During the late Pleistocene the ancestral edifice of Citlaltépetl volcano (also known as Pico de Orizaba) collapsed to form a clay-rich deposit that extends 85 km from its source, has a volume of 1.8 km3, and covers an area of 143 km2 east of the volcano. The deposit has clay content ranging from 10 to 16% and contains secondary alteration minerals such as smectite and kaolinite. The deposit's features suggest that it had an origin as a sector collapse of hydrothermally altered rock that transformed from a debris avalanche to a cohesive lahar very close to its source.
The presence of glacier ice and a hydrothermal system during late Pleistocene times apparently provided a source of pore water which enhanced the hydrothermal alteration of the summit of Citlaltépetl and was the origin of most of the water for the lahar. This deposit and several others suggest that glaciated volcanoes are sites where hydrothermal alteration and resulting cohesive lahars are most likely. Although cohesive lahars and debris avalanches both have origins as sector collapses, cohesive lahars are more mobile than similar-sized debris avalanches. Thus potential hazard of edifice collapse at glaciated volcanoes, especially those with large volumes of hydrothermally altered rock, includes the possibility of large-volume cohesive lahars.
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