San Cristóbal

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  • Country
  • Subregion Name
  • Primary Volcano Type
  • Last Known Eruption
  • 12.702°N
  • 87.004°W

  • 1745 m
    5724 ft

  • 344020
  • Latitude
  • Longitude

  • Summit
    Elevation

  • Volcano
    Number

9 April-15 April 2014

Based on analysis of satellite images, the Washington VAAC reported that on 11 April a gas plume from San Cristóbal that possibly contained small amounts of ash drifted 20 km W. A thermal anomaly was present in short-wave infrared satellite images. Periods of elevated seismicity were also detected.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)



 Available Weekly Reports


2014: January | February | April
2013: June
2012: September | December
2011: January | August
2010: June | August | December
2009: May | September | December
2008: June | July | November
2006: March | April
2005: November
2002: March | May | August | October | December
2001: May | June | August | November


9 April-15 April 2014

Based on analysis of satellite images, the Washington VAAC reported that on 11 April a gas plume from San Cristóbal that possibly contained small amounts of ash drifted 20 km W. A thermal anomaly was present in short-wave infrared satellite images. Periods of elevated seismicity were also detected.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


5 February-11 February 2014

INETER reported that a gas emission with small amounts of ash rose from San Cristóbal between 0641 and 0850 on 4 February. Although there was no increase noted, the report stated that seismicity decreased to background levels. By the afternoon sulfur dioxide emission values were 2,000-3,000 tonnes per day, the normal levels, and on 7 February they were 1,000 tonnes per day.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


15 January-21 January 2014

INETER reported that seismic tremor at San Cristóbal increased at 0340 on 17 January; RSAM values increased from a baseline of 70 to 460 units. Twelve gas emissions were observed between 1259 and 1315, and RSAM climbed to 649 units. A report at 1700 noted that RSAM values decreased to 100 and no additional gas emissions were observed. The next day, 18 January, RSAM values fluctuated between 90 and 190 units.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


5 June-11 June 2013

INETER reported that on 7 June seven explosions at San Cristóbal ejected gas and ash, and were detected by the seismic station located on the W flank. The explosions occurred at 0615, 0645, 0653, 0911, 1137, 1139, and 1143, and were also observed by civil defense and INETER staff. The largest explosion, at 1139, generated a plume that rose 100 m. Sulfur dioxide emissions, which had been low, increased. A report later that afternoon stated that gas-and-ash explosions decreased, but Real-time Seismic-Amplitude Measurement (RSAM) values almost tripled to between 80 and 100 units due to increased tremor. INETER noted that tremor is frequently detected at San Cristóbal, and for the public not to be alarmed. A small lahar occurred at 1710.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


26 December-1 January 2013

INETER reported that on 26 December four explosions at San Cristóbal produced ash plumes that were observed in satellite imagery drifting W and reaching the Pacific Ocean. Ashfall was reported in areas within 5-6 km of the volcano. The next day explosions produced ash plumes that rose 200 m above the crater. On 28 December gas-and-ash plumes drifted NW, W, and SW, reaching the Pacific Ocean and the coast of El Salvador. Explosions were detected until 1100. Sulfur dioxide emissions continued and drifted W and SW; the emissions decreased the next day.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


19 December-25 December 2012

INETER reported that on 25 December at 1800 seismicity at San Cristóbal increased. A series of explosions starting at 2000 produced ash-and-gas plumes that rose 500 m above the crater and drifted SW and likely W. Ash fell near the volcano. Seismicity increased significantly the next day. Explosions continued to generate ash-and-gas plumes that rose 2.5 km above the crater and drifted N, W, and SW as far as the Pacific Ocean (30-40 km SW and W, respectively). Ashfall was reported in areas downwind, including Puerto Morazan, Jiquilillo, Aposentillo, Tonalá, El Viejo, Santa Marta, and the cities of Chinandega, Chichigalpa, Corinth, and Realejo. According to news articles, some families near the volcano self-evacuated.

Sources: Reuters, Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


12 September-18 September 2012

On 10 September, INETER reported that seismicity decreased after the 8 September eruption at San Cristóbal. Sulfur dioxide emissions had decreased since the previous day. During 10-11 September steam plumes rose 200-300 m above the crater and drifted W. Three small explosions on 11 September generated ash-and-gas plumes that rose 300 m above the crater and drifted W. An explosion and ash venting was observed a few hours later; a plume drifted S and ash fell on the flanks. The seismic network detected small explosions on 13 September. Sulfur dioxide gas emissions were above normal, and similar to levels detected on 8 September. Sulfur dioxide gas emissions increased on 14 September. The next day a small explosion was observed and gas plumes drifted NE. Gas plumes drifted N on 17 September.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


5 September-11 September 2012

INETER reported that on 8 September three explosions from San Cristóbal produced ash-and-gas plumes that rose 1.5 km above the crater and drifted 9 km/hr NW. Ashfall was reported in El Viejo (18 km WSW), El Chonco, and Ranchería. Sporadic explosions later that day generated ash plumes that rose 1.5-5 km and drifted 50 km WNW. Ash fell in an area covering 2,438 square kilometers, including the communities of El Viejo, La Grecia, La Joya, Santa Catalina, El Piloto, Las Banderas, Las Rojas, Carlos Fonseca, Jiquilillo, Mechapa, and Cosiguina. Ashfall was 5 cm thick in areas near the crater and up to 3 mm thick in more distant places. Sulfur dioxide emissions were 3,221 tons per day, well above the normal range of 550 to 700 tons per day. A resident near the volcano reported landslides and falling rocks in the N part of the crater. Incandescent rocks fell in areas NW, causing burns on livestock. Residents in Versalles Arriba, near the crater, reported seeing a fissure. According to a news article, officials evacuated about 3,000 people. SINAPRED reported that airplanes were diverted around San Cristóbal to other airways.

Sources: Associated Press, Sistema Nacional para la Prevención, Mitigación y Atención de Desastres (SINAPRED), Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


17 August-23 August 2011

The Washington VAAC reported that on 21 August emissions of gas and light ash from San Cristóbal were possibly detected in satellite imagery drifting 35 km WNW. Ash was not detected in subsequent images.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


12 January-18 January 2011

Based on a METAR weather notice, the Washington VAAC reported a possible ash plume on 13 January. Satellite imagery showed a narrow and diffuse plume drifting SW.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


5 January-11 January 2011

Based on analyses of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that on 6 January a gas-and-steam plume from San Cristóbal, possibly containing ash, drifted 25 km SW. The VAAC noted a METAR weather notice stating that "smoke" was observed.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


22 December-28 December 2010

Based on a METAR weather notice from the Chinandega airport (MNCH), the Washington VAAC reported that on 23 December a 13-km-wide volcanic plume from San Cristóbal drifted 75 km SW. Additional details of the plume content were not known.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


15 December-21 December 2010

According to the Washington VAAC, the San Cristóbal Volcano Observatory reported increased seismicity on 15 December and small near-summit plumes of gas and ash. Cloud cover prevented satellite observations of San Cristóbal. On 17 December a gas plume possibly containing some ash drifted less than 30 km N.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


18 August-24 August 2010

Based on analyses of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that on 20 August an ash plume from San Cristóbal drifted over 35 km N.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


9 June-15 June 2010

Based on analyses of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that on 9 June a well-defined ash plume from San Cristóbal drifted about 115 km WNW.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


23 December-29 December 2009

Based on analyses of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that on 26 December an ash plume from San Cristóbal drifted 90 km WSW.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


16 December-22 December 2009

Based on METAR weather reports, the Washington VAAC reported that on 22 December a gas-and-steam plume that rose from San Cristóbal possibly contained ash.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


2 December-8 December 2009

Based on analyses of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that on 6 December a gas-and-steam plume from San Cristóbal, possibly containing ash, drifted SW. The VAAC also noted smoke from local fires.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


2 September-8 September 2009

Based on analysis of satellite imagery and information from the Tegucigalpa MWO, the Washington VAAC reported that on 6 September an explosion from San Cristóbal produced an ash plume that rose to an altitude no higher than 8.5 km (28,000 ft) a.s.l. The plume drifted 75 km W. According to a news article, ashfall was reported in nearby towns.

Sources: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Associated Press


13 May-19 May 2009

Based on analysis of satellite imagery, the Washington VAAC reported that on 19 May a diffuse plume from San Cristóbal drifted 45 km SW.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


19 November-25 November 2008

According to a news article, seismic activity from San Cristóbal increased on 14 and 17 November. The article also noted that INETER reported explosions and subsequent ash-and-gas emissions from the crater on 21 November. Ashfall was reported in areas to the S.

Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)


9 July-15 July 2008

A news article reported that San Cristóbal produced a series of small explosions on 11 July, sending a plume of gas and ash NW. The article also noted that INETER had detected a series of tremors in recent weeks.

Sources: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Reuters


25 June-1 July 2008

According to news articles, seismic activity from San Cristóbal increased for multiple days, after a moderate explosion and subsequent ash-and-gas emissions from the crater on 22 June. Local authorities alerted nearby populations to be prepared for potential future activity.

Source: EFE News Service


18 June-24 June 2008

According to news articles, INETER reported that a moderate explosion from San Cristóbal on 22 June was followed by ash-and-gas emissions from the crater. Ashfall was reported in the city of Chinandega and three other nearby communities.

Source: Terra Actualidad


26 April-2 May 2006

Phreatomagmatic eruptions began at San Cristóbal on 21 April. Seismic tremor increased at the volcano that same day around 1300. Small explosions produced gas-and-ash plumes during 21-23 April that deposited small amounts of ash in nearby towns.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


8 March-14 March 2006

According to a news report, explosions on 6 March at San Cristóbal produced columns of ash and gas that rose above the volcano. The height of the plumes was not reported. The activity ceased by 8 March and there were no evacuations.

Source: Associated Press


16 November-22 November 2005

There was an increase in seismicity at San Cristóbal beginning on 19 November. Increased tremor was interpreted as being related to gas and ash emissions. Ash fell W of the volcano and near the town of Chinandega, ~15 km SW of the volcano. The amount of tremor decreased later.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


11 December-17 December 2002

Based on ground observations from Chinandega, the Washington VAAC reported that relatively strong volcanic activity occurred at San Cristóbal on 16 December at 0745. INETER's volcano camera and satellite imagery showed a plume emanating from the summit that appeared to be mainly composed of steam with some possible ash.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


9 October-15 October 2002

The Washington VAAC reported that on 15 October beginning at 0615 a plume was visible in satellite imagery rising from San Cristóbal. It appeared to be composed mostly of steam, but there may have been some ash present.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


21 August-27 August 2002

A ground observer in Chinandega, Nicaragua indicated that San Cristóbal was active on 21 August around 1600. Ash was not visible on an INETER volcano camera at 1630 due to dense cloud cover. A possible plume was detected on satellite imagery taken at 1545 during a break in the cloud cover. The plume was estimated to be near summit level and drifted W.

Source: Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


29 May-4 June 2002

Volcanic tremor began to increase at San Cristóbal on 28 May, reaching a peak around noon the next day. The summit of the volcano was not visible, but satellite imagery from the Centro de Vigilancia de Ceniza Volcánica revealed that ash was emitted from the volcano. After the 29th, the amount of tremor decreased. Incandescence was visible at the crater rim on 1 June. By 3 June tremor was still relatively high.

Sources: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), La Prensa (Nicaragua)


22 May-28 May 2002

INETER reported that on 23 May around dawn a vapor column was observed rising above San Cristóbal. The plume was attributed to rain contacting hot material in the crater. There was no indication of an increase in volcanism at San Cristóbal. According to the Washington VAAC, the plume rose ~3 km a.s.l. and drifted to the SW. For the previous few months seismicity had been at moderate levels.

Sources: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


9 May-15 May 2002

According to several news reports, INETER stated that beginning on 10 May there was an increase in seismicity at San Cristóbal and that small explosions produced plumes composed of gas and small amounts of ash. The activity continued through at least 13 May. INETER personnel stated that the level of seismic activity was greater than activity during the December 1999 eruption.

Sources: La Noticia, La Prensa (Nicaragua), El Nuevo Diario


6 March-12 March 2002

Seismic tremor increased at San Cristóbal beginning on the afternoon of 6 March. Strong seismicity occurred in 2- to 3-hour periods that were generally separated by less than 1 hour of less intense activity. Scientists visiting the volcano found that the amount of degassing had increased and that temperatures at the volcano were much higher than they had been for several months. Reportedly, incandescent material in the crater was reflected on the clouds above it. According to INETER, the activity at San Cristóbal was not strong enough to warrant raising the Alert Level.

Sources: El Nuevo Diario, La Prensa (Nicaragua)


7 November-13 November 2001

INETER stated that during the evening of 12 November small ash emissions took place at San Cristóbal. The emissions produced ash clouds that remained around summit level. According to the Washington VAAC, on 12 November at 1645 GOES-8 imagery showed a small area of possible ash drifting NW. According to ground observations, moderate volcanic activity occurred until 1800. Ash had dissipated by 2100 and the next day there were no ground reports of volcanic activity.

Sources: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC)


15 August-21 August 2001

There was renewed volcanic and seismic activity at San Cristóbal during the week. During mid-August a gradual increase in seismic tremor and long-period earthquakes began and the amount of tremor peaked during the night of 11 August. The same night INETER personnel heard rumbling emanate from the volcano. Seismicity began to decrease on 12 August and increased again the night of 14 August, reaching the same level detected on 11 August. On 14 August incandescence was visible in the crater for the first time during the current episode. INETER stated that the lava lake in the crater illuminated gas and clouds above the summit crater. Seismic tremor gradually decreased until approximately 1400 on 17 August when strong seismic activity began again. Fumarolic activity increased during the current episode and small lagoons within the crater had dried.

Source: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER)


20 June-26 June 2001

According to news reports, on 21 June an explosion at San Cristóbal sent an ash cloud to a maximum height of 800 m. The cloud extended approximately 25 km downwind of the crater and ash fell in the town of Chinandega, ~15 km SW of the volcano.

Sources: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), La Noticia, El Nuevo Diario, La Prensa (Nicaragua)


16 May-22 May 2001

Volcanic activity increased at San Cristóbal on 17 May, accompanied by a relatively large amount of seismic tremor. Pulses of gas-and-ash emissions were observed rising up to 100 m above the rim of the volcano's crater. Light ash fell in the town of Santa Barbara, 14 km SW of the volcano.

Sources: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), El Nuevo Diario, ABC News - Australian Broadcasting Corporation


Summary of eruption dates and Volcanic Explosivity Indices (VEI).

Start Date Stop Date Eruption Certainty VEI Evidence Activity Area or Unit
2013 Jun 7 2013 Jun 7 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2012 Dec 26 2012 Dec 27 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
2012 Sep 8 2012 Sep 15 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
2011 Aug 21 2011 Oct 23 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2010 Jun 9 2011 Jan 13 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
2009 Sep 6 2009 Dec 26 (?) Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
2008 Nov 21 2008 Nov 21 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2008 Jun 22 2008 Aug 5 ± 4 days Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2007 Nov 8 (in or before) Unknown Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2005 Nov 13 2006 May 27 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
2004 Dec 3 2004 Dec 7 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2003 Jun 17 2004 Jun 13 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2002 May 29 2002 Dec 16 (?) Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
2001 May 11 (?) 2001 Dec 9 (?) Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
1999 May 1 ± 180 days 2000 Jun Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1997 May 19 (?) 1997 Jul 7 (in or after) Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
[ 1987 Nov ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    
[ 1985 Sep 2 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    
1977 Oct 16 1977 Oct 16 Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1976 Aug 29 1976 Aug 29 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
1976 Mar 9 1976 Mar 16 Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
1971 May 3 1971 Jul 5 ± 4 days Confirmed 1 Historical Observations
1685 Aug Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1684 Jul Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
1680 Unknown Confirmed 2 Historical Observations
[ 1613 ] [ Unknown ] Uncertain    
1528 ± 1 years Unknown Confirmed 3 Historical Observations

The following references are the sources used for data regarding this volcano. References are linked directly to our volcano data file. Discussion of another volcano or eruption (sometimes far from the one that is the subject of the manuscript) may produce a citation that is not at all apparent from the title. Additional discussion of data sources can be found under Volcano Data Criteria.

Carr M J, 1984. Symmetrical and segmented variation of physical and geochemical characterisitics of the Central American volcanic front. J Volc Geotherm Res, 20: 231-252.

Cecchi E, van Wyk de Vries B, Lavest J-M, 2005. Flank spreading and collapse of weak-cored volcanoes. Bull Volc, 67: 72-91.

Hazlett R W, 1987. Geology of the San Cristobal volcanic complex, Nicaragua. J Volc Geotherm Res, 33: 223-230.

IAVCEI, 1973-80. Post-Miocene Volcanoes of the World. IAVCEI Data Sheets, Rome: Internatl Assoc Volc Chemistry Earth's Interior..

Incer J, 1987. . (pers. comm.).

Kerle N, van Wyk de Vries B, 2001. The 1998 debris avalanche at Casita Volcano, Nicaragua; investigation of structural deformation as the cause of slope instability using remote sensing. J Volc Geotherm Res, 105: 49-63.

Kerle N, van Wyk de Vries B, Oppenheimer C, 2003. New insight into the factors leading to the 1998 flank collapse and lahar disaster at Casita volcano, Nicaragua. Bull Volc, 65: 331-345.

McBirney A R, Williams H, 1965. Volcanic history of Nicaragua. Univ Calif Pub Geol Sci, 55: 1-65.

Mooser F, Meyer-Abich H, McBirney A R, 1958. Central America. Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World and Solfatara Fields, Rome: IAVCEI, 6: 1-146.

Sapper K, 1925. The Volcanoes of Central America. Halle: Verlag Max Niemeyer, 144 p.

van Wyk de Vries B, Borgia A, 1996. The role of basement in volcano deformation. In: McGuire W J, Jones A P and Neuberg J (eds) {Volcano Instability on the Earth and Other Planets}, Geol Soc London Spec Pub, 110: 95-110.

van Wyk de Vries B, Kerle N, Petley D, 2000. Sector collapse forming at Casita volcano, Nicaragua. Geology, 28: 167-170.

The San Cristóbal volcanic complex, consisting of five principal volcanic edifices, forms the NW end of the Marrabios Range. The symmetrical 1745-m-high youngest cone, named San Cristóbal (also known as El Viejo), is Nicaragua's highest volcano and is capped by a 500 x 600 m wide crater. El Chonco, with several flank lava domes, is located 4 km to the west of San Cristóbal; it and the eroded Moyotepe volcano, 4 km to the NE of San Cristóbal, are of Pleistocene age. Volcán Casita, containing an elongated summit crater, lies immediately east of San Cristóbal and was the site of a catastrophic landslide and lahar in 1998. The Plio-Pleistocene La Pelona caldera is located at the eastern end of the San Cristóbal complex. Historical eruptions from San Cristóbal, consisting of small-to-moderate explosive activity, have been reported since the 16th century. Some other 16th-century eruptions attributed to Casita volcano are uncertain and may pertain to other Marrabios Range volcanoes.