The Guatemalan volcanic front, which trends WNW from MExico to El Salvador, includes at least 15 volcanoes. The volcanoes rise 2,000 to 4,000 m above the coastal plain to the south and 500 to 2,000 m above the highlands to the north. The Pacific coastal plain occupies a strip about 40 to 50 km wide between the volcanic highlands and the Pacific Ocean.
Several Guatemalan volcanoes have erupted during historic time (since about 1540), and within the 20th century Santiaguito, Fuego, and Pacaya volcanoes have erupted repeatedly. Eruptions of these volcanoes have produced lava flows (Eichelberger and McGetchin, 1976), tephra falls (Rose et al., 1977; Williams and Self, 1983), pyroclastic flows (Davies et al., 1978; Rose et al., 1977), and lahars (Bonis and Salazar, 1973; Vessell and Davies, 1981). Some of these events have resulted in fatalities and extensive property damage.
In the aftermath of the 1980 eruptions of Mount St. Helens, there has been increasing awareness of hazards from volcanic edifice collapse events. During historic time, no examples of large edifice collapses of Guatemalan volcanoes are known. Such events are catastrophic when they occur, however, and have resulted in more than 20,000 fatalities world wide in the past 400 years (Siebert et al., 1987). This study examines the characteristics, origin, distribution, and frequency of prehistoric edifice collapse events in Guatemala and provides a regional assessment of hazards from such events there.
(Vallance et al., 1988)