VHP Photo Glossary: Lahar

Lahar rushes down a confined river channel, Guatamala

Photograph by J.N. Marso on 14 August 1989


Lahar is an Indonesian word for a rapidly flowing mixture of rock debris and water that originates on the slopes of a volcano. Lahars are also referred to as volcanic mudflows or debris flows. They form in a variety of ways, chiefly by the rapid melting of snow and ice by pyroclastic flows, intense rainfall on loose volcanic rock deposits, breakout of a lake dammed by volcanic deposits, and as a consequence of debris avalanches.

A small lahar triggered by rainfall rushes down the Nima II River near the town of El Palmar in Guatemala in the image shown here. The lahar developed on the slopes of Santiaguito volcano.

More about lahars