Report on Pinatubo (Philippines) — July 1991

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 7 (July 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Pinatubo (Philippines) Ash emissions decreasing; typhoons trigger large lahars

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Pinatubo (Philippines). In: McClelland, L. (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:7. Smithsonian Institution.

"A pyroclastic-flow deposit emplaced in the Marella River (reaching 15 km SW from the main crater) was visited on 3 July. It was still degassing, with numerous rootless fumaroles present even at low altitude at the end of the deposits. The gases emitted were mostly steam, but minor amounts of SO2 (and probably H2S) were present, since incrustations of native sulfur were observed at the mouths of these fumaroles. Strong odors of burned wood (charcoal) were also perceptible in some places, and associated with black-brown deposits at the surface of the pyroclastic-flow deposit resulting from some pyrolysis of wood buried at shallow depth beneath the deposit. Maximum temperatures of the fumarole were close to boiling, 98-99.5°C. The temperature inside of the pyroclastic-flow deposit measured at one location (~10 km from the crater) was 223°C at a depth of 70 cm.

"The surface of the deposit was a hard crust that was very easy to walk on. It looked like some recent pyroclastic-flow deposits observed on Augustine, with rounded pumice clasts (maximum size

"Numerous small cones (maximum diameter about 10 m, up to about 1-2 m high) were also present on the surface of the pyroclastic-flow deposit. These cones resulted from the activity of large steam fumaroles. At the time of the visit, two intermittent fumaroles were active in the upper portion of the deposit (~8 km from the crater) emitting a steam plume 3-4 m high mixed with fine-grained ash. A hot (88°C) stream of muddy water (65 cm wide), with the consistency of a mudflow, was also surging from the ground in the area close to these intermittent fumaroles. A water sample filtered from this stream showed a high chloride content compared to other streams and rivers travelling down the volcano (table 3). Many old tracks of other mudflows were observed on the surface of the pyroclastic flow deposit."

[Additional encounters between aircraft and ash clouds, frequent in the eruption's first days, were reported this month but included above in table 2.]

Reference. Bernard, A., Demaiffe, D., Mattielli, N., and Punongbayan, R.S., 1991, Anhydrite-bearing pumices from Mount Pinatubo: further evidence for the existence of sulphur-rich silicic magmas: Nature, v. 354, p. 139-140.

Geologic Background. Prior to 1991 Pinatubo volcano was a relatively unknown, heavily forested lava dome complex located 100 km NW of Manila with no records of historical eruptions. The 1991 eruption, one of the world's largest of the 20th century, ejected massive amounts of tephra and produced voluminous pyroclastic flows, forming a small, 2.5-km-wide summit caldera whose floor is now covered by a lake. Caldera formation lowered the height of the summit by more than 300 m. Although the eruption caused hundreds of fatalities and major damage with severe social and economic impact, successful monitoring efforts greatly reduced the number of fatalities. Widespread lahars that redistributed products of the 1991 eruption have continued to cause severe disruption. Previous major eruptive periods, interrupted by lengthy quiescent periods, have produced pyroclastic flows and lahars that were even more extensive than in 1991.

Information Contacts: R. Punongbayan, PHIVOLCS; A. Bernard, Univ Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium; T. Casadevall, USGS Denver; J. Lynch, SAB; Daily Inquirer, Manila, Philippines; AP; UPI; Reuters.