Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 9, 699–712, 2009
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-9-699-2009
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 9, 699–712, 2009
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-9-699-2009

  08 May 2009

08 May 2009

Survey and assessment of post volcanic activities of a young caldera lake, Lake Cuicocha, Ecuador

G. Gunkel1, C. Beulker1, B. Grupe2, and F. Viteri3 G. Gunkel et al.
  • 1Berlin University of Technology, Dept. of Water Quality Control, Germany
  • 2Berlin University of Technology, Dept. of Water, Environment and Marine Science and Technology (VWS), Germany
  • 3Universidad Central, Faculty of Geology, Mines, Petrol and Environmental Science, Quito, Ecuador

Abstract. Cuicocha is a young volcano adjacent to the inactive Pleistocene Cotacachi volcano complex, located in the western cordilleras of the Ecuadorian Andes. A series of eruptions with intensive ash emission and collapse of the caldera occurred around 4500–3000 y BP. A crater 3.2 km in diameter and a maximum depth of 450 m was formed. Further eruptions of the volcano occurred 1300 y BP and formed four smaller domes within the caldera. Over the last few hundred years, a caldera lake has developed, with a maximum depth of 148 m. The lake water is characterized by sodium carbonate with elevated concentrations of manganese, calcium and chloride. Nowadays, an emission of gases, mainly CO2, and an input of warm spring water occur in Lake Cuicocha. The zone of high activity is in the western basin of the lake at a depth of 78 m, and continuous gas emissions with sediment resuspension were observed using sonar. In the hypolimnion of the lake, CO2 accumulation occurs up to 0.2% saturation, but the risk of a limnic eruption can be excluded at present. The lake possesses monomictic stratification behaviour, and during overturn an intensive gas exchange with the atmosphere occurs. Investigations concerning the sedimentation processes of the lake suggest only a thin sediment layer of up to 10–20 cm in the deeper lake basin; in the western bay, in the area of gas emissions, the lake bottom is partly depleted of sediment in the form of holes, and no lake colmation exists. Decreases in the lake water level of about 30 cm y−1 indicate a percolation of water into fractures and fissures of the volcano, triggered by a nearby earthquake in 1987.

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