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Volcán Ubinas, Arequipa, Perú, 2015-08-02, DD 50.JPG
Ubinas volcano, seen here in August 2015.
Highest point
Elevation 5,672 m (18,609 ft) [1][2]
Coordinates 16°21′18″S 70°54′11″W / 16.355°S 70.903°W / -16.355; -70.903Coordinates: 16°21′18″S 70°54′11″W / 16.355°S 70.903°W / -16.355; -70.903[1]
Ubinas is located in Peru

Ubinas is an active volcano in the Moquegua Region of southern Peru, close to Huaynaputina and not far from the city of Arequipa. Part of the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes, it reaches a height of 5,672 metres (18,609 ft) above sea level. The volcano's summit is cut by a 1.4-kilometre (0.87 mi) wide and 150-metre (490 ft) deep caldera, which itself contains a smaller crater. Below the summit, Ubinas has the shape of an upwards-steepening cone with a prominent notch on the southern side.

Ubinas is the most active volcano in Peru with a history of usually small- to moderate-sized explosive eruptions as well as larger eruptions such as in 1667, along with persistent degassing and ash emissions. Activity at the volcano commenced in the Pleistocene and in two phases led to the growth of the current mountain, among the recent eruptions are the 2006-2007 event which produced eruption columns and led to ash fall in the region, resulting in health issues and evacuations. The most recent activity occurred in 2013-2017 when a lava flow was emplaced inside the crater and further ash falls led to renewed evacuations of surrounding towns; in light of its activity, Ubinas is monitored by the Peruvian geological service INGEMMET which has published a volcano hazard map for Ubinas as well as a regular volcano activity report.

Name and mythology[edit]

In Quechua, uina means "to stuff", "to fill", and uiña is translated as "to grow", "to increase". In Aymara hupi means "weep" or "murmur"; hupina is the genitive of hupi.[3] Ubinas is also known as Uvillas or Uvinas.[1] Local inhabitants believed that Ubinas was infested by demons and the souls of people who had fallen from God.[4]

Geography and geomorphology[edit]

Ubinas caldera seen from above, with the crater and the notch in the southern rim clearly visible

Ubinas lies in the Ubinas District of the General Sánchez Cerro Province,[5] Moquegua Region[6] of Peru,[5] 60 kilometres (37 mi) east of Arequipa[7] in the Peruvian Western Cordillera.[8] Reaching an elevation of 5,672 metres (18,609 ft),[2] it is a conical,[9] truncated[10] volcano with upper slopes that reach angles of up to 45 degrees,[1] while the lower flanks are more gentle.[11] The southern flank is cut by a noticeable notch, which is probably not an eruption vent,[12] the upper sector of the volcano has a weathered appearance.[13] Glacial valleys such as the Ubinas and Para valleys,[11] cirques and moraines down to elevations of 4,000 metres (13,000 ft)[14] and at the foot of the volcano[15] indicate that glaciers developed on Ubinas during the last glacial maximum.[14] There are other volcanic cones in the region, all heavily eroded by past glaciations.[16]

The volcano rises 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) from a 65 square kilometres (25 sq mi) circular surface[7] at the margin of a high plateau,[8] which on the northern and eastern side of Ubinas is covered by volcanic ash and some lava flows.[12] A couple of lava domes crop out around the volcano and may be related to it,[11] the Ubinas and Para valleys border the volcano[17] in its southeastern sector; the differential elevation between these and the plateau is about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi).[18] The total volume of the mountain is estimated to be about 56 cubic kilometres (13 cu mi).[7]

The summit of the volcano is truncated by a 1.4-kilometre (0.87 mi) wide and 150-metre (490 ft) deep caldera[1] with an elliptical shape that was formed by collapses of the summit and explosive eruptions. The caldera walls were created from lava flows bearing traces of hydrothermal alteration, while the caldera floor is covered by lava flows and debris from explosive eruptions,[19] it contains one[18] or two[20] ash cones with a 400-metre (1,300 ft) wide and 300-metre (980 ft) deep, triangle-shaped crater.[18] Geophysical surveys have indicated the presence of an even larger buried caldera in Ubinas.[21]

Hydrology and human geography[edit]

In the 1970s,[20] the crater had an ephemeral crater lake that appeared after wet seasons;[1] another lake formed in 2016 after the crater floor was covered by the ongoing eruptions with impermeable material.[22] Presently, acid springs occur in the crater and their water is capable of corroding silicon after a few hours' exposure. Laguna Piscococha is located on the western foot of the volcano, while the Rio Para and Rio Sacuaya flow past its eastern and southern slopes respectively.[23] Other rivers on the slopes of Ubinas are the Quebrada Infiernillo on the southeastern, Rio Volcanmayo on the southern and Quebrada Postcone on the southwestern flank, the Rio Sacuaya becomes the Rio Ubinas and after confluence with the Rio Para ends in the Rio Tambo[24] which eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean;[25] the Rio Ubinas valley is densely inhabited.[26]

Ubinas is part of the Salinas y Aguada Blanca National Reserve of Peru, which was founded in 1979.[27] The towns of Querapi, Tonohaya, Ubinas and Viscachani lie south, southeast, southeast and northwest of the volcano, respectively,[23][28] and other towns in the area include Anascapa, Escacha, Huarina, Huatahua, Sacuaya, San Miguel and Tonohaya;[29] in total about 5,000 people live within 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) from the volcano.[26] Agriculture and animal husbandry are the most important economic activities in these towns, with agriculture prevailing at lower elevations. Water reservoirs and mining projects also exist in the wider region.[30] Paved[31] roads run along the northern and southern-southwestern foot of Ubinas,[23] connecting towns close to the volcano to Arequipa.[31]


Map of tectonic plates of South America

Off the western coast of South America, the Nazca Plate subducts beneath the South American Plate[2] at a rate of 7–9 centimetres per year (2.8–3.5 in/year)[32] in the Peru-Chile Trench.[33] This subduction process is responsible for the formation of the Andes as well as the Altiplano-Puna, which took place within the last 25 million years, as well as for volcanism and earthquakes.[34]

Peruvian volcanoes[35] including Ubinas belong to the Central Volcanic Zone of the Andes,[2] the 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) long[36] Central Volcanic Zone together with the Northern Volcanic Zone and the Southern Volcanic Zone is one out of three volcanic belts in the Andes;[20] it is 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) long[36] and of its various volcanoes about 69 have been active in the Holocene.[36]

Peruvian volcanoes include both stratovolcanoes which are typically active for less than 500,000 years, long-lived clusters of lava domes[2] and monogenetic volcanic fields.[35] Historical eruptions have been recorded at seven of these volcanic systems, El Misti, Huaynaputina, Sabancaya, Ticsani, Tutupaca, Ubinas and Yucamane, while Ampato, Casiri, Chachani, Coropuna and Sara Sara are dormant.[2] The formation of their magmas is caused by the dehydration of the down-going slab and the melting of the mantle; the so formed magmas often undergo fractional crystallization and absorb crustal material.[37] The 1600 eruption of Huaynaputina had an enormous impact, including a cold summer in the northern hemisphere.[38]

Ubinas together with Ticsani and Huaynaputina[34] forms a group of volcanoes that extend in north-south direction[1] behind the main volcanic arc and share a common geochemical and tectonic signature,[34] the latter of which is reflected by the existence of a graben occupied by the Rio Tambo and whose marginal faults are the sites of the volcanic vents.[39] The magmas erupted by all three volcanoes appears to originate in a common magma chamber at 20–35 kilometres (12–22 mi) depth, with seismic activity localized along the margins of the chamber.[40] Aside from this deep reservoir, Ubinas also has a shallower magma chamber at 4–7 kilometres (2.5–4.3 mi) depth.[41] An underground magmatic connection between Ubinas and Huaynaputina was postulated already by Antonio Vázquez de Espinosa after the 1600 eruption of the latter volcano.[42]

The basement of Ubinas consists of volcanic rocks of different ages,[7] the oldest volcanic rocks of the Matalaque Volcanics are of Upper Cretaceous and crop out east and southeast of Ubinas, far away from the volcano. Most of the volcanics in proximity of Ubinas are the younger, Eocene-to-Oligocene Tacaza Group and the more restricted Miocene-Pliocene Barroso Group[19] which directly underlies the Ubinas mountain.[7] Even older basement rocks include Paleoproterozoic plutons and the sedimentary Yura Group of Jurassic-Cretaceous age.[34] A depression, whose margin is cut by landslide scars, cuts into the basement southeast of Ubinas and is occupied by the Ubinas valley.[7] Faults cut across the volcano and create unstable areas especially in its southern sector.[43]

A debris avalanche on the southeastern flank has reached a distance of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) from the volcano[1] and has left a collapse scar that is drained by the Volcanmayo River.[19] This collapse took place early in the history of the volcano and removed a volume of about 2.8 cubic kilometres (0.67 cu mi) rocks from the mountain[44] and underlying basement.[45] Additional collapses have occurred during the Holocene, including one 1 cubic kilometre (0.24 cu mi) collapse that has left a hummocky deposit on the southern flank.[46] The sloping terrain that Ubinas is built on predisposes the mountain to south-directed landslides; future collapses in that direction are possible,[47] with the heavily fractured southern flank of the caldera particularly at risk.[48]


Rocks on Ubinas have compositions ranging from basaltic andesite to rhyolite, with andesite and dacite being the dominant components of the volcano. The volcanic rocks define a potassium-rich calc-alkaline suite.[49] Assimilation of crustal material and fractional crystallization are involved in the genesis of this magma suite.[43]

There is a trend of more recent volcanic events producing more diverse rocks than the early eruptions,[50] probably owing to a change in the magma supply regime from steady before 25,000 years ago to more irregular after that time[51] with a generally higher magma supply.[52] Otherwise, the magma supply rate at Ubinas amounts to about 0.18–0.13 cubic kilometres per millennium (0.043–0.031 cu mi/ka), with an average rate of 0.15 cubic kilometres per millennium (0.036 cu mi/ka).[53]

Climate and vegetation[edit]

The climate of the area varies depending on elevation, the summit of Ubinas has a cold climate with temperatures frequently falling below 0 °C (32 °F); at lower elevations temperatures can exceed 18 °C (64 °F) during daytime but night frosts are still possible. The region is overall arid, but during the summer wet season rainfall can cause landslides at lower elevation, while the upper parts of the volcano including the caldera can receive a snow cover.[25] Weather data are available for the town of Ubinas at 3,200 metres (10,500 ft) elevation: The average temperature is 11–9 °C (52–48 °F) and the average annual precipitation is about 300–360 millimetres per year (12–14 in/year).[54] The present-day snowline exceeds 5,400 metres (17,700 ft) elevation but during the Pleistocene it descended to about 4,900 metres (16,100 ft).[55]

Vegetation at 3,400–4,200 metres (11,200–13,800 ft) elevation consists of grassland, bushes and low trees forming a shrub vegetation in valleys. Farther up between 4,200–4,700 metres (13,800–15,400 ft) lies a vegetation form called pajonal which also consists of shrubs and grasses made up by high Andean vegetation. Small lakes and waterlogged soil contains wetlands called bofedales, both these and the pajonal also features cushion plants.[54] The upper sector of Ubinas is vegetation-free.[25] Animal species are mainly described for the National Reserve and include various birds and camelids.[27]

Eruptive history[edit]

Ubinas started to develop in the middle and late Pleistocene,[7] the oldest pre-Ubinas volcanics crop out north and south of the volcano[19] and include the volcanoes Parhuane Grande and Parhuane Chico directly north of Ubinas.[56] Volcanic activity started after a change in regional tectonics, which may have triggered the formation of magma chambers,[57] the volcano developed in two phases, Ubinas I and Ubinas II:[1] Ubinas I is represented by lava flows at the foot of the volcano and debris and ignimbrite deposits in the south and southeast of Ubinas, and it forms a 600 metres (2,000 ft) high shield.[19] It was later cut on its southern side by a debris avalanche[44] that probably occurred over 376,000 years ago,[45] the last activity of Ubinas I generated over four units of pyroclastic flows with a total volume of about 1.8 cubic kilometres (0.43 cu mi) and possibly an old caldera before 261,000 ± 10,000 years ago.[58]

Ubinas II is steeper and rises 900 metres (3,000 ft) from above the Ubinas I shield.[19] It consists mainly of 20–40 metres (66–131 ft) thick lava flows but also several lava domes with accompanying block-and-ash flows, all of which were emplaced between 261,000 ± 10,000 and 142,000 ± 30,000 years ago. Afterwards, lack of volcanic outcrops suggests a period of dormancy lasting until 25,000 - 14,700 years ago during which glaciation took place on the volcano.[14]

25,000-21,000 years ago volcanic activity restarted and led to the emplacement of ash flows, pumice layers and tephra from phreatomagmatic and explosive eruptions, with deposits having thicknesses of about 2–4 metres (6 ft 7 in–13 ft 1 in) in many places.[14] The total volume of each eruption deposit ranges 1–2 cubic kilometres (0.24–0.48 cu mi) and they crop out as far as 35 kilometres (22 mi) from Ubinas.[46] It is likely that the summit caldera formed during this time period, before 9,700 years ago.[14]

Over the last 7,500 years, volcanic activity has been characterized mainly by various kinds of explosive eruptions, these eruptions have expelled less than 0.1 cubic kilometres (0.024 cu mi) of material each time and left widespread deposits of ash, volcanic blocks and lapilli. A Plinian eruption occurred 980 ± 60 years before present and expelled 2.8 cubic kilometres (0.67 cu mi) of pumice and tephra, which has formed a deposit with five separate layers of pumice, ash and lapilli.[46]

Additional eruptions identified by tephrochronology took place over 7,480 ± 40, 11,280 ± 70, 11,480 ± 220 and 14,690 ± 200 years ago, yielding scoria and pyroclastic flows.[59] The various explosive eruptions of Ubinas have deposited material as far as 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) away from the volcano.[60] Landslides also took place in this time, including the 1 cubic kilometre (0.24 cu mi) collapse more than 3,670 ± 60 years ago.[46]


Ubinas is the most active volcano of Peru, with small explosive eruptions ongoing since the 16th century[1] at an average rate of one eruption every twenty to thirty-three years.[60] Events are recorded from 1550, 1599, 1600,[a] 1662, 1667,[b] 1677, 1778, 1784, 1826, 1830, 1862, 1865, 1867, 1869, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1923, 1936, 1937, 1951, 1956, 1969, 1996, 2006-2009, 2013-2016 and 2016-2017.[29][1]

Most of these eruptions consisted in emissions of ash and gas, sometimes accompanied by explosions, while more intense events such as the 1667 also produced scoria falls and pyroclastic flows,[62] the 1667 eruption was the largest in historical time, producing about 0.1 cubic kilometres (0.024 cu mi) of scoria[28] and reaching a volcanic explosivity index of 3.[62] These eruptions have damaged communities around the volcano and occasionally caused epidemics[60] and human and cattle fatalities resulting from the ingestion of ash.[28]

2006 - 2007 eruption[edit]

Ash clouds erupted from Ubinas during the 2006 eruption

The first episode of the 2006-2007 eruption sequence involved the ejection of large volcanic bombs at high speed and the emission of small quantities of ash.[63] Gas and ash columns were emitted between April and October of 2006 and reached heights of about 3–4 kilometres (1.9–2.5 mi).[64] Volcanically-induced melting of snow that had fallen on the summit during the 2006-2007 summer induced a mudflow in January 2007 that descended the Rio Ubinas valley.[65] Subsequently volcanic activity decreased again until late 2009[64] and consisted of degassing and of Vulcanian eruptions,[66] this eruption was probably triggered by the entry of fresh magma in the magma plumbing system and the subsequent interaction of ascending magmas with the hydrothermal system of Ubinas.[67]

Before the 2006 event, Ubinas despite is record of activity was essentially unmonitored, the inhabitants of the area largely unaware of volcanic hazards and there were no emergency plans for future eruptions available;[28] a "Scientific Committee" was formed on the 30th March 2006 to remedy these issues.[68] A region of about 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) was hit by the effects of the eruption:[18] The ash fall from the eruption caused health problems and disrupted pastures and agriculture in the region around the volcano, resulting in about 1,000,000 United States dollars of damage[69] and the flight of local residents to Arequipa and Moquegua.[68] One village on the southern flank was temporarily evacuated to a location with shelters farther south from the volcano,[70] and a proposal to permanently resettle people from the high hazard areas around Ubinas is pending as of 2010.[71] Furthermore, Lake Salinas, an important source of water in the region, was threatened by the eruption.[72]

2013 - 2014 eruption[edit]

A new eruption period started on the 2nd September 2013 with a phreatic explosion, which was followed with more events in the subsequent few days. Strong but variable seismic activity, the observation of thermal anomalies in satellite images and the exhalation of gases characterized this eruption period. Lava effusion began in the summit crater in 2014 and increased after the 2014 Iquique earthquake, culminating in an explosive eruption on the 19th April 2014. Volcanic activity decreased afterwards until September 2014,[73] the eruptions were accompanied by earthquakes, rumbling noises from the volcano, ash fall and the forceful ejection of large blocks.[74] In light of the volcanic activity, Peru declared a state of emergency in August 2013[75] and evacuated at least one village at Ubinas,[74] whose population returned in 2016.[76]

After these events, in 2015-2017 the volcano often persistently released ash and gas, accompanied by earthquakes[1] as well as occasional explosions and eruption columns;[77] in April 2015 for example activity at Ubinas led to the declaration of emergency for the districts surrounding the volcano,[78] then in September of the same year an eruption generated a 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) high eruption column and led to ash fall in the region, leading to evacuations.[79]

Other patterns of activity[edit]

Aside from regular eruptions, there are fumarolic-seismic events such as in 1995-1996 when sulfur dioxide and water vapour emitted at temperatures of up to 440 °C (824 °F) formed clouds[60] that rose over 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) above the crater,[23] and persistent smoking.[80] Likewise, lahars which have damaged fields, irrigation canals and paths have been recorded,[6] such as the 2016 lahars caused by early 2016 precipitation events which mobilized ash that had fallen over the previous years.[81] These lahars destroyed local water supplies and left the Matalaque and Ubinas districts temporarily isolated.[82]

Hazards and management[edit]

Hazards stemming from volcanic activity at Ubinas are mainly the fallout from explosive eruptions, lahars of different origins, large landslides that can generate debris flows and pyroclastic flows.[7] Small explosive eruptions are the most likely occurrences at Ubinas, while large Plinian eruptions are considerably less likely,[52] the area of the cone itself is the area most likely to be affected by volcanic phenomena, while pyroclastic flows and lahars are a danger for the valleys that drain Ubinas in southeastern direction and landslides are hazardous for an area of the southern flank.[24] The town closest to the volcano is only 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) away from Ubinas.[83] Large Plinian eruptions could have effects on the city of Arequipa.[7]

The Peruvian INGEMMET geological service monitors the seismic activity, any deformation of the mountain, hot spring and gas composition at Ubinas[84] and regularly publishes a report about the activity of the volcano.[85] Hazard maps were created already during the 2006 eruptive event to show the relative risk in various locations around the volcano,[86] which is graded in a three-zone scheme with one high-risk, one intermediate-risk and one low-risk zone; in addition, a contingency map was created to show and explain the procedures to follow in case of various eruption scenarios. Both maps were widely disseminated after publication to aid in the response to future eruptions.[87]

Fumarolic and geothermal system[edit]

Fumaroles are active at the bottom of the inner crater,[19] with about five separate fumarole areas identified within the crater before the 2006 eruption. In 1997, a gas cloud from the fumaroles filled the entire caldera during nights.[20] Fumarolic activity and degassing is limited to the crater; there is no evidence of such gas exhalations elsewhere on the volcano.[88] Ubinas is a major volcanic source of volcanic carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere of Earth, with Ubinas producing SO
at a rate of about 11.4 ± 3.9 kilograms per second (1,510 ± 520 lb/min).[89] Reportedly, the sound of the fumaroles can be heard from the village of Ubinas.[90]

The fumaroles along with the spontaneous potential of Ubinas indicate that the volcano hosts an active hydrothermal system[23] 1–3 kilometres (0.62–1.86 mi) below the caldera.[67] Two[91] hot springs are found on the southeastern slopes of Ubinas;[92] these are known as Ubinas Termal and Ubinas Fria and both lie at 3,267 metres (10,719 ft) elevation, the waters flowing out of the springs have temperatures of 29.1 °C (84.4 °F) and 13.6 °C (56.5 °F) respectively.[93] The composition of the waters in these springs indicate that they originate from the mixing of deep saline water, fresh water and volcanic fluids,[94] these hot springs and others in the region are considered to be part of a geothermal province known as "Ubinas" which also includes El Misti,[95] and which deliver large amounts of dissolved minerals including arsenic to the local rivers.[96]

Human use[edit]

Sulfur deposits in the crater of Ubinas were considered among the most important sulfur deposits in Peru[97] and were mined in the 19th century.[98] Ubinas has been considered a potential place for geothermal energy production.[90]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In addition, the 1600 Huaynaputina eruption was at first localized in Ubinas before its actual vent was identified.[42]
  2. ^ An eruption of Huaynaputina reported for that year may actually be an event at Ubinas[61]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Ubinas". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Thouret et al. 2005, p. 558.
  3. ^ Soldán, Mariano Felipe Paz (1877). Diccionario geográfico estadíco del Perú: contiene ademas la etimologia aymara y quechua de las principales poblaciones, lagos, rios, cerros, etc., etc (in Spanish). Imprenta del Estado. 
  4. ^ Lizana, J. Carlos Flores (1987). "El santuario de Qoyllur- rit'i (una peregrinación andina). Expresión y germen de organización campesina". Anthropologica (in Spanish). 5 (5): 135. ISSN 0254-9212. 
  5. ^ a b Rivera Porras, Mariño Salazar & Thouret 2011, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Mariño Salazar et al. 2017, p. 1.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thouret et al. 2005, p. 559.
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  18. ^ a b c d Coppola et al. 2015, p. 200.
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  22. ^ Carrasco, Benjamin (11 March 2016). "Laguna cratérica del volcán Ubinas es resultado de lluvias ocurridas en las últimas semanas". INGEMMET (in Spanish). Retrieved 5 June 2018. 
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