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Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences

First Advisor

William I Rose


Volcán de Colima has been continuously erupting since the onset of dome growth in 1998. This period of unrest has had 4 prominent periods; 1998-1999, 2003, 2004-2005, and the current dome growth that began in February of 2007. Each of these episodes was marked by lava extrusion forming a dome and lava flows, followed by explosions that destroyed the dome.

The Correlation Spectrometer (COSPEC) was used to determine SO2 emission rates on 164 days from May 2003 to February 2007, using both stationary ground based scans and some flight traverses. Scans were separated into the categories of explosive degassing and passive, or background degassing. These scans show variation in the SO2 flow rate from below detection limit (~3 t/d depending on environmental conditions) during background, passive emissions to a peak of 2949 t/d (34 kilograms/second) during an explosion on 9 October, 2004. Both passive and explosive degassing increased when there was lava extrusion in 2004 and with the increased explosive activity in 2005. These two different processes of degassing wax with each other when activity increases and wane together as well, indicating a parallel cyclicity in the volcanic eruption and degassing rates, where the conduit partially seals (pressurizes) between explosions.

Colima’s gas and eruptive behavior is compared to similar systems such as Santiaguito and Soufrière Hills, Montserrat. About 2/3 of Colima’s SO2 degassing, amounting to 1.3 x 105 tonnes in 3.74 yrs has come in short lived small (VEI=0-1) vertical explosions that occurred at the rate of 100-3000explosions/ month, and the remaining third has occured in continuous passive degassing. Colima emits sulfur at a rate equivalent to about 0.04 to 0.08 wt % S, similar to other andesitic convergent plate boundary volcanoes.

There has been an explosive destruction of the dome in every cycle for that past 5 years, and it is assumed that the current dome which began growth in February, 2007 (just at the end of this study) will be destroyed. Higher emission rates seen in the quiescence of 2006 may have eased the pressure at the time, resulting in the slow effusion of the current dome and lack of explosivity.