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


Thomas Oommen


The continual eruptive activity, occurrence of an ancestral catastrophic collapse, and inherent geologic features of Pacaya volcano (Guatemala) demands an evaluation of potential collapse hazards. This thesis merges techniques in the field and laboratory for a better rock mass characterization of volcanic slopes and slope stability evaluation. New field geological, structural, rock mechanical and geotechnical data on Pacaya is reported and is integrated with laboratory tests to better define the physical-mechanical rock mass properties. Additionally, this data is used in numerical models for the quantitative evaluation of lateral instability of large sector collapses and shallow landslides. Regional tectonics and local structures indicate that the local stress regime is transtensional, with an ENE-WSW sigma 3 stress component. Aligned features trending NNW-SSE can be considered as an expression of this weakness zone that favors magma upwelling to the surface. Numerical modeling suggests that a large-scale collapse could be triggered by reasonable ranges of magma pressure (greater than or equal to 7.7 MPa if constant along a central dyke) and seismic acceleration (greater than or equal to 460 cm/s2), and that a layer of pyroclastic deposits beneath the edifice could have been a factor which controlled the ancestral collapse. Finally, the formation of shear cracks within zones of maximum shear strain could provide conduits for lateral flow, which would account for long lava flows erupted at lower elevations.

Included in

Geology Commons