Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 66, Issue 2, pp 149–167 | Cite as

The crater lake and hydrothermal system of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines: evolution in the decade after eruption

  • James A. StimacEmail author
  • Fraser Goff
  • Dale Counce
  • Adrienne C. L. Larocque
  • David R. Hilton
  • Uwe Morgenstern
Research Article


The June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Philippines breached a significant, pre-eruptive magmatic-hydrothermal system consisting of a hot (>300 °C) core at two-phase conditions and surrounding, cooler (<260 °C) liquid outflows to the N and S. The eruption created a large, closed crater that accumulated hydrothermal upwellings, near-surface aquifer and meteoric inflows. A shallow lake formed by early September 1991, and showed a long-term increase in level of ~1 m/month until an artificial drainage was created in September 2001. Comparison of the temporal trends in lake chemistry to pre- and post-eruptive springs distinguishes processes important in lake evolution. The lake was initially near-neutral pH and dominated by meteoric influx and Cl–SO4 and Cl–HCO3 hydrothermal waters, with peaks in SO4 and Ca concentrations resulting from leaching of anhydrite and aerosol-laden tephra. Magmatic discharge, acidity (pH~2) and rock dissolution peaked in late 1992, during and immediately after eruption of a lava dome on the crater floor. Since cessation of dome growth, trends in lake pH (increase from 3 to 5.5), temperature (decline from 40 to 26 °C), and chemical and isotopic composition indicate that magmatic degassing and rock dissolution have declined significantly relative to the input of meteoric water and immature hydrothermal brine. Higher concentrations of Cl, Na, K, Li and B, and lower concentrations of Mg, Ca, Fe, SO4 and F up to 1999 highlight the importance of a dilute hydrothermal contribution, as do stable-isotope and tritium compositions of the various fluids. However, samples taken since that time indicate further dilution and steeper trends of increasing pH and declining temperature. Present gas and brine compositions from crater fumaroles and hot springs indicate boiling of an immature Cl–SO4 geothermal fluid of near-neutral pH at approximately 200 °C, rather than direct discharge from magma. It appears that remnants of the pre-eruptive hydrothermal system invaded the magma conduit shortly after the end of dome emplacement, blocking the direct degassing path. This, along with the large catchment area (~5 km2) and the high precipitation rate of the area, led to a rapid transition from a small and hot acid lake to a large lake with near-ambient temperature and pH. This behavior contrasts with that of peak-activity lakes that have more sustained volcanic gas influx (e.g., Kawah Ijen, Indonesia; Poas and Rincón de la Vieja, Costa Rica).


Mount Pinatubo Volcanic crater lake Lake formation Fluid chemistry Magmatic-hydrothermal system Helium isotopes Stable isotopes Tritium 



This paper would not have been possible without observations and data collected by many workers prior to and shortly after the 1991 eruptions. While we draw heavily on these observations to reconstruct the early history of the lake, the authors are solely responsible for interpretations drawn. C. Newhall (USGS) provided some samples to F. Goff for analysis in the early 1990s, and R. Torres provided a later sample. We also thank E. Ramos and R. Torres for helping us better understand some aspects of the lake history and hydrology. We acknowledge H. Ferrer and J. Delfin (PNOC-EDC) and numerous Filipino guides (especially George) for help with logistical aspects of sampling trips, and F. Sugiaman, E. Sunio, and T. Powell for help with sampling of springs and fumaroles. We also appreciate some logistical support and permission to publish from Philippine Geothermal, Inc. Reviews by P. Delmelle and an anonymous reviewer greatly improved the original manuscript. Meticulous editorial handling by H. Shinohara also resulted in clearer presentation and discussion. Some research costs were defrayed by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to A.C.L. Larocque, and by an LDRD grant (Remote Sensing of Volcanoes) to F. Goff from Los Alamos National Laboratory.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • James A. Stimac
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fraser Goff
    • 2
  • Dale Counce
    • 2
  • Adrienne C. L. Larocque
    • 3
  • David R. Hilton
    • 4
  • Uwe Morgenstern
    • 5
  1. 1.Philippine Geothermal Inc.MakatiPhilippines
  2. 2.EES-6, MS-D462Los Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA
  3. 3.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  4. 4.Geoscience Research DivisionScripps Institution of OceanographyLa JollaUSA
  5. 5.Institute of Geological and Nuclear ScienceGracefield Research CenterLower HuttNew Zealand

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