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The 2 ka Eruption of Misti Volcano, Southern Peru—The Most Recent Plinian Eruption of Arequipa’s Iconic Volcano

By
Christopher J. Harpel
Christopher J. Harpel
Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, 97331-5506, USA
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Shanaka de Silva
Shanaka de Silva
Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, 97331-5506, USA
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Guido Salas
Guido Salas
Facultad de Geología Geofisíca y Minas, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, Arequipa, Perú
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Published:
November 01, 2011

Misti volcano in southern Peru has a record of explosive eruptions and a nearby population of over 810,000, making it a hazardous volcano. The city center of Arequipa, Peru's second most populous city, is 15 km from the summit of Misti, and many neighborhoods are closer. As the population increases yearly, the urban boundary continues to move up the south side of the volcano. Many parts of the city are built upon the deposits from Misti's most recent Plinian eruption at ca. 2 ka. The 2 ka Plinian eruption (Volcanic Explosivity Index [VEI] 5) produced a 1.4 km3 tephra-fall deposit and 0.01 km3 of pyroclastic-flow deposits in ~2–5 h. Column height varied during the eruption but ascended up to 29 km. Pyroclastic flows descended only the south side of the volcano. The tephra fall spread southwest, resulting in ~20 cm of tephra accumulation in the area now occupied by the city center. The flowage deposits were previously identified as pyroclastic-flow deposits, but new sedimentologic and textural evidence suggests that ~80% (by volume) of the deposits were emplaced wet and relatively cold. As such, they are lahar deposits. A Neoglacial advance concurrent with the eruption supports evidence for voluminous snow and ice on the edifice. Pyroclastic flows melted between 0.01 km3 and 0.04 km3 of ice and snow on the volcano, triggering lahars that descended the volcano and inundated channels and some interfluves on the south flank. The lahars evolved downstream from proximal debris flows to distal hyperconcentrated flows, emplacing ~0.04 km3 of deposits. Four facies of lahar deposits are present in the channels and another facies occurs on the interfluves.

Such a comprehensive understanding of the 2 ka eruption will help to inform future volcanic hazards assessments. Pyroclastic-flow and tephra-fall deposits of the same magnitude could occur again and are useful in hazards assessment. The 2 ka lahars required voluminous water, which is no longer available on the volcano, and, within modern climate conditions, these deposits are not representative of possible future events. Estimations of water available from modern rain and snow suggest that lahars with volumes between 1 × 105 m3 and 3 × 106 m3 are possible. Lahars are more likely if an eruption occurs during a period of high snow accumulation or during subsequent heavy rainfall. Lahars up to 1 × 107 m3 are possible if the Río Chili is dammed during an eruption. Lahar hazard zones generated using these volumes suggest the largest lahars could enter Arequipa.

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GSA Special Papers

The 2 ka Eruption of Misti Volcano, Southern Peru—The Most Recent Plinian Eruption of Arequipa's Iconic Volcano

Christopher J. Harpel
Christopher J. Harpel
Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, 97331-5506, USA
Search for other works by this author on:
Shanaka de Silva
Shanaka de Silva
Department of Geosciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, 97331-5506, USA
Search for other works by this author on:
Guido Salas
Guido Salas
Facultad de Geología Geofisíca y Minas, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín, Arequipa, Perú
Search for other works by this author on:
Geological Society of America
Volume
484
ISBN print:
9780813724843
Publication date:
November 01, 2011

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