Cerro Negro and Chiles, trembling twins

Volcano Chiles, photo by Bernardo Andrade Tapia (Wikimedia commons).

The the peaks of Cerro Negro de Mayasquer (not Cerro Negro, Nicaragua) and Chiles are black and white twins in a volcanic complex on the border of Colombia and Ecuador in the Municipality of Cumbal south of the Department of Nariño.

Cerro Negro volcano 8 Sep 2006. Image by Ingeominas.

Cerro Negro is a stratovolcano with a 1.8 km crater opening to the west. Andesitic and dacitic lava flows are of possible Holocene age and solfataras found on the shore of a small crater lake are signs of it´s recent volcanic activity.

Chiles volcano 29 Dec 2005. Image by Ingeominas.

The higher, glacier-covered summit of the Pleistocene Chiles stratovolcano lies only 3 km to the SE. Chiles last erupted about 160,000 years ago, but has hot springs and an active hydrothermal system at its eastern flank, which are guarded by the indigenous communities. It raises their concerns that they will soon have to share this resource with a binationally planned geothermal power plant, which will start to operate as soon as 2018. A 1936 eruption reported by the Colombian government agency Ingeominas may have been from the Ecuadorean volcano Reventador. Mountaineers can climb up Chiles´ challenging 4,723 meter high rocky slopes.

The twin volcanoes are driven by the rising magma from the subducting Nazca plate, the earthquakes in this tectonic setting can for example be viewed in the IRIS 3D viewer. They previously acted dominantly effusive with evidence of highly explosive stages and the open craters give room for thought. About 151,000 people live within 30 km diameter. Until recently the volcanic complex was considered as active in a state of sleep, but then the ongoing earthquake swarm which started in July 2013 raised the alarm bells. The seismicity ocurred in relatively shallow depths from 1 to 17 km reaching magnitudes up to 4.5 on the Richter scale and a number of these events were felt by residents.

Image by SGC

Seismicity in March 2014. 11091 volcano-tectonic earthquakes were recorded. Image by SGC

Seismicity in April 2014. Image by SGC.

Seismicity in April 2014. 25722 mainly volcano-tectonic earthquakes were recorded, yellow alert was issued. Image by SGC.

In the weekly boletin from 13 May in one week alone 8800 volcano-tectonic earthquakes associated with rock fracturing were recorded and the alert level remained yellow.


Daily volcano-tectonic earthquake count from Nov 2013 to May 2014 in the Chiles and Cerro Negro region. Image from SGC.

Image from IGEPN.

Image from IGEPN.

The focal mechanism in general represents an oblique-reverse mechanism related to movement of one of the faults that cross the area and the near volcanoes.

To enhance monitoring coverage, members of the Instituto Geofísico Escuela Politecnica National (IGEPN) from Ecuador recently installed an additional broadband seismometer (CHI_2) and a continuous GPS on May 07-09 during a field trip to Chilescomplementing the three other stations by the Observatorio Pasto (OVSP). They also took time to inform locals about their work and possible eruption scenarios. Meanwhile “green alarm for hospitals” had been declared, meaning a contingency plan for South Nariño will be worked out by La Red de Urgencias y Emergencias del IDSN, meaning the situation is being taken very seriously.

In case of an eruption check out:

SO2 monitoring of Colombia and Ecuador: http://satepsanone.nesdis.noaa.gov/pub/OMI/OMISO2/ecuador.html

Satellite images from the Aster image database (look for Negro_deMayasqu) and Aqua/Terra Modis images from NASA Worldview.

Volcanic hazard maps  Chiles and Cerro Negro

VAAC Washington

No webcam yet!



53 thoughts on “Cerro Negro and Chiles, trembling twins

  1. Hi people, I had my laptop crash. Doing this on my phone.
    Missed a couple of posts. I will be busy hope to get that laptop
    fixed soon.

    • I fixed one the other day with duct tape. That sucker won’t be moving anytime soon. 😀

      fix (fĭks)
      v. fixed, fix·ing, fix·es
      a. To place securely; make stable or firm: fixed the tent poles in the ground. See Synonyms at fasten.
      b. To secure to another; attach: fixing the notice to the board with tacks.
      a. To put into a stable or unalterable form: tried to fix the conversation in her memory.
      b. To make immobile.

  2. Looking at that earthquake chart, looks like the number of quakes have increased greatly this year compared to the last two months of 2013.

  3. Thanks you Chryphia. The dome has a really mean look. And the seismic activity is really high. I wonder what will come of it…..

  4. Nice post and graphics!

    offtopic: only 49 quakes in the past 48 hours in Iceland. And even one automatic quake SW of Godabunga got deleted xD

    • Would it be legit to just calculate the average magnitude and multiply with the n. of quakes? (using the default energy release values for that specific magnitude)

      • I think the easiest way is to simply add up the released energy of each individual measured earthquake.

        Otherwise, earthquake statistics is much more complicated that just taking the “average” (colloquial for arithmetic mean).
        It starts with the problem that magnitudes are not on a linear but a logarithmic scale, meaning each number means 10 times more energy. That means that big earthquakes are mainly responsible of the energy release.
        Secondly, although the energy release of small earthquakes is…um…small…their number rises exponentially, so theoretically they would add up to infinite energy. But Earth´s energy is limited, so that calculation is flawed.
        For a glimpse into the statistics (not that I understand most of it, but to show how complex the matter is 😉 ):

        Click to access Corral.pdf

  5. Duplicate deleted on request by chryphia. I leave the bare post though, so that the comment tree does not go berserk 🙂

    • Sorry, this one is a duplicate. Could a friendly passing dragon delete it, please?

      Thank you 🙂

  6. I now have a greater appreciation for James Bond by Ian Fleming.

    I’ve never had an actual Martini. So, I researched it. It’s made up of flavored and fortified wine (vermoth) and vodka. To me, it tastes a bit like a watered down non-sweet lemonade. Not that bad. But it will fk you up.

    That means that James Bond, a great fan of the drink, was nothing more than a full on drunk ass redneck that got away with the stunts and activities that he pulled off.

    Another thing that I discovered today, the local spirits store actually carries Murphy’s Stout.

    I think I’m in heaven.

    • Cheap Martini is very easy to find where I live. I just go to the France/Belgium border. There are many small shops that sell mainly tobacco products, chocolates (we’re in Belgium, country which sells 70 % of the world’s cocoa), beers (of course) and…Martini (don’t ask me why, maybe because of the large number of Belgians of Italian descent ?, even the first minister (Di Rupo) is of Italian Origin). Martini in itself is a fortified wine with some spices added. Pretty bad for the head if you drink too much of it, but quite agreable to drink on some ice. So I can get a liter for less than 10 €.

    • I’m terribly sorry GL, but how could a Martini be made with anything other than gin?
      Vodka? That’s just obscene!!! 🙂

      According to tradition, it’s best made by pouring a generous amount of dry gin, then wafting the cork of a freshly opened bottle of vermouth somewhere in the vicinity of the glass, and then bowing solemnly in the direction of Italy!

      • And it was also traditional in some cultures to offer up a sacrifice in order to fend off certain calamities.

        Other traditions had moonshine drivers racing their cars on weekends. That one turned into NASCAR.

  7. There was some talk about these 2 volcanoes yesterday so the question I would like to ask is how much seismic activity is going on at Chiles and Cerro Negro.

    I’m glad that you wrote this article. A detour to South America is much appreciated.

    • The swarm is certainly ongoing, e.g. yesterday there was a magnitude 3 one, you can see on this map from Ecuador: http://www.igepn.edu.ec/
      I just found their earthquake database!
      In a week from 13 to 19 May there was a total of 5151 volcano-tectonical (with falling tendency in numbers), 2 long period and 82 hybrid earthquakes.

      Ingeominas also maintains an earthquake database, but selecting Narino/Cumbal only displays 12 earthquakes for the last 12 months. From the SGC maps in the post alone one can see there are many more on the Colombian side.

        • Unfortunately not, only the summary contains all the current earthquakes. The detailed list stops 2011 😦 .

          • I just changed the value where it says 10 events per page to read 100 events per page and (after a minute or so of waiting) I got 100 events reported

            someone with a bit of patience could have a look see if that gave the last 100 events, and could then hit it for 1000 events – and then go to the next page a few times – or depending on what the widget can handle it might manage a much bigger 32000 events (or something wild) but obviously we don’t want to break their server with data requests – so if someone is up for plotting I guess it should be done by 1 person and then shared rather than spamming their machine

    • Did a search and found nothing. There just isn’t much that comes in the way of news from that area of the world 😦

  8. Beginning 20 May 1883, steam venting began to occur regularly from Perboewatan, the northernmost of Krakatoa’s three cones. Eruptions of ash reached an estimated altitude of 6 km (20,000 ft) and explosions could be heard in New Batavia (Jakarta) 160 km (99 mi) away. Activity died down by the end of May, and there was no further recorded activity for several weeks.

    16 June 1883, activity resumes.


  9. Some new footage of Nishino shima via volcansvanuatueruptions.blogspot.fr and avcan

    with our old friend Kenji Nogami ! lucky guy, he got a flight in a private jet ! We should send TGMcCoy on the other side of the pacific and found our own private volcano jet company ! Volcanocafeairlines !

    • To be more precise, Dr Nogami, is a guy who can tell you the chemical compostion of an underwater volcanic plume just by looking at its color. Respect.

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