Late Pleistocene-Holocene Debris Avalanche Deposits from Volcán de Colima, Mexico

  • A. CortésEmail author
  • J.-C. Komorowski
  • J. L. Macías
  • L. Capra
  • P. W. Layer
Part of the Active Volcanoes of the World book series (AVOLCAN)


Volcán de Colima has experienced numerous partial edifice collapses with associated debris avalanche deposits, widely distributed toward the SW, S and SE sectors. According to new 40Ar/39Ar dates, activity began more than 97,000 years ago on the southern flank of Nevado de Colima with the formation of the so-called Paleofuego edifice. Several collapses occurred prior to a catastrophic edifice collapse event 7000 years ago, creating a horseshoe-shaped avalanche crater, 5 km wide, opened towards the south. After this last lateral collapse of Paleofuego, the currently active cone began to grow in the central part of the crater, which, during the Late Holocene, has experienced two lateral collapse events that generated debris avalanches. Based on new fieldwork and stratigraphic correlation of deposits supported by 14C dates, we present a description and approximate distribution of eight debris avalanche deposits generated by Volcán de Colima during the last 30,000 years. These debris avalanche deposits are exposed at 40 km to the S and 25 km in the SW and SE sectors of the volcano, and cover an area of 1200 km2 with an approximated volume of 86 km3. Field evidence indicates that at least some sector collapses were accompanied by magmatic activity. The regional tectonic setting that consists of the active N-S regional extension of the Colima graben, as well as E-W, and NE-SW structures, such as the Tamazula Fault, also played an important role in volcano instability. The contribution of a volcanic spreading component was also recently recognized. The emplacement of the most voluminous debris avalanches have obstructed the Armería and Tuxpan-Naranjo rivers producing temporary lakes, where thick lacustrine sediments were accumulated. The recurrence times of these sector collapses vary between 3000 and 6500 years during the Late Pleistocene and 1100–3400 years during the Holocene, with the youngest one having occurred ~2.5 ka BP. A future sector collapse of Volcán de Colima on the scale of past events could be catastrophic for up to about 350,000 inhabitants (including the city of Colima) that currently are located on top of ancient debris avalanche deposits.


Colima Volcanic Complex Nevado de Colima Paleofuego Volcán de Colima Debris avalanche deposits 



Our gratitude and recognition for the support received from the following Institutions and people in the fulfilment of the current work: University of Colima, for the economic support by means of a grant; Chris Eastoe, for the 14C dating carried out at the University of Tucson, Arizona. Special thanks are given to M. Ursúa and J. Velasco of the Sistema Estatal de Protección Civil of Colima for their logistical support during field work. Thanks to L. Siebert, M. Roverato and B. Bernard for their thorough reviews of the manuscript and insightful comments which helped to make this a better contribution. We thank G. Cisneros for his technical aid to draft some of the figures.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • A. Cortés
    • 1
    Email author
  • J.-C. Komorowski
    • 2
  • J. L. Macías
    • 3
  • L. Capra
    • 4
  • P. W. Layer
    • 5
  1. 1.Centro Universitario de Estudios e Investigaciones de Vulcanología, Universidad de ColimaColimaMexico
  2. 2.Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, CNRSParis Cedex 05France
  3. 3.Instituto de Geofísica, Unidad Michoacán, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Campus-MoreliaMoreliaMexico
  4. 4.Centro de Geociencias, UNAMQuerétaroMexico
  5. 5.Geophysical Institute and College of Natural Science and Mathematics, University of Alaska FairbanksFairbanksUSA

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