Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network

All reports of volcanic activity published by the Smithsonian since 1968 are available through a monthly table of contents or by searching for a specific volcano. Until 1975, reports were issued for individual volcanoes as information became available; these have been organized by month for convenience. Later publications were done in a monthly newsletter format. Links go to the profile page for each volcano with the Bulletin tab open.

Information is preliminary at time of publication and subject to change.

 Natural Science Event Bulletin - Volume 02, Number 04 (April 1977)

Managing Editor: David Squires

Aira (Japan)

Only four explosions observed in March

Concepcion (Nicaragua)

Eruption on 4 April followed by weeks of frequent small ash explosions

Fournaise, Piton de la (France)

Summary of first flank activity since 1800

Fuego (Guatemala)

Small ash eruption on 19 April

Fukutoku-Oka-no-Ba (Japan)

Water discoloration observed during August 1976

Kadovar (Papua New Guinea)

Thermal activity stabilizes

Karthala (Comoros)

Lava extrusion during 5-10 April eruption destroys three villages

Kilauea (United States)

Monitoring data from 8-9 February magma intrusion event

Krafla (Iceland)

Fissure eruption on 27 April causes ashfall and lava flows

Manam (Papua New Guinea)

Minor eruptive activity from two craters since mid-February

Minami-Hiyoshi (Japan)

Zone of discolored water seen on 27-28 March

Nyiragongo (DR Congo)

Photographs of 10 January lavas

Pavlof (United States)

Ashfall darkens snow near the summit on 22 March

Purace (Colombia)

Another ash emission seen on 25 March

Soufriere Guadeloupe (France)

Decreased seismic and surface activity

Ukinrek Maars (United States)

Two new maars formed NW of Peulik volcano after 30 March

White Island (New Zealand)

Ash eruptions continuing in late March-early April

Aira (Japan) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



31.593°N, 130.657°E; summit elev. 1117 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Only four explosions observed in March

A slight air shock from the 15 March explosion was felt at the Kagoshima Meteorological Observatory.

Geologic Background. The Aira caldera in the northern half of Kagoshima Bay contains the post-caldera Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan's most active. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow accompanied formation of the 17 x 23 km caldera about 22,000 years ago. The smaller Wakamiko caldera was formed during the early Holocene in the NE corner of the Aira caldera, along with several post-caldera cones. The construction of Sakurajima began about 13,000 years ago on the southern rim of Aira caldera and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kitadake summit cone ended about 4850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minamidake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.

Information Contacts: JMA, Tokyo.

Concepcion (Nicaragua) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



11.538°N, 85.622°W; summit elev. 1700 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Eruption on 4 April followed by weeks of frequent small ash explosions

A 1-2-minute eruption from Concepción, which lit the sky "like daylight," began at 2326 on 4 April. Earthquakes were felt at about 1.5 hours and at 2 minutes prior to the eruption (2156 and 2324 on 4 April) and about 9 hours afterwards (0822 on 5 April). During the next several weeks, frequent small ash eruptions, separated by periods of gas emission, caused light ashfalls on Isla de Ometepe.

Sixteen separate explosions, some sending incandescent ash more than 1500 m above the summit, occurred between the early afternoon of 29 April and the morning of 1 May. A burst of seismicity accompanied each explosion. Ash fell intermittently at Rivas, 25 km SW of Concepción. A few minor ash clouds were reported on 3 May.

Local seismicity had begun to increase in October 1976 with many events occurring in December 1976 and March 1977. Between 1 and 27 April, 145 local earthquakes and many brief (a few seconds to a few minutes) periods of low-frequency tremors were recorded.

Geologic Background. Volcán Concepción is one of Nicaragua's highest and most active volcanoes. The symmetrical basaltic-to-dacitic stratovolcano forms the NW half of the dumbbell-shaped island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua and is connected to neighboring Madera volcano by a narrow isthmus. A steep-walled summit crater is 250 m deep and has a higher western rim. N-S-trending fractures on the flanks have produced chains of spatter cones, cinder cones, lava domes, and maars located on the NW, NE, SE, and southern sides extending in some cases down to Lake Nicaragua. Concepción was constructed above a basement of lake sediments, and the modern cone grew above a largely buried caldera, a small remnant of which forms a break in slope about halfway up the N flank. Frequent explosive eruptions during the past half century have increased the height of the summit significantly above that shown on current topographic maps and have kept the upper part of the volcano unvegetated.

Information Contacts: D. Harlow, USGS, Menlo Park, CA; A. Aburto Q., Instituto de Investigaciones Sísmicas.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report

Piton de la Fournaise


21.244°S, 55.708°E; summit elev. 2632 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Summary of first flank activity since 1800

A new eruption of Piton de la Fournaise included its first flank activity since 1800. The following is a summary of events.

[24] March: Four fissures opened at 2,000 m altitude on the SE flank of the main crater (Dolomieu) and emitted lava for half a day.

4 April: Felt tremors began.

5 April: At 1700 a 500-m fissure opened at 1,900 m altitude in the NE quarter of the caldera (figure 1 and table 1) and extruded lava until the morning of 7 April.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Map of the fissures and lava flows at Piton de la Fournaise, 5-16 April 1977. The number beside each flow represents the date (in April) on which extrusion began. Vents 8, 9A, and 9B form a continuous fissure, and flows 8 and 9B overlap for most of their lengths. Courtesy of Maurice Krafft.

Table 1. April 1977 lava flows at Piton de la Fournaise and their durations of extrusion. Flow numbers are from figure 1. Dates are separated from start and stop times by colons.

Flow Start Stop
5 05 April : 1700 07 April : 1200
8 08 April : 1900 09 April : 1000
8 12 April : 1400 12 April : 2400
9A 09 April : 0700 09 April : 1200
9B 09 April : 0930 10 April : 1000
9B 13 April : 0100 16 April : 1200
11A 11 April : 1200 11 April : 1800
11B 11 April : 1630 11 April : 2100

8 April: At 1900 an explosion was heard and a fissure opened at 1,300 m altitude on the N flank, producing lava fountains, gas, and a lava flow. The flow ceased 500 m from the village of Boisblanc during the night of 9 April.

9 April: A new fissure formed at 0700 near the 8 April fissure, extruding a lava flow that reached 700 m altitude. At 1100 another fissure opened (3 km N of the two previous ones) at 600 m altitude, from which a 50-m-wide flow moved during the night through the village of Sainte Rose, destroying 12 houses (figure 2). It widened to 250 m and reached the sea between 0230 and 0300 on 10 April.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Map of lava flows from Piton de la Fournaise through the village of Piton Ste. Rose, April 1977. Courtesy of Maurice Krafft.

11 April: A new fissure opened 500 m N of Sainte Rose but emitted only gas. During the afternoon, lava flowed towards the sea from the caldera (L'Enclos) [see 2:5].

12 April: Earlier flows stopped, but new activity, lasting from afternoon until about midnight, began at 1,500 m altitude above Boisblanc, near the 8-9 April eruption sites.

13 April: Lava again flowed from the NE quarter of the caldera during the morning [but see 2:5]. Lava extrusion resumed at 0100 from the fissure that had opened 9 April above Sainte Rose. The new flow reached the village at 1830, destroyed 21 houses and a church (figures 3 and 4), and entered the sea at 2200. About 1,000 people were evacuated, but no casualties were reported.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Oblique airphoto of Piton de la Fournaise looking SW. Flow 9B (of 9 April 1977) can be seen reaching the sea at right, and the caldera is at left. Photo by Maurice Krafft.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. Destruction, by the lava flow at left from Piton de la Fournaise, of the church of Piton Ste. Rose, April 1977. Photo by Maurice Krafft.

Geologic Background. The massive Piton de la Fournaise basaltic shield volcano on the French island of Réunion in the western Indian Ocean is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Much of its more than 530,000-year history overlapped with eruptions of the deeply dissected Piton des Neiges shield volcano to the NW. Three calderas formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping of the volcano. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the floor of the calderas and their outer flanks. Most historical eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest caldera, which is 8 km wide and breached to below sea level on the eastern side. More than 150 eruptions, most of which have produced fluid basaltic lava flows, have occurred since the 17th century. Only six eruptions, in 1708, 1774, 1776, 1800, 1977, and 1986, have originated from fissures on the outer flanks of the caldera. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory, one of several operated by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, monitors this very active volcano.

Information Contacts: M. Krafft, Ensisheim; P. de Saint Ours, St. Maurice.

Fuego (Guatemala) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



14.473°N, 90.88°W; summit elev. 3763 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Small ash eruption on 19 April

A small ash eruption from Fuego occurred at about 1100 on 19 April.

Geologic Background. Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between 3763-m-high Fuego and its twin volcano to the north, Acatenango. Construction of Meseta dates back to about 230,000 years and continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene. Collapse of Meseta may have produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km onto the Pacific coastal plain. Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. In contrast to the mostly andesitic Acatenango, eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

Information Contacts: P. Newton, Antigua.

Fukutoku-Oka-no-Ba (Japan) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



24.285°N, 141.481°E; summit elev. -29 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Water discoloration observed during August 1976

[A report of surface discoloration in March was removed at JMA's request.] The last reported activity in this area was a [green] discoloration in August 1976.

Geologic Background. Fukutoku-Oka-no-ba is a submarine volcano located 5 km NE of the pyramidal island of Minami-Ioto. Water discoloration is frequently observed from the volcano, and several ephemeral islands have formed in the 20th century. The first of these formed Shin-Ioto ("New Sulfur Island") in 1904, and the most recent island was formed in 1986. The volcano is part of an elongated edifice with two major topographic highs trending NNW-SSE, and is a trachyandesitic volcano geochemically similar to Ioto.

Information Contacts: JMA, Tokyo.

Kadovar (Papua New Guinea) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report


Papua New Guinea

3.608°S, 144.588°E; summit elev. 365 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Thermal activity stabilizes

"Since the previous report, five more ground inspections have been made, and a sixth is planned for the last week in April. Complete investigations, including temperature measurement, collection of gases and gas condensates, measurement of magnetic field, and seismic recording, were made during visits on 15-16 December (Cooke, Norris), and 16-18 February (Dent, Norris), and are planned for the forthcoming visit (Cooke, Norris). Partial investigations were made on 3 April (Wallace), when temperatures and gases were investigated, and on 26 January (Mahar) and 14 February (volcanological assistant J. Kuduon), when temperatures were measured. Vertical aerial photographs were taken by a survey firm on 15 November, and aerial obliques were taken during the December inspection. Another aerial inspection was carried out on 7 January, the day after a shallow M 6.5 earthquake about 30 km WSW of Kadovar on 6 January, 0611 GMT (preliminary location by USGS). This earthquake had no apparent affect on the volcano at the time.

"During the period covered by this report, the level of activity seemed to have stabilized. Maximum temperatures have been steady at 99-100°C, marked expansion of the main thermal area has ceased (although weak isolated gas vents are still occasionally found in new areas), and the quantity of gas emitted may even have declined slightly. The thermal area was not as unpleasant to the investigators as it was last November-December, although as some gas samples have not yet been analyzed quantitative information on the changing gas content is not available.

"No significant magnetic field changes have been detected. A few volcano-seismic events were recorded in both November and December, but such events appeared to be absent in February. Felt earthquakes were noted by inhabitants of nearby islands on several occasions, but there is no strong reason to associate these with Kadovar volcano. Unusually high seismic event counts on Kadovar are suspect because of a malfunctioning event counter.

"Although the initiation and early rapid development of this thermal activity led to the belief in a forthcoming Kadovar eruption, the stabilization (or even slight decline) in activity suggests the possibility that the event may be confined to thermal activity. Such purely thermal events have been reported elsewhere. However, the event will continue to be treated as a possible precursor to an eruption, and the former inhabitants will be advised to maintain the evacuation for the present. Only a small number of men are presently living on Kadovar in order to maintain the original gardens, to supply the evacuees on Blupblup Island. It is interesting to speculate that the 6 January earthquake may have been connected with the levelling-off of activity."

Geologic Background. The 2-km-wide island of Kadovar is the emergent summit of a Bismarck Sea stratovolcano of Holocene age. Kadovar is part of the Schouten Islands, and lies off the coast of New Guinea, about 25 km N of the mouth of the Sepik River. The village of Gewai is perched on the crater rim. A 365-m-high lava dome forming the high point of the andesitic volcano fills an arcuate landslide scarp that is open to the south, and submarine debris-avalanche deposits occur in that direction. Thick lava flows with columnar jointing forms low cliffs along the coast. The youthful island lacks fringing or offshore reefs. No certain historical eruptions are known; the latest activity was a period of heightened thermal phenomena in 1976.

Information Contacts: R. Cooke, RVO.

Karthala (Comoros) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



11.75°S, 43.38°E; summit elev. 2361 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Lava extrusion during 5-10 April eruption destroys three villages

The eruption began at about noon on 5 April from a SW flank vent, after a series of local tremors during the morning. Basaltic lava was extruded, which divided into two flows ~300 m wide and 3-15 m thick, separated by several hundred meters. The flows reconverged downslope and reached the sea on 6 April. Strong earthquakes were felt on the SE flank on 8 April, but were not accompanied by surface activity. Lava extrusion had ended on 10 April, although heavy fuming from nearby fissures continued as late as 17 April, preventing close approach to the vent, which was surrounded by up to 6 m of lapilli. No casualties were reported, but 4,000 people were evacuated and three villages damaged or destroyed.

Further Reference. Krafft, M., 1982, L'Eruption volcanique du Kartala en Avril 1977 (Grande Comore, Ocean Indien): C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, serie II, v. 294, p. 753-758.

Geologic Background. The southernmost and largest of the two shield volcanoes forming Grand Comore Island (also known as Ngazidja Island), Karthala contains a 3 x 4 km summit caldera generated by repeated collapse. Elongated rift zones extend to the NNW and SE from the summit of the Hawaiian-style basaltic shield, which has an asymmetrical profile that is steeper to the S. The lower SE rift zone forms the Massif du Badjini, a peninsula at the SE tip of the island. Historical eruptions have modified the morphology of the compound, irregular summit caldera. More than twenty eruptions have been recorded since the 19th century from the summit caldera and vents on the N and S flanks. Many lava flows have reached the sea on both sides of the island. An 1860 lava flow from the summit caldera traveled ~13 km to the NW, reaching the W coast to the N of the capital city of Moroni.

Information Contacts: P. de Saint Ours, St. Maurice, France; G. Beauchamp, OFDA.

Kilauea (United States) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report


United States

19.421°N, 155.287°W; summit elev. 1222 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Monitoring data from 8-9 February magma intrusion event

A fascinating magma intrusion event at Kilauea on 8-9 February was unusually well documented. Continuously recording tiltmeters monitored a sharp summit deflation beginning 8 February at 1902, 5 hours after the start of an earthquake swarm (M 3-4) on the upper E rift zone. A local magnetic anomaly (approximately l0 gamma) also occurred in the upper E rift zone, and seismicity reached 200 events/hour with 3-7 km focal depths, but no eruption took place. Geodimeter surveys 1 day after the event showed extensions of up to 0.25 m across the upper E rift and electrical self-potential traverses add more documentation of magma migration. Similar events took place in June and July 1976, and HVO scientists suggest that magma is draining from beneath the summit area along subsurface paths created by the major earthquake of 29 November 1975. These drainage paths readily allow periodic intrusion into the E rift and are perhaps preventing major inflation of the summit reservoir.

Geologic Background. Kilauea, which overlaps the E flank of the massive Mauna Loa shield volcano, has been Hawaii's most active volcano during historical time. Eruptions are prominent in Polynesian legends; written documentation extending back to only 1820 records frequent summit and flank lava flow eruptions that were interspersed with periods of long-term lava lake activity that lasted until 1924 at Halemaumau crater, within the summit caldera. The 3 x 5 km caldera was formed in several stages about 1500 years ago and during the 18th century; eruptions have also originated from the lengthy East and SW rift zones, which extend to the sea on both sides of the volcano. About 90% of the surface of the basaltic shield volcano is formed of lava flows less than about 1100 years old; 70% of the volcano's surface is younger than 600 years. A long-term eruption from the East rift zone that began in 1983 has produced lava flows covering more than 100 km2, destroying nearly 200 houses and adding new coastline to the island.

Information Contacts: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, USGS.

Krafla (Iceland) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



65.715°N, 16.728°W; summit elev. 800 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Fissure eruption on 27 April causes ashfall and lava flows

Inflation at Krafla continued irregularly until late April, while 100-130 earthquakes were recorded per day (figure 3).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Five-day running average of the number of earthquakes per day at Krafla caldera, September 1976-April 1977. Deflation events are shown by down-arrows. Courtesy of Páll Einarsson.

Harmonic tremor began at 1317 on 27 April, followed at about 1400 by series of earthquakes centered in a fissure swarm S of Krafla. About one magnitude 3.5-4.5 event occurred per minute during the swarm, which culminated at 1830. An eruption from a discontinuous fissure extending 3 km N from Leirhnjúkur (about 4 km W of Krafla) had begun before 1600, when a minor ashfall was recorded in the Mývatn area (about 10 km SW of Krafla). A 200 x 40 m lava flow was extruded from the N end of the fissure and steam and mud along the rest of its length. Tilt measurements indicate a 1-m subsidence of the caldera bottom in 17 hours, then renewed inflation after subsidence ended. New 2-m-wide fissures opened and fumarolic activity began in the Mývatn area, where more than 1 m of vertical displacement occurred, causing damage at a factory. Earthquakes continued on 1 May, but were declining.

Geologic Background. The Krafla central volcano, located NE of Myvatn lake, is a topographically indistinct 10-km-wide caldera that is cut by a N-S-trending fissure system. Eruption of a rhyolitic welded tuff about 100,000 years ago was associated with formation of the caldera. Krafla has been the source of many rifting and eruptive events during the Holocene, including two in historical time, during 1724-29 and 1975-84. The prominent Hverfjall and Ludent tuff rings east of Myvatn were erupted along the 100-km-long fissure system, which extends as far as the north coast of Iceland. Iceland's renowned Myvatn lake formed during the eruption of the older Laxarhraun lava flow from the Ketildyngja shield volcano of the Fremrinamur volcanic system about 3800 years before present (BP); its present shape is constrained by the roughly 2000 years BP younger Laxarhraun lava flow from the Krafla volcanic system. The abundant pseudocraters that form a prominent part of the Myvatn landscape were created when the younger Laxarhraun lava flow entered the lake.

Information Contacts: G. Sigvaldason, NVI; P. Einarsson, Univ. of Iceland; H. Sigtryggsson, Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Manam (Papua New Guinea) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report


Papua New Guinea

4.08°S, 145.037°E; summit elev. 1807 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Minor eruptive activity from two craters since mid-February

A minor eruption has been in progress from Main and Southern craters (figure 1) since mid-February. Weak intermittent lava fountaining has been observed 7 times at Southern crater, while brief phases of ash ejection, and on one occasion lava fountaining, were seen at Main crater during February and March. Low-level volcanic tremor has been recorded, but no significant tilt effects preceded the eruption.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Sketch map of Manam Island, after Palfreyman and Cooke (1976).

Volcano-seismic events normally occur at the rate of about 1 per minute beneath Manam. Minor eruptive phenomena occur intermittently between major eruptions (such as 1974-1975). [2:4 erred in adding that these phenomena were usually confined to Main Crater.]

Reference. Palfreyman, W.D., and Cooke, R.J.S., 1976, Eruptive history of Manam volcano, Papua New Guinea, in Johnson, R.W. (ed.), Volcanism in Australasia: Elsevier, Amsterdam, p. 117-131.

Geologic Background. The 10-km-wide island of Manam, lying 13 km off the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, is one of the country's most active volcanoes. Four large radial valleys extend from the unvegetated summit of the conical 1807-m-high basaltic-andesitic stratovolcano to its lower flanks. These "avalanche valleys" channel lava flows and pyroclastic avalanches that have sometimes reached the coast. Five small satellitic centers are located near the island's shoreline on the northern, southern, and western sides. Two summit craters are present; both are active, although most historical eruptions have originated from the southern crater, concentrating eruptive products during much of the past century into the SE valley. Frequent historical eruptions, typically of mild-to-moderate scale, have been recorded since 1616. Occasional larger eruptions have produced pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached flat-lying coastal areas and entered the sea, sometimes impacting populated areas.

Information Contacts: R. Cooke, RVO.

Minami-Hiyoshi (Japan) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



23.5°N, 141.935°E; summit elev. -107 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Zone of discolored water seen on 27-28 March

A discolored belt was observed on the sea surface at this site on 27 and 28 March. Similar activity had been reported at Minami-Hiyoshi beginning 10 January, but had declined by 24 January.

[The JMA provided additional chronological information on the 1977 discolorations. They were observed by the crew of JMSA aircraft on 10-14, 17-18, 21, 26, and 28-29 January, and 3-4, 11, 18, and 24-25 February. JMSDF crews continued to see them on 10, 11, and 17 March, but saw no discolorations on 18, 19, 21, 23, and 25 March. Discolorations were again visible on the next 3 days (26-28 March) during JMSDF flights, but were not seen on 6 April by a JMSA flight nor by any subsequent flights that year.]

Geologic Background. Periodic water discoloration and water-spouting have been reported over this submarine volcano since 1975, when detonations and an explosion were also reported. It lies near the SE end of a coalescing chain of youthful seamounts, and is the only historically active vent. The reported depth of the summit of the trachyandesitic volcano has varied between 274 and 30 m. The morphologically youthful seamounts Kita-Hiyoshi and Naka-Hiyoshi lie to the NW, and Ko-Hiyoshi to the SE.

Information Contacts: JMA, Tokyo.

Nyiragongo (DR Congo) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report


DR Congo

1.52°S, 29.25°E; summit elev. 3470 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Photographs of 10 January lavas

[No report accompanied the photographs originally in this issue, so they have been placed in the preceeding report of the 10 January 1977 activity.]

Geologic Background. One of Africa's most notable volcanoes, Nyiragongo contained a lava lake in its deep summit crater that was active for half a century before draining catastrophically through its outer flanks in 1977. In contrast to the low profile of its neighboring shield volcano, Nyamuragira, 3470-m-high Nyiragongo displays the steep slopes of a stratovolcano. Benches in the steep-walled, 1.2-km-wide summit crater mark levels of former lava lakes, which have been observed since the late-19th century. Two older stratovolcanoes, Baruta and Shaheru, are partially overlapped by Nyiragongo on the north and south. About 100 parasitic cones are located primarily along radial fissures south of Shaheru, east of the summit, and along a NE-SW zone extending as far as Lake Kivu. Many cones are buried by voluminous lava flows that extend long distances down the flanks, which is characterized by the eruption of foiditic rocks. The extremely fluid 1977 lava flows caused many fatalities, as did lava flows that inundated portions of the major city of Goma in January 2002.

Information Contacts: M. Krafft, Ensisheim, France.

Pavlof (United States) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report


United States

55.417°N, 161.894°W; summit elev. 2493 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ashfall darkens snow near the summit on 22 March

22 March, 1915: light "smoke" plume. Ash darkened the top 100 m of the cone; 2305: steaming.

Geologic Background. The most active volcano of the Aleutian arc, Pavlof is a 2519-m-high Holocene stratovolcano that was constructed along a line of vents extending NE from the Emmons Lake caldera. Pavlof and its twin volcano to the NE, 2142-m-high Pavlof Sister, form a dramatic pair of symmetrical, glacier-covered stratovolcanoes that tower above Pavlof and Volcano bays. A third cone, Little Pavlof, is a smaller volcano on the SW flank of Pavlof volcano, near the rim of Emmons Lake caldera. Unlike Pavlof Sister, Pavlof has been frequently active in historical time, typically producing Strombolian to Vulcanian explosive eruptions from the summit vents and occasional lava flows. The active vents lie near the summit on the north and east sides. The largest historical eruption took place in 1911, at the end of a 5-year-long eruptive episode, when a fissure opened on the N flank, ejecting large blocks and issuing lava flows.

Information Contacts: R. Dean, USAF, Cold Bay.

Purace (Colombia) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report



2.32°N, 76.4°W; summit elev. 4650 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Another ash emission seen on 25 March

The eruption of a black and gray ash cloud began at 0545 on 19 March from two new vents. Fine gray ash was deposited as far as 7 km away. The volcano was visited a few days later by Guillermo Cajino, who noted a small tremor and rumbling noises while 5 km from Puracé at 2300 on 24 March. The next day, he observed the emission of a gas column from the two vents, which scattered ash SE over the flanks. By 28 March the fume clouds rose only 200 m.

Geologic Background. One of the most active volcanoes of Colombia, Puracé consists of an andesitic stratovolcano with a 500-m-wide summit crater that was constructed over a dacitic shield volcano. It lies at the NW end of a volcanic massif opposite Pan de Azúcar stratovolcano, 6 km SE. A NW-SE-trending group of seven cones and craters, Los Coconucos, lies between the two larger edifices. Frequent explosive eruptions in the 19th and 20th centuries have modified the morphology of the summit crater. The largest eruptions occurred in 1849, 1869, and 1885.

Information Contacts: U.S. Dept. of State.

Soufriere Guadeloupe (France) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report

Soufriere Guadeloupe


16.044°N, 61.664°W; summit elev. 1467 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Decreased seismic and surface activity

Surface and seismic activity have declined considerably at Soufrière since the peak of the volcano-seismic crisis in August 1976 (table 5). The most recent phreatic explosion occurred on 1 March, after which solfataric activity continued into April from the uppermost craters but diminished on the flank and in the Col de l'Echelle, just SE of the summit dome. Ash was emitted for portions of 20 days 1 January-15 April.

Geologic Background. La Soufrière de la Guadeloupe volcano occupies the southern end of Basse-Terre, the western half of the butterfly-shaped island of Guadeloupe. Construction of the Grand Découverte volcano about 0.2 million years ago (Ma) was followed by caldera formation after a plinian eruption about 0.1 Ma, and then by construction of the Carmichaël volcano within the caldera. Two episodes of edifice collapse and associated large debris avalanches formed the Carmichaël and Amic craters about 11,500 and 3100 years ago, respectively. The presently active La Soufrière volcano subsequently grew within the Amic crater. The summit consists of a flat-topped lava dome, and several other domes occur on the southern flanks. Most historical eruptions have originated from NW-SE-trending fissure systems that cut across the summit and upper flanks. A relatively minor phreatic eruption in 1976-77 caused severe economic disruption when Basse-Terre, the island's capital city, which lies immediately below the volcano, was evacuated.

Information Contacts: M. Feuillard, Lab. de Physique du Globe.

Ukinrek Maars (United States) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report

Ukinrek Maars

United States

57.832°N, 156.51°W; summit elev. 91 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Two new maars formed NW of Peulik volcano after 30 March

Two new maars formed in tundra terrain, 15 km NW of Peulik volcano, between 30 March and 9 April. Explosions were first observed on 30 March from 70 km SW of the eruption site. Pilots who overflew the eruption at 1725 and 1800 reported a single vent, 20-30 m in diameter, that emitted white steam, then a dark, ash-laden cloud that rose 6,000-7,500 m. Fine ash fell 135 km ESE of the vent, and a sulfurous haze layer lay over Kodiak (250 km E of the vent) all day. More ash clouds were seen on 1 and 2 April.

On 2 April, the original crater had filled with water and become quiescent, and a new 60-m-diameter vent had formed 500 m to the E. By the early afternoon of 3 April, the E crater had grown to about 100 m in diameter and contained a yellowish-orange lava lake. Fragments up to 1 m across were being ejected to 300 m height. Later in the afternoon, 15-20-m lava fountains were observed.

An ash cloud rising more than 4,000 m deposited traces of ash 95 km to the N on 5 April, but by 6 April activity had declined to steam emission and some ash explosions, which sent tephra to more than 1,000 m above the lava lake. Similar activity, including 30-m orange-red lava fountains, was reported on 7 April. No further eruptions were reported until the early morning of 9 April, when violent explosions of incandescent material were seen 30 km away.

A team of volcanologists from the University of Alaska and Dartmouth College visited the eruption site 14-21 April. The W crater was oblong (150 x 65 m) and filled with lukewarm, slightly acidic water. The E crater was about 250 m in diameter and 100 m deep. About 2/3 of its floor was occupied by a lava dome up to 40 m high that was degassing and was coated with sulfur and hematite. Ground water emerged from the crater walls at 50-70 m depth and cascaded onto the dome, where it flashed to steam. Occasional ash puffs were created by the caving of the steep crater walls. Blocks and boulders of highly variable composition and various degrees of rounding, and olivine basalt bombs with lithic cores, decreased in size from 1.5 m in diameter near the crater rims to about 50 cm diameter a few hundred meters away. Fist-sized cinders fell as far as 2 km away. Stripped bark, and mud with imbedded scoria plastered against tree trunks 500 m from the vents, indicate at least minor base surge activity during 1 or more explosions of the E crater.

Two portable short-period seismograph systems, which operated from 15-20 April, recorded a high level of microearthquake activity and three distinct earthquake swarms of several hours duration. More than 1 event per minute was recorded during the swarms. Many of the smaller events were shallow, but some of the larger ones showed S-P times indicating hypocenter depths between a few km and 20 km. Some of the larger events were also recorded by a permanent University of Alaska seismic station 25 km N of the eruption site.

Geologic Background. Ukinrek Maars are two explosion craters that were created in an area without previous volcanic activity during a 10-day-long phreatomagmatic eruption March-April 1977. The basaltic maars were erupted through glacial deposits in the Bering Sea lowlands 1.5 km south of Becharof Lake and 12 km west of Peulik volcano; their location is related to the regional Bruin Bay fault. The elliptical West Maar, which was the first to form, is 105 x 170 m wide and 35 m deep. The other maar, 600 m to the east, is 300 m wide and 70 m deep. Both maars are now filled by crater lakes; the eastern lake encircles a 49-m-high lava dome that was emplaced at the end of the eruption. Base surges were directed primarily to the NW. Juvenile material from the Ukinrek eruptions was of mantle-derived olivine basaltic composition. The dacitic Gas Rocks lava domes, of Quaternary age, are located on the shores of Becharof Lake, 3 km north of Ukinrek maars and were the site of a phreatic eruption about 2300 years ago.

Information Contacts: J. Kienle, Univ. of Alaska.

White Island (New Zealand) — April 1977 Citation iconCite this Report

White Island

New Zealand

37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 321 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ash eruptions continuing in late March-early April

White Island was inspected from the air on 25 March and 14 April, and visited on 4 April. On 25 March, a tan gas and ash cloud with an orange base was emitted from the vent, which had migrated from the wall to the N base of Christmas Crater, allowing access to the vent by runoff water for the first time. A glow had been observed during an 11 March overflight, but could not be confirmed on 25 March because of the large quantity of gas filling the crater. Many impact craters and large b1ocks, not present on 11 March, were seen S and E of Christmas Crater and on the floor of 1933 Crater, indicating that a major explosion had taken place between 11 and 25 March.

Observers reported a deep red glow above White Island during the night of 26 March, and clouds, frequently blackish, rising to 2000 m on 26-27 March.

On 4 April, a voluminous, moderately convoluting cloud of incandescent ash was rising to 600 m in brief puffs, and drifting to the SE. A comparison of 25 March airphotos with 4 April ground observations indicated that there had been no eruption of large ejecta since 25 March. The largest blocks from the 11-25 March eruption were composed of accidential material, but most of the tephra consisted of scoriaceous-essential lava ranging in size from ash, to blocks and bombs up to several m across. The 11-25 March eruption was the largest 20th-century explosion at White Island and the first to produce essential ejecta, but no eyewitness reports of a large eruption have been received. [A careful search by J.H. Latter of the records of regional seismic stations failed to detect any earthquakes at White Island during this period.]

By the 14 April overflight, activity had declined to low-volume emission of a dark fawn-colored, slowly convoluting steam cloud, containing a little ash. There was no evidence of major explosive activity postdating the 11-25 March eruption. A linear fumarole zone had developed, extending from the N end of Wilson Bay across the W end of Shark Bay to the crater wall.

Further Reference. Clark, R.H., Cole, J.W., Nairn, I.A., and Wood, C.P., 1979, Magmatic Eruption of White Island Volcano, New Zealand, December 1976-April 1977; New Zealand Journal of Geology and Geophysics, v. 22, no. 2, p. 175-190.

Geologic Background. Uninhabited 2 x 2.4 km White Island, one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes, is the emergent summit of a 16 x 18 km submarine volcano in the Bay of Plenty about 50 km offshore of North Island. The island consists of two overlapping andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcanoes; the summit crater appears to be breached to the SE, because the shoreline corresponds to the level of several notches in the SE crater wall. Volckner Rocks, four sea stacks that are remnants of a lava dome, lie 5 km NNE. Intermittent moderate phreatomagmatic and strombolian eruptions have occurred throughout the short historical period beginning in 1826, but its activity also forms a prominent part of Maori legends. Formation of many new vents during the 19th and 20th centuries has produced rapid changes in crater floor topography. Collapse of the crater wall in 1914 produced a debris avalanche that buried buildings and workers at a sulfur-mining project.

Information Contacts: I. Nairn and B. Scott, NZGS, Rotorua; J. Latter, DSIR, Wellington; R. Clark, Victoria Univ., Wellington.

Search Bulletin Archive by Publication Date

Select a month and year from the drop-downs and click "Show Issue" to have that issue displayed in the Selected Bulletin tab.


The default month and year is the latest issue available.

 Atmospheric Effects

The enormous aerosol cloud from the March-April 1982 eruption of Mexico's El Chichón persisted for years in the stratosphere, and led to the Atmospheric Effects section becoming a regular feature of the Bulletin. Descriptions of the initial dispersal of major eruption clouds remain with the individual eruption reports, but observations of long-term stratospheric aerosol loading will be found in this section.

View Atmospheric Effects Reports

 Special Announcements

Special announcements of various kinds and obituaries.

View Special Announcements Reports

 Additional Reports

Reports are sometimes published that are not related to a Holocene volcano. These might include observations of a Pleistocene volcano, earthquake swarms, or floating pumice. Reports are also sometimes published in which the source of the activity is unknown or the report is determined to be false. All of these types of additional reports are listed below by subregion and subject.

Kermadec Islands

Floating Pumice (Kermadec Islands)

1986 Submarine Explosion

Tonga Islands

Floating Pumice (Tonga)

Fiji Islands

Floating Pumice (Fiji)

Andaman Islands

False Report of Andaman Islands Eruptions

Sangihe Islands

1968 Northern Celebes Earthquake

Southeast Asia

Pumice Raft (South China Sea)

Land Subsidence near Ham Rong

Ryukyu Islands and Kyushu

Pumice Rafts (Ryukyu Islands)

Izu, Volcano, and Mariana Islands

Acoustic Signals in 1996 from Unknown Source

Acoustic Signals in 1999-2000 from Unknown Source

Kuril Islands

Possible 1988 Eruption Plume

Aleutian Islands

Possible 1986 Eruption Plume


False Report of New Volcano




La Lorenza Mud Volcano

Pacific Ocean (Chilean Islands)

False Report of Submarine Volcanism

Central Chile and Argentina

Estero de Parraguirre

West Indies

Mid-Cayman Spreading Center

Atlantic Ocean (northern)

Northern Reykjanes Ridge


Azores-Gibraltar Fracture Zone

Antarctica and South Sandwich Islands

Jun Jaegyu

East Scotia Ridge

 Additional Reports (database)

08/1997 (NSEB 22:08) False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption

False report of volcanism intended to exclude would-be gold miners

12/1997 (NSEB 22:12) False Report of Somalia Eruption

Press reports of Somalia's first historical eruption were likely in error

11/1999 (NSEB 24:11) False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption

UFO adherent claims new volcano in Sea of Marmara

05/2003 (NSEB 28:05) Har-Togoo

Fumaroles and minor seismicity since October 2002

12/2005 (NSEB 30:12) Elgon

False report of activity; confusion caused by burning dung in a lava tube

False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption (Philippines) — August 1997

False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption


7.975°N, 123.23°E; summit elev. 1510 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

False report of volcanism intended to exclude would-be gold miners

In discussing the week ending on 12 September, "Earthweek" (Newman, 1997) incorrectly claimed that a volcano named "Mount Pinukis" had erupted. Widely read in the US, the dramatic Earthweek report described terrified farmers and a black mushroom cloud that resembled a nuclear explosion. The mountain's location was given as "200 km E of Zamboanga City," a spot well into the sea. The purported eruption had received mention in a Manila Bulletin newspaper report nine days earlier, on 4 September. Their comparatively understated report said that a local police director had disclosed that residents had seen a dormant volcano showing signs of activity.

In response to these news reports Emmanuel Ramos of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) sent a reply on 17 September. PHIVOLCS staff had initially heard that there were some 12 alleged families who fled the mountain and sought shelter in the lowlands. A PHIVOLCS investigation team later found that the reported "families" were actually individuals seeking respite from some politically motivated harassment. The story seems to have stemmed from a local gold rush and an influential politician who wanted to use volcanism as a ploy to exclude residents. PHIVOLCS concluded that no volcanic activity had occurred. They also added that this finding disappointed local politicians but was much welcomed by the residents.

PHIVOLCS spelled the mountain's name as "Pinokis" and from their report it seems that it might be an inactive volcano. There is no known Holocene volcano with a similar name (Simkin and Siebert, 1994). No similar names (Pinokis, Pinukis, Pinakis, etc.) were found listed in the National Imagery and Mapping Agency GEOnet Names Server (http://geonames.nga.mil/gns/html/index.html), a searchable database of 3.3 million non-US geographic-feature names.

The Manila Bulletin report suggested that Pinokis resides on the Zamboanga Peninsula. The Peninsula lies on Mindanao Island's extreme W side where it bounds the Moro Gulf, an arm of the Celebes Sea. The mountainous Peninsula trends NNE-SSW and contains peaks with summit elevations near 1,300 m. Zamboanga City sits at the extreme end of the Peninsula and operates both a major seaport and an international airport.

[Later investigation found that Mt. Pinokis is located in the Lison Valley on the Zamboanga Peninsula, about 170 km NE of Zamboanga City and 30 km NW of Pagadian City. It is adjacent to the two peaks of the Susong Dalaga (Maiden's Breast) and near Mt. Sugarloaf.]

References. Newman, S., 1997, Earthweek, a diary of the planet (week ending 12 September): syndicated newspaper column (URL: http://www.earthweek.com/).

Manila Bulletin, 4 Sept. 1997, Dante's Peak (URL: http://www.mb.com.ph/).

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the world, 2nd edition: Geoscience Press in association with the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, Tucson AZ, 368 p.

Information Contacts: Emmanuel G. Ramos, Deputy Director, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Department of Science and Technology, PHIVOLCS Building, C. P. Garcia Ave., University of the Philippines, Diliman campus, Quezon City, Philippines.

False Report of Somalia Eruption (Somalia) — December 1997

False Report of Somalia Eruption


3.25°N, 41.667°E; summit elev. 500 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Press reports of Somalia's first historical eruption were likely in error

Xinhua News Agency filed a news report on 27 February under the headline "Volcano erupts in Somalia" but the veracity of the story now appears doubtful. The report disclosed the volcano's location as on the W side of the Gedo region, an area along the Ethiopian border just NE of Kenya. The report had relied on the commissioner of the town of Bohol Garas (a settlement described as 40 km NE of the main Al-Itihad headquarters of Luq town) and some or all of the information was relayed by journalists through VHF radio. The report claimed the disaster "wounded six herdsmen" and "claimed the lives of 290 goats grazing near the mountain when the incident took place." Further descriptions included such statements as "the volcano which erupted two days ago [25 February] has melted down the rocks and sand and spread . . . ."

Giday WoldeGabriel returned from three weeks of geological fieldwork in SW Ethiopia, near the Kenyan border, on 25 August. During his time there he inquired of many people, including geologists, if they had heard of a Somalian eruption in the Gedo area; no one had heard of the event. WoldeGabriel stated that he felt the news report could have described an old mine or bomb exploding. Heavy fighting took place in the Gedo region during the Ethio-Somalian war of 1977. Somalia lacks an embassy in Washington DC; when asked during late August, Ayalaw Yiman, an Ethiopian embassy staff member in Washington DC also lacked any knowledge of a Somalian eruption.

A Somalian eruption would be significant since the closest known Holocene volcanoes occur in the central Ethiopian segment of the East African rift system S of Addis Ababa, ~500 km NW of the Gedo area. These Ethiopian rift volcanoes include volcanic fields, shield volcanoes, cinder cones, and stratovolcanoes.

Information Contacts: Xinhua News Agency, 5 Sharp Street West, Wanchai, Hong Kong; Giday WoldeGabriel, EES-1/MS D462, Geology-Geochemistry Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545; Ayalaw Yiman, Ethiopian Embassy, 2134 Kalorama Rd. NW, Washington DC 20008.

False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption (Turkey) — November 1999

False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption


40.683°N, 29.1°E; summit elev. 0 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

UFO adherent claims new volcano in Sea of Marmara

Following the Ms 7.8 earthquake in Turkey on 17 August (BGVN 24:08) an Email message originating in Turkey was circulated, claiming that volcanic activity was observed coincident with the earthquake and suggesting a new (magmatic) volcano in the Sea of Marmara. For reasons outlined below, and in the absence of further evidence, editors of the Bulletin consider this a false report.

The report stated that fishermen near the village of Cinarcik, at the E end of the Sea of Marmara "saw the sea turned red with fireballs" shortly after the onset of the earthquake. They later found dead fish that appeared "fried." Their nets were "burned" while under water and contained samples of rocks alleged to look "magmatic."

No samples of the fish were preserved. A tectonic scientist in Istanbul speculated that hot water released by the earthquake from the many hot springs along the coast in that area may have killed some fish (although they would be boiled rather than fried).

The phenomenon called earthquake lights could explain the "fireballs" reportedly seen by the fishermen. Such effects have been reasonably established associated with large earthquakes, although their origin remains poorly understood. In addition to deformation-triggered piezoelectric effects, earthquake lights have sometimes been explained as due to the release of methane gas in areas of mass wasting (even under water). Omlin and others (1999), for example, found gas hydrate and methane releases associated with mud volcanoes in coastal submarine environments.

The astronomer and author Thomas Gold (Gold, 1998) has a website (Gold, 2000) where he presents a series of alleged quotes from witnesses of earthquakes. We include three such quotes here (along with Gold's dates, attributions, and other comments):

(A) Lima, 30 March 1828. "Water in the bay 'hissed as if hot iron was immersed in it,' bubbles and dead fish rose to the surface, and the anchor chain of HMS Volage was partially fused while lying in the mud on the bottom." (Attributed to Bagnold, 1829; the anchor chain is reported to be on display in the London Navy Museum.)

(B) Romania, 10 November 1940. ". . . a thick layer like a translucid gas above the surface of the soil . . . irregular gas fires . . . flames in rhythm with the movements of the soil . . . flashes like lightning from the floor to the summit of Mt Tampa . . . flames issuing from rocks, which crumbled, with flashes also issuing from non-wooded mountainsides." (Phrases used in eyewitness accounts collected by Demetrescu and Petrescu, 1941).

(C) Sungpan-Pingwu (China), 16, 22, and 23 August 1976. "From March of 1976, various large anomalies were observed over a broad region. . . . At the Wanchia commune of Chungching County, outbursts of natural gas from rock fissures ignited and were difficult to extinguish even by dumping dirt over the fissures. . . . Chu Chieh Cho, of the Provincial Seismological Bureau, related personally seeing a fireball 75 km from the epicenter on the night of 21 July while in the company of three professional seismologists."

Yalciner and others (1999) made a study of coastal areas along the Sea of Marmara after the Izmet earthquake. They found evidence for one or more tsunamis with maximum runups of 2.0-2.5 m. Preliminary modeling of the earthquake's response failed to reproduce the observed runups; the areas of maximum runup instead appeared to correspond most closely with several local mass-failure events. This observation together with the magnitude of the earthquake, and bottom soundings from marine geophysical teams, suggested mass wasting may have been fairly common on the floor of the Sea of Marmara.

Despite a wide range of poorly understood, dramatic processes associated with earthquakes (Izmet 1999 apparently included), there remains little evidence for volcanism around the time of the earthquake. The nearest Holocene volcano lies ~200 km SW of the report location. Neither Turkish geologists nor scientists from other countries in Turkey to study the 17 August earthquake reported any volcanism. The report said the fisherman found "magmatic" rocks; it is unlikely they would be familiar with this term.

The motivation and credibility of the report's originator, Erol Erkmen, are unknown. Certainly, the difficulty in translating from Turkish to English may have caused some problems in understanding. Erkmen is associated with a website devoted to reporting UFO activity in Turkey. Photographs of a "magmatic rock" sample were sent to the Bulletin, but they only showed dark rocks photographed devoid of a scale on a featureless background. The rocks shown did not appear to be vesicular or glassy. What was most significant to Bulletin editors was the report author's progressive reluctance to provide samples or encourage follow-up investigation with local scientists. Without the collaboration of trained scientists on the scene this report cannot be validated.

References. Omlin, A, Damm, E., Mienert, J., and Lukas, D., 1999, In-situ detection of methane releases adjacent to gas hydrate fields on the Norwegian margin: (Abstract) Fall AGU meeting 1999, Eos, American Geophysical Union.

Yalciner, A.C., Borrero, J., Kukano, U., Watts, P., Synolakis, C. E., and Imamura, F., 1999, Field survey of 1999 Izmit tsunami and modeling effort of new tsunami generation mechanism: (Abstract) Fall AGU meeting 1999, Eos, American Geophysical Union.

Gold, T., 1998, The deep hot biosphere: Springer Verlag, 256 p., ISBN: 0387985468.

Gold, T., 2000, Eye-witness accounts of several major earthquakes (URL: http://www.people.cornell.edu/ pages/tg21/eyewit.html).

Information Contacts: Erol Erkmen, Tuvpo Project Alp.

Har-Togoo (Mongolia) — May 2003



48.831°N, 101.626°E; summit elev. 1675 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Fumaroles and minor seismicity since October 2002

In December 2002 information appeared in Mongolian and Russian newspapers and on national TV that a volcano in Central Mongolia, the Har-Togoo volcano, was producing white vapors and constant acoustic noise. Because of the potential hazard posed to two nearby settlements, mainly with regard to potential blocking of rivers, the Director of the Research Center of Astronomy and Geophysics of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Bekhtur, organized a scientific expedition to the volcano on 19-20 March 2003. The scientific team also included M. Ulziibat, seismologist from the same Research Center, M. Ganzorig, the Director of the Institute of Informatics, and A. Ivanov from the Institute of the Earth's Crust, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Geological setting. The Miocene Har-Togoo shield volcano is situated on top of a vast volcanic plateau (figure 1). The 5,000-year-old Khorog (Horog) cone in the Taryatu-Chulutu volcanic field is located 135 km SW and the Quaternary Urun-Dush cone in the Khanuy Gol (Hanuy Gol) volcanic field is 95 km ENE. Pliocene and Quaternary volcanic rocks are also abundant in the vicinity of the Holocene volcanoes (Devyatkin and Smelov, 1979; Logatchev and others, 1982). Analysis of seismic activity recorded by a network of seismic stations across Mongolia shows that earthquakes of magnitude 2-3.5 are scattered around the Har-Togoo volcano at a distance of 10-15 km.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Photograph of the Har-Togoo volcano viewed from west, March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

Observations during March 2003. The name of the volcano in the Mongolian language means "black-pot" and through questioning of the local inhabitants, it was learned that there is a local myth that a dragon lived in the volcano. The local inhabitants also mentioned that marmots, previously abundant in the area, began to migrate westwards five years ago; they are now practically absent from the area.

Acoustic noise and venting of colorless warm gas from a small hole near the summit were noticed in October 2002 by local residents. In December 2002, while snow lay on the ground, the hole was clearly visible to local visitors, and a second hole could be seen a few meters away; it is unclear whether or not white vapors were noticed on this occasion. During the inspection in March 2003 a third hole was seen. The second hole is located within a 3 x 3 m outcrop of cinder and pumice (figure 2) whereas the first and the third holes are located within massive basalts. When close to the holes, constant noise resembled a rapid river heard from afar. The second hole was covered with plastic sheeting fixed at the margins, but the plastic was blown off within 2-3 seconds. Gas from the second hole was sampled in a mechanically pumped glass sampler. Analysis by gas chromatography, performed a week later at the Institute of the Earth's Crust, showed that nitrogen and atmospheric air were the major constituents.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Photograph of the second hole sampled at Har-Togoo, with hammer for scale, March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

The temperature of the gas at the first, second, and third holes was +1.1, +1.4, and +2.7°C, respectively, while air temperature was -4.6 to -4.7°C (measured on 19 March 2003). Repeated measurements of the temperatures on the next day gave values of +1.1, +0.8, and -6.0°C at the first, second, and third holes, respectively. Air temperature was -9.4°C. To avoid bias due to direct heating from sunlight the measurements were performed under shadow. All measurements were done with Chechtemp2 digital thermometer with precision of ± 0.1°C and accuracy ± 0.3°C.

Inside the mouth of the first hole was 4-10-cm-thick ice with suspended gas bubbles (figure 5). The ice and snow were sampled in plastic bottles, melted, and tested for pH and Eh with digital meters. The pH-meter was calibrated by Horiba Ltd (Kyoto, Japan) standard solutions 4 and 7. Water from melted ice appeared to be slightly acidic (pH 6.52) in comparison to water of melted snow (pH 7.04). Both pH values were within neutral solution values. No prominent difference in Eh (108 and 117 for ice and snow, respectively) was revealed.

Two digital short-period three-component stations were installed on top of Har-Togoo, one 50 m from the degassing holes and one in a remote area on basement rocks, for monitoring during 19-20 March 2003. Every hour 1-3 microseismic events with magnitude <2 were recorded. All seismic events were virtually identical and resembled A-type volcano-tectonic earthquakes (figure 6). Arrival difference between S and P waves were around 0.06-0.3 seconds for the Har-Togoo station and 0.1-1.5 seconds for the remote station. Assuming that the Har-Togoo station was located in the epicentral zone, the events were located at ~1-3 km depth. Seismic episodes similar to volcanic tremors were also recorded (figure 3).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Examples of an A-type volcano-tectonic earthquake and volcanic tremor episodes recorded at the Har-Togoo station on 19 March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

Conclusions. The abnormal thermal and seismic activities could be the result of either hydrothermal or volcanic processes. This activity could have started in the fall of 2002 when they were directly observed for the first time, or possibly up to five years earlier when marmots started migrating from the area. Further studies are planned to investigate the cause of the fumarolic and seismic activities.

At the end of a second visit in early July, gas venting had stopped, but seismicity was continuing. In August there will be a workshop on Russian-Mongolian cooperation between Institutions of the Russian and Mongolian Academies of Sciences (held in Ulan-Bator, Mongolia), where the work being done on this volcano will be presented.

References. Devyatkin, E.V. and Smelov, S.B., 1979, Position of basalts in sequence of Cenozoic sediments of Mongolia: Izvestiya USSR Academy of Sciences, geological series, no. 1, p. 16-29. (In Russian).

Logatchev, N.A., Devyatkin, E.V., Malaeva, E.M., and others, 1982, Cenozoic deposits of Taryat basin and Chulutu river valley (Central Hangai): Izvestiya USSR Academy of Sciences, geological series, no. 8, p. 76-86. (In Russian).

Geologic Background. The Miocene Har-Togoo shield volcano, also known as Togoo Tologoy, is situated on top of a vast volcanic plateau. The 5,000-year-old Khorog (Horog) cone in the Taryatu-Chulutu volcanic field is located 135 km SW and the Quaternary Urun-Dush cone in the Khanuy Gol (Hanuy Gol) volcanic field is 95 km ENE. Analysis of seismic activity recorded by a network of seismic stations across Mongolia shows that earthquakes of magnitude 2-3.5 are scattered around the Har-Togoo volcano at a distance of 10-15 km.

Information Contacts: Alexei V. Ivanov, Institute of the Earth Crust SB, Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia; Bekhtur andM. Ulziibat, Research Center of Astronomy and Geophysics, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulan-Bator, Mongolia; M. Ganzorig, Institute of Informatics MAS, Ulan-Bator, Mongolia.

Elgon (Uganda) — December 2005



1.136°N, 34.559°E; summit elev. 3885 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

False report of activity; confusion caused by burning dung in a lava tube

An eruption at Mount Elgon was mistakenly inferred when fumes escaped from this otherwise quiet volcano. The fumes were eventually traced to dung burning in a lava-tube cave. The cave is home to, or visited by, wildlife ranging from bats to elephants. Mt. Elgon (Ol Doinyo Ilgoon) is a stratovolcano on the SW margin of a 13 x 16 km caldera that straddles the Uganda-Kenya border 140 km NE of the N shore of Lake Victoria. No eruptions are known in the historical record or in the Holocene.

On 7 September 2004 the web site of the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation reported that villagers sighted and smelled noxious fumes from a cave on the flank of Mt. Elgon during August 2005. The villagers' concerns were taken quite seriously by both nations, to the extent that evacuation of nearby villages was considered.

The Daily Nation article added that shortly after the villagers' reports, Moses Masibo, Kenya's Western Province geology officer visited the cave, confirmed the villagers observations, and added that the temperature in the cave was 170°C. He recommended that nearby villagers move to safer locations. Masibo and Silas Simiyu of KenGens geothermal department collected ashes from the cave for testing.

Gerald Ernst reported on 19 September 2004 that he spoke with two local geologists involved with the Elgon crisis from the Geology Department of the University of Nairobi (Jiromo campus): Professor Nyambok and Zacharia Kuria (the former is a senior scientist who was unable to go in the field; the latter is a junior scientist who visited the site). According to Ernst their interpretation is that somebody set fire to bat guano in one of the caves. The fire was intense and probably explains the vigorous fuming, high temperatures, and suffocated animals. The event was also accompanied by emissions of gases with an ammonia odor. Ernst noted that this was not surprising considering the high nitrogen content of guano—ammonia is highly toxic and can also explain the animal deaths. The intense fumes initially caused substantial panic in the area.

It was Ernst's understanding that the authorities ordered evacuations while awaiting a report from local scientists, but that people returned before the report reached the authorities. The fire presumably prompted the response of local authorities who then urged the University geologists to analyze the situation. By the time geologists arrived, the fuming had ceased, or nearly so. The residue left by the fire and other observations led them to conclude that nothing remotely related to a volcanic eruption had occurred.

However, the incident emphasized the problem due to lack of a seismic station to monitor tectonic activity related to a local triple junction associated with the rift valley or volcanic seismicity. In response, one seismic station was moved from S Kenya to the area of Mt. Elgon so that local seismicity can be monitored in the future.

Information Contacts: Gerald Ernst, Univ. of Ghent, Krijgslaan 281/S8, B-9000, Belgium; Chris Newhall, USGS, Univ. of Washington, Dept. of Earth & Space Sciences, Box 351310, Seattle, WA 98195-1310, USA; The Daily Nation (URL: http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/); Uganda Tourist Board (URL: http://www.visituganda.com/).