Edifice collapse and related hazards in Guatemala

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Guatemalan volcanoes have at least seven debris-avalanche deposits, associated with Cerro Quemado, Fuego, Pacaya, Tecuamburro and an unidentified volcano. The deposits range in size from less than 0.1 to in excess of 9 km3 and from 2.5 to in excess of 300 km2. The avalanches traveled 3 to 50 km from their sources in the Guatemalan highlands. Three of the avalanches occurred in Late Pleistocene time and four in Holocene time—two of them within the last 2000 years. The avalanches occurred at both andesitic and basaltic stratovolcanoes and at dacitic dome complexes. Laterally directed phreatic or magmatic pyroclastic explosions were associated with two of the debris avalanches.

An evaluation of factors that might lead to an edifice collapse in Guatemala is based on the case studies presented in this report and a survey of the literature. Edifice collapses are more apt to occur if zones of weakness exist within the volcanic edifices, such as unwelded pyroclastic rocks and pervasively altered rocks. Further, the trench-ward side of volcano pairs like Fuego and Atitlán may be more likely to fail because it may have weak zones along the contact with the older back-arc volcano. The direction of failure may be influenced by regional slopes, which in Guatemala generally trend southward toward the oceanic trench, and by such structural factors as multiple vents or overly steep slopes reflecting previous activity or erosion. Debris avalanches are more likely to occur in drainages which have headwaters at two or more volcanoes. Domes are especially apt to produce small- to moderate-sized debris avalanches, and, further, if the domes form a coalescing chain, are most likely to fail in a direction normal to the chain. These factors are used at seventeen major volcanic centers in Guatemala to assess their potential for edifice collapse and most probable direction of failure.

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1995 Elsevier Science B.V. Publisher's version of record: https://doi.org/10.1016/0377-0273(94)00076-S

Publication Title

Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research