Panama Facts: Volcanoes

OK, so Panama has three volcanoes, which are part of the Central American Volcanic Arc. The CAVA, which it is often called, is a chain of volcanoes which extends parallel to the Pacific coast line of the Central American Isthmus, from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and down to northern Panama. This volcanic arc, which has a length of 1,500 kilometers (930 mi), is formed by an active subduction zone along the western boundary of the Caribbean Plate.

The three in Panama are the El Valle, Baru, and La Yegunda.

El Valle Volcano

El Valle volcano is a (perhaps still active) stratovolcano 80 km SW of Panama City. The volcano has a broad shape and is cut by the 6 km wide El Valle de Antón caldera, which formed about 56,000 years ago. Lava domes that grew inside the caldera include the Cerro Pajita, Cerro Gaital, and Cerro Caracoral dome complex.

El Valle volcano is a broad stratovolcano cut by a large compound Pleistocene caldera. The 6-km-wide El Valle de Antón caldera was formed about 56,000 years ago in association with eruption of the dacitic El Hato pyroclastic flows. The caldera has steep, 200-300 m high walls overlooking a flat floor underlain by deposits of a former caldera lake and currently occupied by the town of El Valle.  Cerro Pajita, Cerro Gaital, and Cerro Caracoral form a dacitic lava dome complex that was constructed along an E-W-trending lineament within the caldera and forms the 1185 m high point of the volcano.

Major phreatomagmatic plinian eruptions produced when magma interacted with caldera-lake water as recently as about 34,600 years ago generated pyroclastic flows that reached the Pacific coast, 25 km to the south. Phreatic eruptions have occurred since then (the most recent dated eruption took place about 13,000 years ago), and activity may have continued into the Holocene.

A geothermal exploration program is currently underway to evaluate the energy potential of the caldera.  (From: Smithsonian / GVP volcano information)

Baru Volcano

Barú volcano (also called Volcán de Chiriqui) is an active volcano 35 km east of the border to Costa Rica in the Talamanca Range of western in Panama. The complex, mainly andesitic stratovolcano is Panama´s highest peak.

A large explosive eruption occurred at about 700 AD destroyed settlements around the volcano. Excavations at the Cerro Punta archaeological site NW of the volcano have brought back to life their ruins.

The only historical eruption of Barú was an explosive eruption reported from the mid 16th century, but radiocarbon-dated tephra samples suggest that there was some activity less than 500 years ago.

Volcán Barú is the youngest major volcano in Panamá and there are geothermal exploration projects under way. (Sherrod et al (2007) “Volcán Barú: Eruptive History and Volcano-Hazards Assessment”, USGS Open-File Report 2007–1401)

La Yeguada Volcano

La Yeguada volcano (also known as Chitra-Calobre) is a stratovolcano in west-central Panamá east of Laguna La Yeguada and north of the Azuero Peninsula. The last volcanic activity was at the Media Luna cinder cone about 45,000 years ago. The widely spread information that it erupted only 300-350 years ago is most likely wrong.  There is geothermal activity with warm springs at the volcanic complex, including the Chitra-Calobre geothermal field which is the site of intensive geothermal exploration.

Volcanoes on the Azuero Peninsula were active from the Miocene into the Quaternary. The youngest major feature of La Yeguada is located within a large fault-bounded horst that forms the high point of the volcanic complex.

The latest eruptions took place from the northern part of the horst about 220,000 years ago at Cerro Corero lava dome (also known as Cerro de la Charca), north of El Castillo.

The youngest feature of the La Yeguada complex is the Media Luna cinder cone, which was erupted through Tertiary ignimbrite deposits at the NW side of the complex. The oldest peat layer within a small lake dammed by a basaltic lava flow originating from the cone was radiocarbon dated at about 300-350 years ago, but later dating has shown that flow was erupted about 45,000 years ago, and that the La Yeguada complex has not had Holocene eruptions. (From: Smithsonian / GVP volcano information)

Next time, Earthquakes, because Panama is in the Ring of Fire! TTFN!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *