Eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano, Colombia, on 13 November 1985: Gas Flux and Fluid Geochemistry

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Science  29 Aug 1986:
Vol. 233, Issue 4767, pp. 964-967
DOI: 10.1126/science.233.4767.964


The 13 November 1985 eruption of Nevado del Ruiz volcano, in Colombia, released a small volume of pyroclastic material and a disproportionately large volume of volcanic gas. Before the eruption, summit fumarole gases became less water-rich, and the sulfur/chlorine ratio increased. Remote measurements of sulfur dioxide flux after the eruption indicated active degassing at levels associated with eruptive or inter-eruptive stages of other volcanoes. Thermal water analyses revealed increases in magnesium, calcium, and potassium and an increase in the magnesium/chlorine ratio, suggesting that these elements may have been leached from new magma. Ash leachate data showed sulfate and chloride concentrations and ratios that would be expected for the late stages ofa major Plinian eruption. Water from the lahar contained high concentrations of sulfate and had a sulfur/chlorine ratio of 4.67, suggesting that water ejected from the crater lake and turbulent mixing of pyroclasts and glacial ice triggered the lahar. Microprobe analyses of pumice from this eruption and the most recent previous event showed similar mixed andesites. The uniform composition of the pumices and the unusually high ratio of gas to magma suggest that, although a new batch of magma triggered this eruption, the pumice that erupted may actually be old. Large volumes of new magma and glacial ice make the volcano dangerous and should stimulate development of an integrated long-term monitoring program to include Tolima volcano, 25 kilometers to the south.