliente vent of the Santiaquito dome complex.



Sources of Information:

Photographs by Steve and Donna O'Meara of Volcano Watch International.

Global Volcanism Network, 1992, Summary of Recent Activity: Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 55, p. 141.

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., Matias, O., and Giron, J., 1988, November 1929 dome collapse and pyroclastic flow at Santiaguito dome, Guatemala: Eos, Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, v. 69, p. 1487.

Mooser, F., Meyer-Abich, H., and McBirney, A.R., 1958, Central America: Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World: Rome, IAVCEI, 6, p. 1-146.

Rose, W.I., 1987, Santa Maria, Guatemala: bimodal soda-rich calc-alkaline stratovolcano: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 33, p. 109-129.

Rose, W.I., 1987, Volcanic activity at Santiaguito volcano, 1976-1984: Geological Society of America Special Paper, 212, p. 17-27.

Rose, W.I., 1973, Pattern and mechanism of volcanic activity at Santiaguito volcanic dome, Guatemala: Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 37, p. 73-94.

Rose, W.I., 1972, Notes on the 1902 eruption of Santa Maria volcano, Guatemala: Bulletin of Volcanology, v. 36, p. 29-45.

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

Williams, S.N., and Self, S., 1983, The October 1902 Plinian eruptions of Santa Maria volcano, Guatemala: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 16, p. 33-56.

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