Pacaya is an active complex volcano that is located in Guatemala and is part of the Central American Volcanic Arc. It reaches and elevation of 8,373 feet and is located on a volcanic caldera, along with Lago de Amatitlán, that has been the cause of at least nine large explosive eruptions in the past 300,000 years. Its edifice collapsed about 1,100 years ago, producing a landslide that traveled sixteen miles and left a crater where the current cone is still forming. The active magma chamber below the volcano is thought to capable of causing more instability that could produce future landslides.

Pacaya has been one of Central America’s most active volcanoes in the past five hundred years, erupting at least twenty-three times since the Spanish conquest of the area. Past eruptions include the 1998 eruption that produced large ash plumes and the 2006 eruption, which produced slow lava rivers that increased tourism in the area. The nearly constant activity of the volcano drew many visitors to the area, which was designated as Pacaya National Park in order to manage the influx of tourism.

In 2010, the area experienced several earthquakes and Pacaya erupted, producing strong ash and debris columns. Many Guatemalan cities were covered in ash, causing the National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction to issue a red alert for cities near the volcano, some of which were evacuated. Rainfall caused dangerous lahars and flooding that affected the entire country. Pacaya began erupting again in 2013.

Image Caption: Ashy eruption at Pacaya, shortly after a very large earthquake affected the area in 1976. Credit: Worldtraveller/Wikipedia