Lahars at Cotopaxi and Tungurahua Volcanoes, Ecuador: Highlights from stratigraphy and observational records and related downstream hazards: Chapter 6

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Abstract

Lahars are volcanic debris flows that are dubbed primary when triggered by eruptive activity or secondary when triggered by other factors such as heavy rainfall after eruptive activity has waned. Variation in time and space of the proportion of sediment to water within a lahar dictates lahar flow phase and the resultant sedimentary character of deposits. Characteristics of source material and of debris eroded and incorporated during flow downstream may strongly affect the grain-size composition of flowing lahars and their deposits. Lahars borne on the flanks of two steep-sided stratocones in Ecuador exemplify two important lahar types. Glacier-clad Cotopaxi volcano has been a producer of primary lahars that flow great distances downstream. Such primary lahars include those of both clast-rich and matrix-rich composition—some of which have flowed as far as 325 km to the Pacific Ocean. Cotopaxi's last important eruption in 1877 generated formidable syneruptive lahars comparable in size to those that buried Armero, Colombia, following the 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz volcano. In contrast, ash-producing eruptive activity during the past 15 years at Tungurahua volcano has generated a continual supply of fresh volcaniclastic debris that is regularly remobilized by precipitation. Between 2000 and 2011, 886 rain-generated lahars were registered at Tungurahua. These two volcanoes pose dramatically different hazards to nearby populations. At Tungurahua, the frequency and small sizes of lahars have resulted in effective mitigation measures. At Cotopaxi 137 years have passed since the last important lahar-producing eruption, and there is now a high-risk situation for more than 100,000 people living in downstream valleys.

Additional publication details

Publication type Book chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Title Lahars at Cotopaxi and Tungurahua Volcanoes, Ecuador: Highlights from stratigraphy and observational records and related downstream hazards: Chapter 6
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-12-396453-3.00006-X
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 28 p.
Larger Work Type Book
Larger Work Subtype Monograph
Larger Work Title Volcanic hazards, risks and disasters
First page 141
Last page 168