Skip to main content

New insights into eruption source parameters of the 1600 CE Huaynaputina Plinian eruption, Peru


In the Central Andes, large Plinian eruptions (Volcanic Explosivity Index ≥ 5) occur at a relatively high frequency, i.e. average one every 2000 to 4000 years over the past 50,000 years in Peru. Such recurring explosive activity represents a significant challenge for regions typically hosting several million people (e.g. Southern Peru, Western Bolivia and Northern Chile). With VEI 6, the 1600 CE Huaynaputina eruption is considered the largest historical eruption in South America. We have re-examined the first Plinian phase of this eruption in order to better assess critical eruption source parameters (i.e. erupted volume, plume height, mass eruption rate, eruption duration).The revised bulk volume of the tephra-fall deposit associated with the Plinian phase is approximately 13–14 km3, almost twice the previous estimate (7–8 km3 within the 1 cm isopach) based on methods including power law, Weibull function and Bayesian linear regression. Tephra was dispersed by strong winds to the WNW as far as 400 km on Peruvian territory and then in the Pacific Ocean. Seven villages were buried, killing ~ 1500 people. The revised plume height estimate, 32.2 ± 2.5 km, is consistent with the early estimations. As a result, the Huaynaputina 1600 CE first eruption phase lies in the upper part of the Plinian field close to the ultra-Plinian transition, making this event one of the largest in the past millennium which coincides with results from recent studies on palaeoclimatic impacts.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13


Download references


The authors thank Sébastien Biass for his help with TError and Qingyuan Yang for pointing out some errors in an early version of the data set. Associate Editor Marcus I Bursik, Stephen C Kuehn and an anonymous reviewer are thanked for their thorough reviews of the manuscript. This is Laboratory of Excellence ClerVolc contribution n°377.


Field work was funded by a Institut de Recherche pour le Développement – Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans programme on recent and active volcanism in south Peru, through cooperation between the Instituto Geológico, Minero y Metalúrgico (Peru) and study abroad office at Université Clermont Auvergne (France) and through the Huayruro project funded by the Fondo National de Desarrollo Científico y Tecnológico. A trip to Université de Genève to work with Costanza Bonadonna was funded by the Observatoire de Physique du Globe de Clermont-Ferrand. Costanza Bonadonna was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (#200021_163152).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to J.-M. Prival.

Additional information

Editorial responsibility: M.I. Bursik; Deputy Executive Editor: J. Tadeucci

Electronic supplementary material


(XLSX 32 kb)


(XLSX 10 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Prival, JM., Thouret, JC., Japura, S. et al. New insights into eruption source parameters of the 1600 CE Huaynaputina Plinian eruption, Peru. Bull Volcanol 82, 7 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: