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


Gregory P. Waite


Volcán Pacaya is one of three currently active volcanoes in Guatemala. Volcanic activity originates from the local tectonic subduction of the Cocos plate beneath the Caribbean plate along the Pacific Guatemalan coast. Pacaya is characterized by generally strombolian type activity with occasional larger vulcanian type eruptions approximately every ten years. One particularly large eruption occurred on May 27, 2010. Using GPS data collected for approximately 8 years before this eruption and data from an additional three years of collection afterwards, surface movement covering the period of the eruption can be measured and used as a tool to help understand activity at the volcano. Initial positions were obtained from raw data using the Automatic Precise Positioning Service provided by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Forward modeling of observed 3-D displacements for three time periods (before, covering and after the May 2010 eruption) revealed that a plausible source for deformation is related to a vertical dike or planar surface trending NNW-SSE through the cone. For three distinct time periods the best fitting models describe deformation of the volcano: 0.45 right lateral movement and 0.55 m tensile opening along the dike mentioned above from October 2001 through January 2009 (pre-eruption); 0.55 m left lateral slip along the dike mentioned above for the period from January 2009 and January 2011 (covering the eruption); -0.025 m dip slip along the dike for the period from January 2011 through March 2013 (post-eruption). In all bestfit models the dike is oriented with a 75° westward dip. These data have respective RMS misfit values of 5.49 cm, 12.38 cm and 6.90 cm for each modeled period. During the time period that includes the eruption the volcano most likely experienced a combination of slip and inflation below the edifice which created a large scar at the surface down the northern flank of the volcano. All models that a dipping dike may be experiencing a combination of inflation and oblique slip below the edifice which augments the possibility of a westward collapse in the future.