Guatemala’s Pacaya Volcano

May 13, 2021, 6:59 p.m., Pacific: The livestream didn’t last long; also, the weather wasn’t cooperative. Here is a tweeted video someone took of the fissure eruption (the flaring at the top is from the flank vent; see map — this flow is quite far from Mackenny Crater at the summit); per INSIVUMEH today, intermittent ash emissions are occurring at the summit.

May 9, 2021, 8:26 p.m., Pacific: Spectacular livestream tonight. Strombolian activity is back at the summit: the new fissure flank eruption is going full blast, too.

Earlier updates and, eventually, the original post are below. This has not been one of those “textbook-style” eruptions as we’ve seen in Iceland on St. Vincent larely. It’s messy, but amazing to watch. No fatalities as far as I know, but lava from an earlier flow has reached villages and caused lots of damage. This new flow probably will, too.

May 9, 2021, 8:07 p.m., Pacific: There is some explosive activity at the crater, as well as the very productive new flank lava eruption.

May 2, 2021: INSIVUMEH reported recently that the eruption is winding down. Unfortunately, Pacaya sent out a long, damaging lava flow first:

Note the spectators, just as in Iceland. This stuff is terrible in action, but slow and fascinating to watch!

Then a new flank fissure opened on April 29th.

And that flow is continuing, per the May 1st bulletin (Spanish). Sigh. At least the summit activity is at a very low level just now.

Older notes and original post:

Pacaya, in Guatemala, is acting up big time, so I’m pinning this now. The Iceland volcano eruption updates are available here and, very shortly, through this page.

April 3, 2021, 1:28 p.m., Pacific: This apparently was taken yesterday.

Note the two eruption sites: summit and fountaining vent on the flank.

Here is what the uploader wrote to accompany the video:

Pacaya volcano erupts, lava approaches residents in Guatemala 2 April 2021. One of the most active volcanoes on the planet – Pacaya in Guatemala – has been erupting for 50 days. First, the fire-breathing mountain covered the surroundings with ash, and then expelled streams of incandescent lava that move towards the nearby city and destroy local farms.

Due to smoke and an ash plume, the country’s only airport was closed for more than a day. Large plantations of coffee and avocados have been destroyed, forest fires have begun, and local residents are strongly advised not to approach the crater.

As a result of activity on the western slope of the volcano, a lava flow more than two kilometers long was formed. It moves at a speed of 50-60 meters a day and threatens the city of San Vicente Pacaya, which is home to about 17 thousand people. Lava flows have already reached residential buildings.

About an hour ago, CONRED tweeted that “On the south-west flank, the active lava flow continues and advances approximately 30 meters towards the El Encino farm, El Patrocinio village, San Vicente Pacaya, Escuintla.

Source: Orlando Itzep, Volcano Prevention Unit -UPV-.” (Twitter translation)

Good thing it’s slow moving, but this is still devastating.

And this is unlikely to stop any time soon. Today INSIVUMEH reports tremor, showing ascent of magma, fluids, and gas.

Fuego and Santiaguito are active, too. Sigh.

April 1, 2021, 3:48 p.m., Pacific:

Lava flowing from the Guatemala volcano, now in its 56th consecutive day of seismic activity, is destroying agricultural crops mainly coffee and avocado while advancing to nearby communities.

The Guatemalan National Disaster Relief Coordinating agency (Conred) said the extensive lava flow is approaching the communities of El Patrocinio and El Rodeo on the sides of the volcano and is putting 1,800 residents at risk.

Conred further stated that the lava now reaches 1.8 miles down the western side of the volcano…


March 31, 2021, 12:11 p.m., Pacific: And this from INSIVUMEH about an hour ago.

Update, March 30, 2021: Pacaya’s activity has continued at a high level, with the capital’s airport closed due to ash, per news reports, and now lava is reaching settlements.

Edit: Here is the GVP weekly update on it.

Original post

What a week!

At least three unrelated major erupting volcanoes — two of them located in the Central American Volcanic Arc and one in the Mediterranean region — boosted their activity and put on impressive, casualty-free shows (though many people have had to deal with ash fall).

First, Guatemala’s Fuego, located twenty-some miles southwest of the nation’s capital, Guatemala City (population just under a million), lit up the night on February 14th. I posted about it, but the linked video is a live stream and the volcano has quieted down some since then.

Fortunately, someone recorded a little of the amazing sight we watched that night:

Fuego erupts frequently, but this is unusually strong activity.

No evacuations were called, as far as I know, but everybody was on alert and local media reported that communities closest to Volcan de Fuego had been prepared by authorities earlier for self-evacuation whenever it might become necessary.

Meanwhile, over in Sicily (population five million), Mount Etna said 《tienimi la birra》 (“hold my beer”), and on the 18th, did this:

March 30, 2020: Pacaya has continued with strong activity, explosive at the summit, but also effusive down the flank. The capital’s airport has closed because of ash, per news reports, and now the lava is reaching settlements.

Original post

Now, Etna is one of the top volcano divas, unsurpassed when moods like this strike her.

But we do also need to mention Pacaya, since it, too, got in a huff this week and, like Fuego, is very close to Guatemala City (about sixteen miles south of town).

By the way, there is a third Guatemalan volcano eruption ongoing nearby, too — at Santa Maria’s Santiaguito dome complex, 140 miles west of the capital — but that one is staying at the same level so far.

Getting back to the star performer Pacaya, here are:

  1. A drone view of its rather thuggish and scary summit in 2017:

  2. A local news report (Spanish) from Friday evening, February 19th, with video of Pacaya’s new lava flow:

    Pacaya is in a national park, which they have closed because of the eruption. I’ve seen no confirmed reports of evacuations at this time.

    Besides pouring out lava, Pacaya is also having strombolian eruptions at the summit (the eruptions at Fuego and Etna shown above are strombolian, too, but they look more dramatic at night).

We have already met Fuego this week. Italy’s Mount Etna (and Guatemala’s Santa Maria, too, if you’re curious) are covered in my Decade Volcano book (for details, click on a store and “Continue”), so let’s check out Pacaya Volcano today.


14.382° N, 90.601° W, in Pacaya National Park, Escuintla Division, southern Guatemala. The GVP Volcano Number is 342110.

Nearby Population:

Per the Global Volcanism Program website:

  • Within 5 km (3 miles): 4,250
  • Within 10 km (6 miles): 53,579
  • Within 30 km (19 miles): 2,454,482
  • Within 100 km (62 miles): 7,033,094

Current Status:

Aviation Code Red. The national park is closed.


  • Eruption styles: Pacaya is a very complex volcano. Here is the GVP eruption history. The INSIVUMEH reference linked at the end of this post has more details.
  • Biggest recorded event: Several large eruptions (VEI 3) have occurred there, per the GVP website.

    Probably the worst eruption, in human terms, happened in 2010 when Pacaya went into VEI 3 “diva mode,” as you can see in parts of this video though not very clearly, because a tropical storm was moving through at the same time.

    It was a rough week.

  • Most recent eruption: Ongoing since 2015.


INSIVUMEH (Instituto Nacional de Sismologia, Vulcanología, Metereología e Hidrologia). Here is the February 20th update. (Spanish)

Their Twitter feed is very helpful, too, for both Pacaya and Fuego.

Washington VAAC issues ash advisories for all Guatemalan Volcanoes.

Edit, 8:25 p.m., Pacific: Just saw this impressive shot, posted with the hour:

Featured image: Jose de Jesus Churion Del/Shutterstock

AFP. 2021. Three volcanoes increase eruptive activity in Guatemala. (Spanish) Last accessed February 20, 2021.

INSIVUMEH. 2021. Pacaya. (Spanish) Last accessed February 20, 2021

Wikipedia (Spanish). 2021. Pacaya volcano.án_de_Pacaya Last accessed February 20, 2021.

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