From June 7 to 12, the first magma reached the surface of Mount Pinatubo. Because it had lost most of the gas contained in it on the way to the surface (like a bottle of soda pop gone flat), the magma oozed out to form a lava dome but did not cause an explosive eruption. However, on June 12 (Philippine Independence Day), millions of cubic yards of gas-charged magma reached the surface and exploded in the reawakening volcano's first spectacular eruption.
When even more highly gas charged magma reached Pinatubo's surface on June 15, the volcano exploded in a cataclysmic eruption that ejected more than 1 cubic mile (5 cubic kilometers) of material. The ash cloud from this climactic eruption rose 22 miles (35 kilometers) into the air. At lower altitudes, the ash was blown in all directions by the intense cyclonic winds of a coincidentally occurring typhoon, and winds at higher altitudes blew the ash southwestward. A blanket of volcanic ash (sand- and silt-size grains of volcanic minerals and glass) and larger pumice lapilli (frothy pebbles) blanketed the countryside. Fine ash fell as far away as the Indian Ocean, and satellites tracked the ash cloud several times around the globe.
Huge avalanches of searing hot ash, gas, and pumice fragments (pyroclastic flows) roared down the flanks of Mount Pinatubo, filling once-deep valleys with fresh volcanic deposits as much as 660 feet (200 meters) thick. The eruption removed so much magma and rock from below the volcano that the summit collapsed to form a large volcanic depression (caldera) 1.6 miles (2.5 kilometers) across.
Much weaker but still spectacular eruptions of ash occurred occassionally through early September 1991. From July to October 1992, a lava dome was built in the new caldera as fresh magma rose from deep beneath Pinatubo.