Guatemala – Santiaguito

2010-2011 IVM-Fund Program to Support Volcano Monitoring in Guatemala

“I hereby thank the team at the IVM-Fund as well as all the individual donors who have made possible the dream of having equipment for our field work at OVSAN. We pledge to make the best use of the equipment and to continually make field evaluations. We know it’s been a lot of work to raise funds for OVSAN, however, the rewards of this we will see in the future.”

— Gustavo Chigna, Director of the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory

Read Complete Report on IVM-Fund trip to Guatemala April 29 – May 3, 2011

In 2010, the IVM-Fund raised ~$4000 to purchase field equipment and volcano monitoring instrumentation for the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory (OVSAN) in Guatemala.

Santiaguito volcano is a large, lava dome complex located on the flank of the conical Santa Maria volcano in southwestern Guatemala.  Santiaguito has been growing (i.e. erupting lava) since  1922 and is one of the most active and hazardous volcanoes in Central America. Volcanic explosions occurred frequently throughout 2010 with a particularly large explosion on April 26, 2010 which resulted in ash-laden plumes reaching ~8 km altitude. The ash fall affected nearby villages and closed schools. Other significant hazards at Santiaguito include lahars (mud flows) and pyroclastic flows (i.e. hot ash, gases, and rock) generated by lava dome collapse.

For this project, the IVM-Fund had valuable help from Rudiger Escobar Wolf, a Guatemalan volcanology graduate student at Michigan Tech University. Instrumental to our fundraising program were the efforts of Jessica Ball, a volcanology graduate student at SUNY Buffalo and volcano blogger. And, we collaborated directly with Gustavo Chigna, director of OVSAN, which is part of the Guatemalan national volcano institute INSIVUMEH (Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanologia, Meterologia, e Hidrologia). OVSAN provided the IVM-Fund with a list of equipment they needed to help the personnel at the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory to improve their work of continuously monitoring the activity levels of the volcano. In the event of a hazardous increase in activity, the volcano data gathered by observatory personnel is shared with Guatemalan emergency response officials to safeguard the public.

At the beginning of May 2011, the IVM-Fund delivered ~$4000 worth of field equipment and volcano monitoring instruments to OVSAN. Jeff Witter, President of the IVM-Fund, delivered the equipment personally to ensure that it all arrived into the hands of the Guatemalan volcanologists who monitor activity at Santiaguito volcano on a daily basis.

The Guatemalans were very appreciative and set right to work making measurements at the volcano and in river valleys downstream. Lahars (volcanic mudflows) are a particular concern this year because frequent volcanic explosions at the lava dome have generated large amounts of loose volcanic material (i.e. pumice, ash, & broken lava) that is accumulating and ready to be washed down the river valleys as lahars in the coming rainy season. OVSAN scientists will be making measurements to keep track of this giant accumulation of loose volcanic material as it works its way down the river valleys. They hope to use this new, quantitative information to advise downstream communities about the risks of lahar inundation.

The direct impacts from eruptions at Santiaguito continued soon after the equipment delivery. In mid-May 2011, the Guatemalan government issued a volcanology bulletin stating that a new series of moderate to strong explosions had begun at Santiaguito generating pyroclastic flows and near-continuous block avalanches with accompanying ashfall on nearby communities. The equipment donated by the IVM-Fund has increased the capacity of the OVSAN personnel to conduct volcano monitoring activities.

As an integral part of the package of support provided to OVSAN, the IVM-Fund has also committed to pay for an internet connection at the observatory for an initial period of 18 months. We hope to have an internet connection up and running at the observatory soon after sorting out a few logistical details. An internet connection will enable OVSAN personnel to download near real-time data from the Santiaguito volcano seismic monitoring network and keep track of the frequency and magnitude of microearthquakes happening under the volcano. Furthermore, an internet connection will enable the OVSAN scientists to send photos, daily reports, etc. via email to the INSIVUMEH headquarters in Guatemala City. This, and the ability to take advantage of all the resources on the internet will be of great value to OVSAN.

The IVM-Fund would like to pass on to all donors a big “Thank You” from the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory personnel!  They very much appreciate the support. Following this visit to Guatemala, the IVM-Fund is convinced that the volcanologists in Guatemala are deserving of further support from the IVM-Fund and we look forward to planning another volcano monitoring support program in Guatemala.


List of equipment donated to the Santiaguito Volcano Observatory in May 2011

1. Garmin eTrex Vista Handheld GPS unit

2.  TruPulse 200 Laser Rangefinder

3. Hanna Instruments HI991001 Temperature/pH meter

4. Brunton 8099 Pro Compass

5. Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H55 14.1 megapixel digital camera with 10x zoom plus two 4 GB memory cards and carry case

6. Pair of Motorola EP-450 radios

7. Dell Inspiron 560 desktop computer with monitor and 1 Tb external hard drive

8. Two Black Diamond Cosmo LED Headlamps

9. Leatherman Super Tool 300 Multi-Tool

10. Champion Sports 50M Open Reel Fiberglass Measuring Tape

11.  Omega OS423-LS Handheld Infrared Thermometer

12. Brunton Clino Master Clinometer

13. Tasco Essentials 10×50 WA, Zip Focus Binoculars

14. Tasco Essentials 10 x 25  Compact Binoculars

15. Duracell NiMH battery charger

16. Duracell AA and AAA NiMH rechargeable batteries for all electronics