Lahar reconstruction on the slopes of Volcán Popocatépetl (México)

Lahars are volcanic mudflows consisting of a mixture of eruptive material, loose sediments and water. They typically occur when volcanic activity suddenly melts up snow, ice or firn above the snowline and may easily reach speeds trespassing 100 km/h. On the slopes of the active Volcán Popocatépetl (México), lahars have repeatedly been reported in the recent past, namely in April 1995, July 1997 and January 2001, running down Huiloac Gorge and reaching the settlements Santiago Xalitzintla and San Nicolás de los Ranchos located some 21 km away from the volcano. As a result of the existing hazard and damage potential there is a need to obtain detailed information on previous results (frequency, magnitude, flow heights or flow speeds) in order to realistically estimate the reach and flow paths of potential future events. Thanks to the fact that the slopes of Volcán Popocatépetl as well as its lahar channels are covered with spruce and pine trees (Picea religiosa, Pinus hartwegii, Pinus ayacahuite, Pinus montezumae), dendrogeomorphological methods can be used to identify and date signs (injuries, buried stem bases, denudated roots, tilted stem axes) of previous lahar activity. Fieldwork is scheduled for February 2008 and first results can be expected for mid 2008.


Contractor: Fonds de Recherche du Centenaire de l’Université de Fribourg

Collaboration: Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM), Universidad Nacíonal Autónoma de México (UNAM)

Project duration: November 2007 – May 2008

Contact: Markus Stoffel


Bollschweiler, M., Stoffel, M., Vázquez-Selem, L., Palacios, D. (2010): Tree-ring reconstruction of past lahar activity at Popocatépetl, Mexico. The Holocene 20: 265274. [PDF]

Stoffel, M., Bollschweiler, M. (2008): Tree-ring based lahar reconstruction on the slopes of Volcán Popocatépetl (México). Geophysical Research Abstract 10: 01807. [PDF]