Volcanoes of east-central Baja California

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Volcanoes of the east-central Baja California Peninsula. Landsat 7 image, 2000

The Volcanoes of east-central Baja California are located on the Baja California Peninsula near the Gulf of California, in the state of Baja California Sur, in Mexico.

La Reforma Caldera[edit]

The large La Reforma Caldera is located on the eastern coast of the central Baja California Peninsula, facing the Gulf of California, near Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur. The outer rim of the caldera is defined by dark-colored rocks made out of very fluid lava. A dome of rock in the center of the caldera is a resurgent dome. A resurgent dome is formed as the floor of the caldera is heaved upward by the movement of magma below ground. The lavas surrounding the caldera date to about 1 million years ago.

Tres Virgenes[edit]

The Tres Virgenes, a line of three connected volcanoes, collectively known by that name, are west of La Reforma Caldera. La Vírgen, in the southwest, El Azufre in the center, and El Viejo in the northeast. The volcanoes get larger and younger from northeast to southwest. As recently as 6,500 years ago, La Vírgen experienced a Plinian eruption — a huge, explosive event that produces an enormous column of volcanic rock fragments and gas that reaches into the stratosphere. The eruption produced a column that reached at least 18 kilometers into the air and deposited ash and rock fragments over 500 square kilometers. In later stages of the eruption, pyroclastic flows (pinkish rocks) and lahars (mudflows, grayish rocks) from El Azufre Volcano paved the plain to the north all the way to the Gulf of California.

El Aguajito Caldera[edit]

El Aguajito Caldera is north-northeast of Las Tres Vírgenes, where pyroclastic rocks and lava date to between 500,000-800,000 years old. The rim of the caldera is not continuously exposed at the surface, but the rocks have a subtle circular arrangement. Like La Reforma, the northern rim of El Aguajito follows the coastline. The flat-looking rock formations, carved by arroyos, are lava domes, hardened mounds of slow-moving, sticky lava. The topography in the southern part of the caldera is more rugged and irregular. The rocks are a combination of pyroclastic deposits and a slightly more fluid lava than what erupted near the coast.


The arid climate of Baja California limits the amount of vegetation covering the ground and allows the dramatic volcanic features of the landscape to stand out in this natural-color image from the Landsat 7 satellite on October 5, 2000. The landscape is a patchwork of lava flows and the hardened remains of pyroclastic flows — hot clouds of volcanic ash, dust, and rock fragments that race down the slopes of a volcano like an avalanche.

See also[edit]

References and further reading[edit]

  • Volcanoes on Baja California Peninsula at NASA's Earth Observatory. This article incorporates text from this public domain NASA website. The NASA article includes a link to a high-definition version of the image presented here.
  • Capra, L., Macias, J.L., Espindola, J.M., and Sieb, C. (1998). Holocene plinian eruption of La Virgen volcano, Baja California, Mexico. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 80, 239–266.
  • Hausback, B.P., Stock, J.M., Dmochowski, J.E., Farrar, C.D., Fowler, S.J., Sutter, K., Verke, P., and Winant, C.D. (2000). To be or not to be a caldera—La Reforma caldera, Baja California Sur, Mexico.Geological Society of America, Abstracts with Programs 32(7), A502.
  • Garduño-Monroy, V.H., Vargas-Ledezma, H., Campos-Enriquez, J.O. (1993). Preliminary geologic studies of Sierra El Aguajito, Baja California, Mexico: a resurgent-type caldera. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research 59, 47-58.