, Volume 55, Issue 5, pp 379-388

A summary of sulfur dioxide emission rate measuremnts from Guatemalan volcanoes

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Abstract

Measurements of the sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate from three Guatemalan volcanoes provide data which are consistent with theoretical and laboratory studies of eruptive and shallow magma chamber processes. In particular, unerupted magma makes a major contribution to the measured SO2 emission rates at Santiaguito, a continuously erupting dacitic volcanic dome. Varying shallow magma convection rates can explain the variations in SO2 emission rates at Santiaguito. At Fuego, a basaltic volcano currently in repose, SO2 emission rate measurements are consistent with a high level magma body that is crystallizing and releasing volatiles. At Pacaya, a continuously erupting basaltic volcano, recent SO2 emission rate measurements support laboratory simulation studies of strombolian eruptions; these studies indicate that the majority of gas escapes during eruptions and little gas escapes between eruptions.

Average SO2 emission rates over the last 20 years for Santiaguito, Fuego and Pacaya are 80, 160 and 260 Mg/d, respectively. On a global scale, these three volcanoes account for 1% of the annual global volcanic output of SO2. Santiaguito and Pacaya, together, emit 6% of the total annual SO2 emitted by continuously erupting volcanoes.

Even though SO2 measurements at these volcanoes have been made infrequently and by different investigators, the collective data help to establish a useful baseline by which to judge future changes. A more complete record of SO2 emission rates from these volcanoes could lead to a better understanding of their eruption mechanisms and reduce the impact of their future eruptions on Guatemalan society.