Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 66, Issue 1, pp 66–79 | Cite as

Stratovolcano stability assessment methods and results from Citlaltépetl, Mexico

  • D. R. ZimbelmanEmail author
  • R. J. Watters
  • I. R. Firth
  • G. N. Breit
  • G. Carrasco-Nunez
Research Article


Citlaltépetl volcano is the easternmost stratovolcano in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. Situated within 110 km of Veracruz, it has experienced two major collapse events and, subsequent to its last collapse, rebuilt a massive, symmetrical summit cone. To enhance hazard mitigation efforts we assess the stability of Citlaltépetl's summit cone, the area thought most likely to fail during a potential massive collapse event. Through geologic mapping, alteration mineralogy, geotechnical studies, and stability modeling we provide important constraints on the likelihood, location, and size of a potential collapse event. The volcano's summit cone is young, highly fractured, and hydrothermally altered. Fractures are most abundant within 5–20-m wide zones defined by multiple parallel to subparallel fractures. Alteration is most pervasive within the fracture systems and includes acid sulfate, advanced argillic, argillic, and silicification ranks. Fractured and altered rocks both have significantly reduced rock strengths, representing likely bounding surfaces for future collapse events. The fracture systems and altered rock masses occur non-uniformly, as an orthogonal set with N–S and E–W trends. Because these surfaces occur non-uniformly, hazards associated with collapse are unevenly distributed about the volcano. Depending on uncertainties in bounding surfaces, but constrained by detailed field studies, potential failure volumes are estimated to range between 0.04–0.5 km3. Stability modeling was used to assess potential edifice failure events. Modeled failure of the outer portion of the cone initially occurs as an "intact block" bounded by steeply dipping joints and outwardly dipping flow contacts. As collapse progresses, more of the inner cone fails and the outer "intact" block transforms into a collection of smaller blocks. Eventually, a steep face develops in the uppermost and central portion of the cone. This modeled failure morphology mimics collapse amphitheaters present at many of the world's stratovolcanoes that have experienced massive failure events.


Citlaltépetl volcano Edifice stability Geotechnical rock strength Hydrothermal alteration Stability modeling 



This work was supported by NASA grants NAG5-7579, NAG5-9497, and NAG5-9498, and Conacyt 27554-T. We offer sincere appreciation to the many who helped, including Bernard Hubbard, who ably assisted with field work and provided important insights from his remote-sensing data and interpretations; Mike Sheridan, for extensive help with the regional volcanic setting and hazards; and Jose Luis Murrieta Hernandez, who we repeatedly pestered with logistical concerns and who's open and warm friendship will endure long after the scientific study. Many people from Proteccion Civil Veracruz provided assistance with maps, logistics, outreach, and other professional support, especially C. Jorge Velez Elias, Flavio Leyva Ruiz, and Rafael Zuñiga Zarate. We thank Gerardo F. Claudio Sanchez for lodging and transportation support in Tlachichuca.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. R. Zimbelman
    • 1
    Email author
  • R. J. Watters
    • 2
  • I. R. Firth
    • 2
  • G. N. Breit
    • 3
  • G. Carrasco-Nunez
    • 4
  1. 1.G.O. LogicWhite SalmonUSA
  2. 2.Dept Geological Sciences MS 172University of NevadaRenoUSA
  3. 3.DenverUSA
  4. 4.Unidad de Investigacion en Ciencias de la TierraCampus Juriquilla, UNAMCentro QuerétaroMexico

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