Abstract

The Holocene eruptive history of Popocatépetl volcano is characterized by recurrent voluminous Plinian eruptions every 1000 to 3000 yr, the most recent of which destroyed human settlements. Major eruptions occurred between 3195 and 2830 B.C., 800 and 215 B.C., and A.D. 675 and 1095. The three eruptions followed a similar pattern and started with minor ash fall and ash flows. The eruptions reached their peak with a main Plinian pulse that produced deposition of a pumice fall, the emplacement of hot ash flows, and finally extensive mudflows. Each time the area of devastation had become repopulated, before being devastated once again. During the last eruption several settlements, including Cholula (a major urban center), were inundated by lahars. A scenario of the possible recurrence of an eruption of similar magnitude, which would have disastrous consequences for the now highly populated areas around Popocatépetl, should be considered seriously in any volcano emergency contingency plan. This is especially important because more than one million people are living within a radius of 35 km around the volcano (the outskirts of Mexico City are at a distance of 40 km), and Popocatépetl resumed emitting ash on December 21, 1994, after decades of dormancy.

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