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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.

Recently Published Bulletin Reports

Sangeang Api (Indonesia) Ash emissions and lava flow extrusion continue during May 2019 through January 2020

Shishaldin (United States) Multiple lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars, and ashfall events during October 2019 through January 2020

Nevados de Chillan (Chile) Many explosions, ash plumes, lava and pyroclastic flows June-December 2019

Asosan (Japan) Intermittent ash plumes and elevated SO2 emissions continue during July-December 2019

Tinakula (Solomon Islands) Intermittent thermal activity suggests ongoing eruption, July-December 2019

Ibu (Indonesia) Frequent ash plumes and small lava flows in the crater through December 2019

Lateiki (Tonga) Eruption 13-22 October 2019 creates new island, which disappears by mid-January 2020

Aira (Japan) Ongoing explosions with ejecta and ash plumes, along with summit incandescence, during July-December 2019

Suwanosejima (Japan) Explosions, ash emissions, and summit incandescence in July-December 2019

Barren Island (India) Thermal anomalies and small ash plumes during February-April 2019 and September 2019-January 2020

Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) Explosion producing an ash plume and pyroclastic surge resulted in fatalities and injuries on 9 December 2019

Kadovar (Papua New Guinea) Frequent gas and some ash emissions during May-December 2019 with some hot avalanches

Sangeang Api (Indonesia) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Sangeang Api


8.2°S, 119.07°E; summit elev. 1912 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ash emissions and lava flow extrusion continue during May 2019 through January 2020

Sangeang Api is located in the eastern Sunda-Banda Arc in Indonesia, forming a small island in the Flores Strait, north of the eastern side of West Nusa Tenggara. It has been frequently active in recent times with documented eruptions spanning back to 1512. The edifice has two peaks – the active Doro Api cone and the inactive Doro Mantori within an older caldera (figure 37). The current activity is focused at the summit of the cone within a horseshoe-shaped crater at the summit of Doro Api. This bulletin summarizes activity during May 2019 through January 2020 and is based on Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reports, Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, or CVGHM) MAGMA Indonesia Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) reports, and various satellite data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. A PlanetScope satellite image of Sangeang Api with the active Doro Api and the inactive Doro Mantori cones indicated, and the channel SE of the active area that contains recent lava flows and other deposits. December 2019 monthly mosaic copyright of Planet Labs 2019.

Thermal anomalies were visible in Sentinel-2 satellite thermal images on 4 and 5 May with some ash and gas emission visible; bright pixels from the summit of the active cone extended to the SE towards the end of the month, indicating an active lava flow (figure 38). Multiple small emissions with increasing ash content reached 1.2-2.1 km altitude on 17 June. The emissions drifted W and WNW, and a thermal anomaly was also visible. On the 27th ash plumes rose to 2.1 km and drifted NW and the thermal anomaly persisted. One ash plume reached 2.4 km and drifted NW on the 29th, and steam emissions were ongoing. Satellite images showed two active lava flows in June, an upper and a lower flow, with several lobes descending the same channel and with lateral levees visible in satellite imagery (figure 39). The lava extrusion appeared to have ceased by late June with lower temperatures detected in Sentinel-2 thermal data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. Sentinel-2 satellite thermal images of Sangeang Api on 20 May and 9 June 2019 show an active lava flow from the summit, traveling to the SE. False color (urban) image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. PlanetScope satellite images of Sangeang Api show new lava flows during June and July, with white arrows indicating the flow fronts. Copyright Planet Labs 2019.

During 4-5 July the Darwin VAAC reported ash plumes reaching 2.1-2.3 km altitude and drifting SW and W. Activity continued during 6-9 July with plumes up to 4.6 km drifting N, NW, and SW. Thermal anomalies were noted on the 4th and 8th. Plumes rose to 2.1-3 km during 10-16th, and to a maximum altitude of 4.6 km during 17-18 and 20-22. Similar activity was reported during 24-30 July with plumes reaching 2.4-3 km and dispersing NW, W, and SW. The upper lava flow had increased in length since 15 June (see figure 39).

During 31 July through 3 September ash plumes continued to reach 2.4-3 km altitude and disperse in multiple directions. Similar activity was reported throughout September. Thermal anomalies also persisted through July-September, with evidence of hot avalanches in Sentinel-2 thermal satellite imagery on 23 August, and 9, 12, 22, and 27 September. Thermal anomalies suggested hot avalanches or lava flows during October (figure 40). During 26-28 October short-lived ash plumes were reported to 2.1-2.7 km above sea level and dissipated to the NW, WNW, and W. Short-lived explosions produced ash plumes up to 2.7-3.5 km altitude were noted during 30-31 October and 3-4 November 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Sentinel-2 satellite thermal images of Sangeang Api on 7 and 22 October 2019 show an area of elevated temperatures trending from the summit of the active cone down the SE flank. False color (urban) image rendering (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Discrete explosions produced ash plumes up to 2.7-3.5 km altitude during 3-4 November, and during the 6-12th the Darwin VAAC reported short-lived ash emissions reaching 3 km altitude. Thermal anomalies were visible in satellite images during 6-8 November. A VONA was released on 14 November for an ash plume that reached about 2 km altitude and dispersed to the west. During 14-19 November the Darwin VAAC reported short-lived ash plumes reaching 2.4 km that drifted NW and W. Additional ash plumes were observed reaching a maximum altitude of 2.4 km during 20-26 November. Thermal anomalies were detected during the 18-19th, and on the 27th.

Ash plumes were recorded reaching 2.4 km during 4-5, 7-9, 11-13, and 17-19 December, and up to 3 km during 25-28 December. There were no reports of activity in early to mid-January 2020 until the Darwin VAAC reported ash reaching 3 km on 23 January. A webcam image on 15 January showed a gas plume originating from the summit. Several fires were visible on the flanks during May 2019 through January 2020, and this is seen in the MIROVA log thermal plot with the thermal anomalies greater than 5 km away from the crater (figure 41).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. MIROVA log plot of radiative power indicates the persistent activity at Sangeang Api during April 2019 through March 2020. There was a slight decline in September-October 2019 and again in February 2020. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. Sangeang Api volcano, one of the most active in the Lesser Sunda Islands, forms a small 13-km-wide island off the NE coast of Sumbawa Island. Two large trachybasaltic-to-tranchyandesitic volcanic cones, Doro Api and Doro Mantoi, were constructed in the center and on the eastern rim, respectively, of an older, largely obscured caldera. Flank vents occur on the south side of Doro Mantoi and near the northern coast. Intermittent historical eruptions have been recorded since 1512, most of them during in the 20th century.

Information Contacts: Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/).

Shishaldin (United States) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report


United States

54.756°N, 163.97°W; summit elev. 2857 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Multiple lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars, and ashfall events during October 2019 through January 2020

Shishaldin is located near the center of Unimak Island in Alaska and has been frequently active in recent times. Activity includes steam plumes, ash plumes, lava flows, lava fountaining, pyroclastic flows, and lahars. The current eruption phase began on 23 July 2019 and through September included lava fountaining, explosions, and a lava lake in the summit crater. Continuing activity during October 2019 through January 2020 is described in this report based largely on Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) reports, photographs, and satellite data.

Minor steam emissions were observed on 30 September 2019, but no activity was observed through the following week. Activity at that time was slightly above background levels with the Volcano Alert Level at Advisory and the Aviation Color Code at Yellow (figure 17). In the first few days of October weak tremor continued but no eruptive activity was observed. Weakly elevated temperatures were noted in clear satellite images during 4-9 October and weak tremor continued. Elevated temperatures were recorded again on the 14th with low-level tremor.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 17. Alaska Volcano Observatory hazard status definitions for Aviation Color Codes and Volcanic Activity Alert Levels used for Shishaldin and other volcanoes in Alaska. Courtesy of AVO.

New lava extrusion was observed on 13 October, prompting AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code to Orange and the Volcano Alert Level to Watch. Elevated surface temperatures were detected by satellite during the 13th and 17-20th, and a steam plume was observed on the 19th. A change from small explosions to continuous tremor that morning suggested a change in eruptive behavior. Low-level Strombolian activity was observed during 21-22 October, accompanied by a persistent steam plume. Lava had filled the crater by the 23rd and began to overflow at two places. One lava flow to the north reached a distance of 200 m on the 24th and melted snow to form a 2.9-km-long lahar down the N flank. The second smaller lava flow resulted in a 1-km-long lahar down the NE flank. Additional snowmelt was produced by spatter accumulating around the crater rim. By 25 October the northern flow reached 800 m, there was minor explosive activity with periodic lava fountaining, and lahar deposits reached 3 km to the NW with shorter lahars to the N and E (figure 18). Trace amounts of ashfall extended at least 8.5 km SE. There was a pause in activity on the 29th, but beginning at 1839 on the 31st seismic and infrasound monitoring detected multiple small explosions.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 18. PlanetScope satellite images of Shishaldin on 3 and 29 October 2019 show the summit crater and N flank before and after emplacement of lava flows, lahars, and ashfall. Copyright PlanetLabs 2019.

Elevated activity continued through November with multiple lava flows on the northern flanks (figure 19). By 1 November the two lava flows had stalled after extending 1.8 km down the NW flank. Lahars had reached at least 4 km NW and trace amounts of ash were deposited on the north flank. Elevated seismicity on 2 November indicated that lava was likely flowing beyond the summit crater, supported by a local pilot observation. The next day an active lava flow moved 400 m down the NW flank while a smaller flow was active SE of the summit. Minor explosive activity and/or lava fountaining at the summit was indicated by incandescence during the night. Small explosions were recorded in seismic and infrasound data. On 5 November the longer lava flow had developed two lobes, reaching 1 km in length. The lahars had also increased in length, reaching 2 km on the N and S flanks. Incandescence continued and hot spatter was accumulating around the summit vent. Activity continued, other than a 10-hour pause on 4-5 November, and another pause on the 7th. The lava flow length had reached 1.3 km on the 8th and lahar deposits reached 5 km.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 19. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images show multiple lava flows (orange) on the upper northern flanks of Shishaldin between 1 November and 1 December 2019. Blue is snow and ice in these images, and partial cloud cover is visible in all of them. Sentinel-2 Urban rendering (bands 21, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

After variable levels of activity for a few days, there was a significant increase on 10-11 November with lava fountaining through the evening and night. This was accompanied by minor to moderate ash emissions up to around 3.7 km altitude and drifting northwards, and a significant increase in seismicity. Activity decreased again during the 11-12th while minor steam and ash emissions continued. On 14 November minor ash plumes were visible on the flanks, likely caused by the collapse of accumulated spatter. By 15 November a large network of debris flows consisting of snowmelt and fresh deposits extended 5.5 km NE and the collapse of spatter mounds continued. Ashfall from ash plumes reaching as high as 3.7 km altitude produced thin deposits to the NE, S, and SE. Activity paused during the 17-18th and resumed again on the 19th; intermittent clear views showed either a lava flow or lahar descending the SE flank. Activity sharply declined at 0340 on the 20th.

Seismicity began increasing again on 24 November and small explosions were detected on the 23rd. A small collapse of spatter that had accumulated at the summit occurred at 2330 on the 24th, producing a pyroclastic flow that reached 3 km in length down the NW flank. A new lava flow had also reached several hundred meters down the same flank. Variable but elevated activity continued over 27 November into early December, with a 1.5-km-long lava flow observed in satellite imagery acquired on the 1st. On 5 December minor steam or ash emissions were observed at the summit and on the north flank, and Strombolian explosions were detected. Activity from that day produced fresh ash deposits on the northern side of the volcano and a new lava flow extended 1.4 km down the NW flank. Three small explosions were detected on the 11th.

At 0710 on 12 December a 3-minute-long explosion produced an ash plume up to 6-7.6 km altitude that dispersed predominantly towards the W to NW and three lightning strokes were detected. Ash samples were collected on the SE flank by AVO field crews on 20 December and analysis showed variable crystal contents in a glassy matrix (figure 20). A new ash deposit was emplaced out to 10 km SE, and a 3.5-km-long pyroclastic flow had been emplaced to the north, containing blocks as large as 3 m in diameter. The pyroclastic flow was likely a result from collapse of the summit spatter cone and lava flows. A new narrow lava flow had reached 3 km to the NW and lahars continued out to the northern coast of Unimak island (figure 21). The incandescent lava flow was visible from Cold Bay on the evening of the 12th and a thick steam plume continued through the next day.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 20. An example of a volcanic ash grain that was erupted at Shishaldin on 12 December 2019 and collected on the SE flank by the Alaska Volcano Observatory staff. This Scanning Electron Microscope images shows the different crystals represented by different colors: dark gray crystals are plagioclase, the light gray crystals are olivine, and the white ones are Fe-Ti oxides. The groundmass in this grain is nearly completely crystallized. Courtesy of AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 21. A WorldView-2 satellite image of Shishaldin with the summit vent and eruption deposits on 12 December 2019. The tephra deposit extends around 10 km SE, a new lava flow reaching 3 km NW with lahars continuing to the N coast of Unimak island. Pyroclastic flow deposits reach 3.5 km to the N and contain blocks as large as 3 m. Courtesy of Hannah Dietterich, AVO.

A new lava flow was reported by a pilot on the night of 16 December. Thermal satellite data showed that this flow reached 2 km to the NW. High-resolution radar satellite images over the 15-17th showed that the lava flow had advanced out to 2.5 km and had developed levees along the margins (figure 22). The lava channel was 5-15 m wide and was originating from a crater at the base of the summit scoria cone, which had been rebuilt since the collapse the previous week. Minor ash emissions drifted to the south on the 19tt and 20th (figure 23).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 22. TerraSAR-X radar satellite images of Shishaldin on 15 and 17 December 2019 show the new lava flow on the NW flank and growth of a scoria cone at the summit. The lava flow had reached around 2.5 km at this point and was 5-15 m wide with levees visible along the flow margins. Pyroclastic flow deposits from a scoria cone collapse event on 12 December are on the N flank. Figure courtesy of Simon Plank (German Aerospace Center, DLR) and Hannah Dietterich (AVO).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 23. Geologist Janet Schaefer (AVO/DGGS) collects ash samples within ice and snow on the southern flanks of Shishaldin on 20 December 2019. A weak ash plume is rising from the summit crater. Photo courtesy of Wyatt Mayo, AVO.

On 21 December a new lava flow commenced, traveling down the northern slope and accompanied by minor ash emissions. Continued lava extrusion was indicated by thermal data on the 25th and two lava flows reaching 1.5 km and 100 m were observed in satellite data on the 26th, as well as ash deposits on the upper flanks (figure 24). Weak explosions were detected by the regional infrasound network the following day. A satellite image acquired on the 30th showed a thick steam plume obscuring the summit and snow cover on the flanks indicating a pause in ash emissions.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 24. This 26 December 2019 WorldView-2 satellite image with a close-up of the Shishaldin summit area to the right shows a lava flow extending nearly 1.5 km down the NW flank and a smaller 100-m-long lava flow to the NE. Volcanic ash was deposited around the summit, coating snow and ice. Courtesy of Matt Loewen, AVO.

In early January satellite data indicated slow lava extrusion or cooling lava flows (or both) near the summit. On the morning of the 3rd an ash plume rose to 6-7 km altitude and drifted 120 km E to SE, producing minor amounts of volcanic lightning. Elevated surface temperatures the previous week indicated continued lava extrusion. A satellite image acquired on 3 January showed lava flows extending to 1.6 km NW, pyroclastic flows moving 2.6 km down the western and southern flanks, and ashfall on the flanks (figure 25).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 25. This WorldView-2 multispectral satellite image of Shishaldin, acquired on 3 January 2019, shows the lava flows reaching 1.6 km down the NW flank and an ash plume erupting from the summit dispersing to the SE. Ash deposits cover snow on the flanks. Courtesy of Hannah Dietterich, AVO.

On 7 January the most sustained explosive episode for this eruption period occurred. An ash plume rose to 7 km altitude at 0500 and drifted east to northeast then intensified reaching 7.6 km altitude with increased ash content, prompting an increase of the Aviation Color Code to Red and Volcano Alert Level to Warning. The plume traveled over 200 km to the E to NE (figure 26). Lava flows were produced on the northern flanks and trace amounts of ashfall was reported in communities to the NE, resulting in several flight cancellations. Thermal satellite images showed active lava flows extruding from the summit vent (figure 27). Seismicity significantly decreased around 1200 and the alert levels were lowered to Orange and Watch that evening. Through the following week no notable eruptive activity occurred. An intermittent steam plume was observed in webcam views.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 26. This Landsat 8 satellite image shows a detached ash plume drifts to the NE from an explosive eruption at Shishaldin on 7 January 2020. Courtesy of Chris Waythomas, AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 27. This 7 January 2019 Sentinel-2 thermal satellite image shows several lava flows on the NE and NW flanks of Shishaldin, as well as a steam plume from the summit dispersing to the NE. Blue is snow and ice in this false color image (bands 12, 11, 4). Courtesy of Sentinel-Hub playground.

Eruptive activity resumed on 18 January with lava flows traveling 2 km down the NE flank accompanied by a weak plume with possible ash content dispersing to the SW (figure 28). A steam plume was produced at the front of the lava flow and lahar deposits continued to the north (figures 29 to 32). Activity intensified from 0030 on the 19th, generating a more ash-rich plume that extended over 150 km E and SE and reached up to 6 km altitude; activity increased again at around 1500 with ash emissions reaching 9 km altitude. AVO increased the alert levels to Red/Warning. Lava flows traveled down the NE and N flanks producing meltwater lahars, accompanied by elevated seismicity (figures 33). Activity continued through the day and trace amounts of ashfall were reported in False Pass (figure 34). Activity declined to small explosions over the next few days and the alert levels were lowered to Orange/watch shortly after midnight. The next morning weak steam emissions were observed at the summit and there was a thin ash deposit across the entire area. Satellite data acquired on 23 January showed pyroclastic flow deposits and cooling lava flows on the northern flank, and meltwater reaching the northern coast (figure 35).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 28. This Worldview-3 multispectral near-infrared satellite image acquired on 18 January 2020 shows a lava flow down the NE flank of Shishaldin. A steam plume rises from the end of the flow and lahar deposits from snowmelt travel further north. Courtesy of Matt Loewen, AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 29. Steam plumes from the summit of Shishaldin and from the lava flow down the NE flank on 18 January 2020. Lahar deposits extend from the lava flow front and towards the north. Photo courtesy of Matt Brekke, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 30. A lava flow traveling down the NE flank of Shishaldin on 18 January 2020, seen from Cold Bay. Photo courtesy of Aaron Merculief, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. Two plumes rise from Shishaldin on 18 January 2020, one from the summit crater and the other from the lava flow descending the NE Flank. Photos courtesy of Woodsen Saunders, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 32. A low-altitude plume from Shishaldin on the evening of 18 January 2020, seen from King Cove. Photo courtesy of Savannah Yatchmeneff, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 33. This WorldView-2 near-infrared satellite image shows a lava flow reaching 1.8 km down the N flank and lahar deposits filling drainages out to the Bering Sea coast (not shown here) on 19 January 2020. Ash deposits coat snow to the NE and E. Courtesy of Matt Loewen, AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 34. An ash plume (top) and gas-and-steam plumes (bottom) at Shishaldin on 19 January 2020. Courtesy of Matt Brekke, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 35. A Landsat 8 thermal satellite image (band 11) acquired on 23 January 2019 showing hot lava flows and pyroclastic flow deposits on the flanks of Shishaldin and the meltwater flow path to the Bering Sea. Figure courtesy of Christ Waythomas, AVO.

Activity remained low in late January with some ash resuspension (due to winds) near the summit and continued elevated temperatures. Seismicity remained above background levels. Infrasound data indicated minor explosive activity during 22-23 January and small steam plumes were visible on 22, 23, and 26 January. MIROVA thermal data showed the rapid reduction in activity following activity in late-January (figure 36).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 36. MIROVA thermal data showing increased activity at Shishaldin during August-September, and an even higher thermal output during late-October 2019 to late January 2020. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. The beautifully symmetrical Shishaldin is the highest and one of the most active volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands. The glacier-covered volcano is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes along an E-W line in the eastern half of Unimak Island. The Aleuts named the volcano Sisquk, meaning "mountain which points the way when I am lost." A steam plume often rises from its small summit crater. Constructed atop an older glacially dissected volcano, it is largely basaltic in composition. Remnants of an older ancestral volcano are exposed on the W and NE sides at 1,500-1,800 m elevation. There are over two dozen pyroclastic cones on its NW flank, which is blanketed by massive aa lava flows. Frequent explosive activity, primarily consisting of Strombolian ash eruptions from the small summit crater, but sometimes producing lava flows, has been recorded since the 18th century.

Information Contacts: Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), a cooperative program of a) U.S. Geological Survey, 4200 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508-4667 USA (URL: https://avo.alaska.edu/), b) Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, PO Box 757320, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320, USA, and c) Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, 794 University Ave., Suite 200, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA (URL: http://dggs.alaska.gov/); Simon Plank, German Aerospace Center (DLR) German Remote Sensing Data Center, Geo-Risks and Civil Security, Oberpfaffenhofen, 82234 Weßling (URL: https://www.dlr.de/eoc/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-5242/8788_read-28554/sortby-lastname/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).

Nevados de Chillan (Chile) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Nevados de Chillan


36.868°S, 71.378°W; summit elev. 3180 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Many explosions, ash plumes, lava and pyroclastic flows June-December 2019

Nevados de Chillán is a complex of late-Pleistocene to Holocene stratovolcanoes in the Chilean Central Andes. An eruption started with a phreatic explosion and ash emission on 8 January 2016 from a new crater (Nicanor) on the E flank of the Nuevo crater, which lies on the NW flank of the cone of the large stratovolcano referred to as Volcán Viejo. Strombolian explosions and ash emissions continued throughout 2016 and 2017; a lava dome within the Nicanor crater was confirmed in early January 2018. Explosions and pyroclastic flows continued during 2018 and the first half of 2019. This report covers continuing activity from June-December 2019 when ongoing explosive events produced ash plumes, lava, and pyroclastic flows. Information for this report is provided primarily by Chile's Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN)-Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), and by the Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC).

Nevados de Chillán was relatively quiet during June 2019, generating only a small number of explosions with ash plumes. This activity continued during July; some events produced incandescent ejecta around the crater. By August a distinct increase in activity was noticeable; ash plumes were larger and more frequent, and incandescent ejecta rose hundreds of meters above the summit a number of times. Frequent explosions were typical during September; the first of several blocky lava flows emerged from the crater mid-month. Inflation that began in mid-July continued with several centimeters of both horizontal and vertical displacement. By October, pyroclastic flows often accompanied the explosive events in addition to the ash plumes, and multiple vents opened within the crater. Three more lava flows had appeared by mid-November; explosions continued at a high rate. Activity remained high at the beginning of December but dropped abruptly mid-month. MODVOLC measured three thermal alerts in September, two in October, seven in November, and six in December. This period of increased thermal activity closely matches the thermal anomaly data reported by the MIROVA project (figure 37), which included an increase at the end of August 2019 that lasted through mid-December before stopping abruptly. Several lava flows and frequent explosions with incandescent ejecta and pyroclastic flows were reported throughout the period of increased thermal activity.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. MIROVA thermal anomaly data for Nevados de Chillán from 3 February through December 2019 show low activity during June-August and increasing activity from August through mid-December. This correlates with ground and satellite observations of lava flows, incandescent explosions, ash plumes, and pyroclastic flows during the period of increased thermal activity. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Activity during June-August 2019. Nevados de Chillán remained relatively quiet during June 2019 with a few explosions of ash. At the active Nicanor crater, located on the E flank of the Volcán Nuevo dome, predominantly white steam plumes were observed daily in the nearby webcams. The growth rate of the dome inside the crater was reported by SERNAGEOMIN as continuing at about 260 m3/day. They noted an explosion on 3 June; the Buenos Aires VAAC reported a puff of ash seen from the webcam drifting SE at 3.7 km altitude (figure 38). The webcam indicated sporadic weak emissions continuing that day and the next. Minor explosions were also reported on 7-8 June and included incandescence observed at night and ejecta deposited around the crater rim. The Buenos Aires VAAC reported a narrow ash plume drifting ENE in multispectral imagery under clear skies late on 7 June. The webcams showed sporadic emissions of ash at 3.4 km altitude on 19 June that dissipated rapidly.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. Explosions at Nevados de Chillán on 3 (left) and 20 (right) June 2019 produced ash plumes that quickly dissipated in the strong winds. Courtesy of the SERNAGEOMIN Portezuelo webcam, Pehuenia Online (left) and Eco Bio Bio La Red Informativa (right).

Minor pulsating explosive activity continued during July 2019 with multiple occurrences of ash emissions. Ash emissions rose to 3.7 km altitude on 4 July and were seen in the SERNAGEOMIN webcam; the VAAC reported an emission on 8 July that rose to 4.3 km altitude and drifted SE. Monitoring stations near the complex recorded an explosive event early on 9 July; incandescence with gases and ejecta were deposited around the crater and an ash plume rose to 3.9 km and drifted SE. Small ash plumes from sporadic puffs on 12 July rose to 4.6 km altitude. An explosive event on 14 July also produced incandescent ejecta around the crater along with weak sporadic ash emissions. Single ash emissions on 18 (figure 39) and 22 July at 3.7 km altitude drifted ESE from summit before dissipating; another emission on 26 July was reported at 4.3 km altitude.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. Local news sources reported ash emissions at Nevados de Chillán on 18 July 2019. Courtesy of INF0SCHILE (left) and Radio Ñuble (right).

A distinct increase in the intensity and frequency of explosive activity was recorded during August 2019. SERNAGEOMIN noted ash emissions and explosions during 3-4 August in addition to the persistent steam plumes above the Nicanor crater (figure 40). The Buenos Aires VAAC reported a single puff on 3 August that was seen in the webcam rising to 3.9 km altitude and dissipating quickly. The next day a pilot reported an ash plume estimated at 5.5 km altitude drifting E. It was later detected in satellite imagery; the webcam revealed continuous emission of steam and gas with intermittent puffs of ash. SERNAGEOMIN issued a special report (REAV) on 6 August noting the increase in size and frequency of explosions, some of which produced dense ash plumes that rose 1.6 km above the crater along with incandescent ejecta. They also reported that satellite imagery indicated a 1.5-km-long lahar that traveled down the NNE flank as a result of the interaction of the explosive ejecta with the snowfall near the summit.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Climbers captured video of a significant explosion at Nevados de Chillán on 4 August 2019. Courtesy of CHV Noticias.

Beginning on 9-10 August 2019, and continuing throughout the month, SERNAGEOMIN observed explosive nighttime activity with incandescent ejecta scattered around the crater rim along with moderate levels of seismicity each day. A diffuse ash plume was detected in satellite imagery by the VAAC on 9 August drifting NW at 4.9 km altitude. SERNAGEOMIN issued a new warning on 12-13 August that the recent increase in activity since the end of July suggested the injection of a new magmatic body that could lead to larger explosive events with pyroclastic and lava flows. They reported pyroclastic ejecta from multiple explosions on 13 August rising 765 and 735 m above the crater. Drone images taken between 4 and 12 August showed the destruction of the summit dome from multiple explosions with the Nicanor Crater (figure 41). The VAAC reported sporadic pulses of volcanic ash drifting N during 12-14 August, visible in satellite imagery estimated at 4.3 km altitude. By 17-18 August, they noted constant steam emissions interspersed with gray plumes during explosive activity.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. Drone images taken at Nevados de Chillán between 4 and 12 August 2019 showed destruction of the dome caused by multiple explosions at the summit crater. Courtesy of Movisis.org Internacional.

An increase in seismicity, especially VT events, during 21-22 August 2019 resulted in multiple special REAV reports from SERNAGEOMIN. They noted on 21 August that an explosion produced gas emissions and pyroclastic material that rose 1,400 m above the crater; the next day material rose 450 m. That night, in addition to incandescent ejecta around the crater, they reported small high-temperature flows on the N flank which extended to the NNE flank a few days later. The VAAC reported pulses of ash plumes moving SE on 22 August at 4.3 km altitude. A faint ash cloud was visible in satellite imagery on 29 August drifting E at 3.7 km altitude (figure 42). The cloud was dissipating rapidly as it moved away from the summit. Sporadic ash emissions from intermittent explosions continued moving ESE then N and NE; they were reported daily through 5 September. They continued to rise in altitude to 3.9 km on 30 August, 4.3 km on 1 September, and 4.6 km on 3 September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Incandescence at the summit of Nevados de Chillán and ashfall covering snow to the E was captured in Sentinel-2 satellite imagery on 29 August 2019. Courtesy of Copernicus EMS.

Activity during September-October 2019. Frequent explosions from Nicanor crater continued during September 2019, producing numerous ash plumes and small high-temperature flows along the NNE flank. A webcam detected a small lateral vent on the NNE flank about 50 m from the crater rim emitting gas and particulates on 2-3 September. Multiple explosions during 3-5 September were associated with gas and ash emissions and incandescent ejecta deposited around the crater rim (figure 43). The network of GNSS stations recording deformation of the volcanic complex confirmed on 3-4 September that inflation, which had been recorded since mid-July 2019, was continuing at a rate of about 1 cm/month. Blocks of incandescent ejecta from numerous explosions were observed rolling down the N flank on 6-7 September and the E flank the following night.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Activity at Nevados de Chillán on 3 September 2019 included ash and steam explosions (left) and incandescent ejecta at the summit (right). Courtesy of Carlos Bustos and SERNAGEOMIN webcams.

SERNAGEOMIN reported on 9-10 September that satellite imagery revealed a new surface deposit about 130 m long trending NNE from the center of crater. They reported an increase in the level of seismicity from moderate to high on 10-11 September and observed incandescent ejecta at the summit during several explosions (figure 44). During a flyover on 12 September scientists confirmed the presence of a new blocky lava flow emerging from Nicanor Crater and moving down the NNE flank of Nuevo volcano. The flow was about 600 m long, 100 m wide, and 5 m thick with a blocky surface and incandescent lava at the base within the active crater. Measurements with a thermal camera indicated a temperature around 800°C within the active crater, and greater than 100°C on the surface of the flow. Frequent high-energy explosions that day produced incandescent ejecta that could be seen from Las Trancas and Shangri-La (figure 45). Ashfall 0.5 cm thick was reported 2 km from the volcano to the SW. The flow was visible from the webcam located N of Nicanor on 16-17 September. Satellite imagery indicated the flow was about 550 m long and moving at a rate of about 21 m/day.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. A blocky lava flow moved down the NNE flank of Nevados de Chillán on 11 September (left); incandescent ejecta covered the summit area the next night (right). Courtesy of EarthQuakesTime (left), Red Geocientifica de Chile (right) and SERNAGEOMIN Webcams.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 45. The SERNAGEOMIN Portezuelo webcam revealed the blocky lava flow, incandescent ejecta and ash emissions at Nevados de Chillán on 12 September 2019. Courtesy of American Earthquakes (left), PatoArias (right), and SERNAGEOMIN.

During 18-22 September 2019 multiple special reports of seismicity were released each day with incandescent ejecta, gas, and particulate emissions often observed at the summit crater; the lava flow remained active. On 24 September ashfall was reported about 15 km NW in communities including Las Trancas; small pyroclastic flows were observed the following day. Horizontal inflation of 2.4 cm was reported on 25 September, and vertical inflation was measured at 3.4 cm since mid-July. SERNAGEOMIN noted that while the frequency of explosions had increased, the energy released had decreased. Morphological changes in Nicanor crater suggested that it was growing at its SW edge and eroding the adjacent Arrau crater; the NE edge of the crater was unstable.

Plumes of steam and ash continued along with the explosions for the remainder of the month. During the night, incandescent ejecta was observed, and the low-velocity lava flow continued to move. Multiple VAAC reports were issued virtually every day of September. Pulses of ash were moving SE at 4.3 km altitude on 7-8 September. For most of the rest of the month sporadic emissions with minor amounts of ash were observed in either the webcam or satellite images at an altitude of 3.7 km, occasionally rising to 4.3 km. They drifted generally SE but varied somewhat with the changing winds. Continuous ash emissions were observed during 24-25 September that rose as high as 4.9 km altitude and drifted E, clearly visible in satellite imagery. After that, the altitude dropped back to 3.7 km and the plume was only faintly and intermittently visible in satellite imagery.

Low-altitude gray ash plumes were observed rising from Nicanor crater almost every day that weather permitted during October 2019. Incandescent ejecta was frequently observed at night. Beginning on 6-7 October, SERNAGEOM reported pyroclastic flows traveling short distances from the crater most days. They traveled 1.13 km down the NNE flank, 0.42 km down the NNW flank and 0.88 km down the SW flank. The blocky lava flow on the NNE flank was no longer active (figure 46). During 9-12 October, multiple special reports of increased seismic activity (REAVs) were issued each day. Inflation continued throughout the month. On 10 October the total horizontal deformation (since mid-July) was 3 cm, with a rate of movement a little over 1 cm/month; the total vertical displacement was 4.5 cm, with a rate of 1.93 cm/month during the previous 30 days.

In a special report issued on 11 October, SERNAGEOMIN mentioned that analysis of satellite imagery indicated a new emission center within the Nicanor crater adjacent to the dome vent active since December 2017 and to the lava flow of September. The new center was oval shaped with an E-W dimension of 60 m and a N-S dimension of 55 m, located about 90 m SE of the old, still active center, and was the site of the explosive activity reported since 30 September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 46. Drone footage posted 10 October 2019 from Nevados de Chillán shows steam emissions from the Nicanor crater and a blocky lava flow down NNE flank. The snow-covered cone in background is Volcan Baños. Courtesy of Volcanologia Chile and copyright by Nicolas Luengo V.

On 16 October a new blocky flow was observed on the NE flank of the Nicanor Crater; it was about 70 m long, moving about 30 m/day. By 21 October it had reached 130 m in length, and its rate of advance had slowed significantly. Beginning on 25 October seismicity decreased noticeably and much less surface activity was observed at the crater. Explosions at the end of the month produced steam plumes, gas emissions and minor pulsating ash emissions.

The Buenos Aires VAAC reported a puff of ash at 4.9 km altitude on 1 October moving SE. Continuous emission of steam and gas with sporadic puffs of ash that rose to around 3.7-4.3 km altitude were typical every day after that until 25 October usually drifting S or E; they were most often visible in the webcams, and occasionally visible in satellite imagery when weather conditions permitted. A diffuse plume of ash was detected on 16 October drifting SE at 4.6 km altitude. The VAAC reported incandescence visible at the summit in webcam images on 22 October; a significant daytime explosion on 24 October produced a large incandescent ash cloud (figure 47). The next day the VAAC detected weak pulses of ash plumes in satellite images extending E from the summit for 130 km. Intermittent ash emissions were reported drifting SE at 3.7-4.3 km each day from 29-31 October.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 47. A large incandescent ash plume at Nevados de Chillán on 24 October 2019 sent ejecta around the summit (left); a dense ash plume was produced during an explosion on 30 October 2019 (right). Courtesy of Cristian Farian (left) and SERNAGEOMIN (right); both images taken from the SERNAGEOMIN webcams.

Activity during November-December 2019. Moderate seismicity continued during November 2019 with recurrent episodes of pulsating gas and ash emissions. Incandescent ejecta was visible many nights that the weather conditions were favorable (figure 48). In the Daily Report (RAV) issued on 6 November, SERNAGEOMIN noted that the original 700-m-long blocky lava flow on the NNE flank active during September had been partly covered by another flow, about 350 m long. They also reported that pyroclastic density currents were observed in the area immediately around the crater extending in several directions. They extended 850 m down the SW flank, 670 m down the NW flank, 1,680 m down the N flank, and 440 m to the NNE.

Changes in the crater area indicated a growth of the SW edge of the Nicanor Crater, continuing to erode the Arrau crater, with the constant emission of gas, ash, and incandescent ejecta that produced plumes up to 1.8 km high. SERNAGEOMIN also observed activity from a vent at the NE edge of the crater that included gas emission and ejecta, but no lava flow. The fourth lava flow observed in recent months (L4) was identified on the NNE slope on 13 November adjacent to the earlier flows; it was about 70 m long and slowly advancing. By 19 November L4 consisted of two lobes and extended about 90 m from the edge of the Nicanor crater advancing at an average rate of 0.4 m/hour. The vent producing L4 was located about 60 m SSE of the vent that produced the earlier flows (L1, L2, and L3). By 28 November the flow had reached a length of 165 m and was no longer advancing. A series of explosions reported on 25-27 and 30 November produced ejecta that rose 800, 1,000, 1,300, and 700 m above the crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 48. Incandescent ejecta at Nevados de Chillán was clearly visible at night on 3 November 2019. Courtesy of Claudio Kanisius.

Ash emissions were reported by the Buenos Aires VAAC during most of November, usually visible from the webcams, but often also seen in satellite imagery. The plumes generally reached 3.7-4.6 km altitude and drifted SSE. They usually occurred as continuous emission of steam and gas accompanied by sporadic pulses of ash but were sometimes continuous ash for several hours. They were visible about 100 km E of the summit on 2 November, and over 200 km SE the following day. A narrow plume of ash was seen in visual satellite imagery extending 50 km E of the summit on 9 November. Intermittent incandescence at the summit was seen from the webcam on 18 November. Pulses of ash were detected in satellite imagery extending 125 km SE on 22 November. Strong puffs of ash briefly rose to 4.9 km altitude and drifted NE on 26 November (figure 49); incandescence during the nighttime was visible in the webcam on 28 November.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 49. An explosion on 26 November 2019 at Nevados de Chillán produced a dense ash plume and small pyroclastic flows down the flank. Courtesy of Volcanes de Chile and the SERNAGEOMIN Portezuelo webcam.

Pulsating emissions of gas and ejecta continued into December 2019. Five explosions were reported on 1 December that produced gas plumes which rose 300-800 m above the crater. Three more explosions occurred on 3 December sending gas plumes 500-1,000 m high. SERNAGEOMIN reported on 4 December that explosive activity was observed from four vents within the Nicanor crater. This activity triggered new pyroclastic flows that extended 1,100 m E and 400 m S. By 5 December the total vertical inflation reported since July was 8 cm. A large explosion on 5 December sent material 1.6 km above the summit and pyroclastic flows down the flanks (figure 50). The webcams at Andarivel and Portezuelo showed a pyroclastic flow moving 400 m W, a direction not previously observed; this was followed by additional pyroclastic flows to the N and E.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 50. A large explosion at Nevados de Chillán on 5 December 2019 produced an ash plume that rose 1.6 km above the summit and sent pyroclastic flows down the flanks. Courtesy of SERNAGEOMIN.

On 9 December SERNAGEOMIN noted that the increase to four active vents was causing erosion on the S and SE edges of the crater making the most affected areas to the SW, S, SE and E of the crater. Major explosions reported that day produced pyroclastic flows that descended down the E and ESE flanks and particulate emissions that rose 1 km. The SW flank near the crater was also affected by ejecta and pyroclastic debris carried by the wind. The most extensive pyroclastic flows travelled down the E flank for the next several days; explosions on 10 December sent material 1.2 km high. Three explosions were noted on 11 December; the first sent incandescence close to 200 m high, and the second produced a column of particulate material 1.2 km high. The first of two explosions on 12 December sent material 1.8 km above the crater and pyroclastic flows down the flanks (figure 51). Although explosions were reported on 13 and 14 December, cloudy skies prevented observations of the summit.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 51. A large explosion at Nevados de Chillán on 12 December 2019 produced an ash plume that rose 1.8 km above the summit and sent pyroclastic flows down the flanks. Courtesy of Volcanes de Chile and SERNAGEOMIN.

Intermittent ash emissions were reported by the Buenos Aires VAAC during 1-13 December 2019. They rose to 3.7-4.3 km and drifted generally E. Pulses of ash were detected at 4.9 km altitude moving S in satellite imagery on 9 December. The last reported ash emission for December was on the afternoon of 12 December; puffs of ash could be seen in satellite imagery moving E at 4.6 km altitude. A decrease in particulate emissions and explosions was reported beginning on 14 December, and no further explosions were recorded by infrasound devices after 15 December. The deposits from the earlier pyroclastic flows had reached 600 m E and 300 m W of the crater. Seismic activity was recorded as low instead of moderate beginning on 25 December. A total horizontal inflation of about 6 cm since July was measured at the end of December.

Geologic Background. The compound volcano of Nevados de Chillán is one of the most active of the Central Andes. Three late-Pleistocene to Holocene stratovolcanoes were constructed along a NNW-SSE line within three nested Pleistocene calderas, which produced ignimbrite sheets extending more than 100 km into the Central Depression of Chile. The largest stratovolcano, dominantly andesitic, Cerro Blanco (Volcán Nevado), is located at the NW end of the group. Volcán Viejo (Volcán Chillán), which was the main active vent during the 17th-19th centuries, occupies the SE end. The new Volcán Nuevo lava-dome complex formed between 1906 and 1945 between the two volcanoes and grew to exceed Volcán Viejo in elevation. The Volcán Arrau dome complex was constructed SE of Volcán Nuevo between 1973 and 1986 and eventually exceeded its height.

Information Contacts: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN), Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), Avda Sta María No. 0104, Santiago, Chile (URL: http://www.sernageomin.cl/), Twitter: @Sernageomin; Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Cristian Farias Vega, Departamento de Obras Civiles y Geología, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Vilcún, Región de La Araucanía, Chile (URL: https://twitter.com/cfariasvega/status/1187471827255226370); Copernicus Emergency Management Service (Copernicus EMS), Joint Research Centre, European Union (URL: https://emergency.copernicus.eu/, https://twitter.com/CopernicusEMS/status/1168156474817818624); Volcanes de Chile, Proyectos de la Fundación Volcanes de Chile, Chile (URL: https://www.volcanesdechile.net/, https://twitter.com/volcanesdechile/status/1199496839491395585); Pehuenia Online, Pehuenia, Argentina (URL: http://pehueniaonline.com.ar/, https://twitter.com/PehueniaOnline/status/1135703309824745472); Eco Bio Bio La Red Informativa, Bio Bio Region, Chile (URL: http://emergenciasbiobio.blogspot.com/, https://twitter.com/Eco_BioBio_II/status/1141734238590574593); INF0SCHILE (URL: https://twitter.com/INF0SCHILE/status/1151849611482599425); Radio Ñuble AM y FM, Chillán, Chile (URL: http://radionuble.cl/linea/, lhttps://twitter.com/RadioNuble/status/1151858189299781632); CHV Noticias, Santiago, Chile (URL: https://www.chvnoticias.cl/, https://twitter.com/CHVNoticias/status/1159263718015819777); Movisis.org Internacional, Manabi, Ecuador (URL: https://movisis.org/, https://twitter.com/MOVISISEC/status/1160778823031558144); Carlos Bustos (URL: https://twitter.com/cbusca1970/status/1168932243873644548); EarthQuakesTime (URL: https://twitter.com/EarthQuakesTime/status/1171654504841908229); Red Geocientifica de Chile (URL: https://twitter.com/RedGeoChile/status/1171972482875703296); American Earthquakes (URL: https://twitter.com/earthquakevt/status/1172271139760091136); PatoArias, Talca, Chile (URL: https://twitter.com/patoarias/status/1172287142191665153); Volcanologia Chile, (URL: http://www.volcanochile.com/joomla30/, https://twitter.com/volcanologiachl/status/1182707451554078720); Claudio Kanisius (URL: https://twitter.com/ClaudioKanisius/status/1191182878346031104).

Asosan (Japan) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



32.884°N, 131.104°E; summit elev. 1592 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Intermittent ash plumes and elevated SO2 emissions continue during July-December 2019

The large Asosan caldera reaches around 23 km long in the N-S direction and contains a complex of 17 cones, of which Nakadake is the most active (figure 58). A recent increase in activity prompted an alert level increase from 1 to 2 on 14 April 2019. The Nakadake crater is the site of current activity (figure 59) and contains several smaller craters, with the No. 1 crater being the main source of activity during July-December 2019. The activity during this period is summarized here based on reports by the Japan Meteorological Agency and satellite data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 58. Asosan is a group of cones and craters within a larger caldera system. January 2010 Monthly Mosaic images copyright Planet Labs 2019.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 59. Hot gas emissions from the Nakadake No. 1 crater on 25 June 2019 reached around 340°C. Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (July 2019 monthly report).

Small explosions were observed at the No. 1 vent on the 4, 5, 9, 13-16, and 26 July. There was an increase in thermal energy detected near the vent leading to a larger event on the 26th (figures 60 and 61), which produced an ash plume up to 1.6 km above the crater rim and continuing from 0757 to around 1300 with a lower plume height of 400 m after 0900. Light ashfall was reported downwind. Elevated activity was noted during 28-29 July, and an ash plume was seen in webcam footage on the 30th. Incandescence was visible in light-sensitive cameras during 4-17 and after the 26th. A field survey on 5 July measured 1,300 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) per day. This had increased to 2,300 tons per day by the 12th, 2,500 on the 24th, and 2,400 by the 25th. A sulfur dioxide plume was detected in Sentinel-5P/TROPOMI satellite data acquired on 28 July (figure 62).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 60. Thermal images taken at Asosan on 26 July 2019 show the increasing temperature of emissions leading to an explosion. Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (July 2019 monthly report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 61. An eruption from the Nakadake crater at Asosan on 26 July 2019. Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (July 2019 monthly report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 62. A sulfur dioxide plume was detected from Asosan (to the left) on 28 July 2019. The larger plume (red) to the right is not believed to be associated with volcanism in this area. NASA Sentinel-5P/TROPOMI satellite image courtesy of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The increased eruptive activity that began on 5 July continued to 16 August. There were 24 eruptions recorded throughout the month, with eruptions occurring on 18-23, 25, and 29-31 August. An ash plume at 2100 on 4 August reached 1.5 km above the crater rim. Detected SO2 increased to extremely high levels from late July to early August with 5,200 tons per day recorded on 9 August, but which then reduced to 2,000 tons per day. Ashfall occurred out to around 7 km NW on the 10th (figure 63). Activity continued to increase at the Nakadake No. 1 crater, producing incandescence. High-temperature gas plumes were detected at the No. 2 crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 63. Ashfall from Asosan on 10 August 2019 near Otohime, Aso city, which is about 7 km NW of the Nakadake No. 1 crater that produced the ash plume. The ashfall was thick enough that the white line in the parking lot was mostly obscured (lower photo). Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (August 2019 monthly report).

Thermal activity continued to increase, and incandescence was observed at the No. 1 crater throughout September. There were 24 eruptions recorded throughout August. Light ashfall occurred out to around 8 km NE on the 3rd and ash plumes reached 1.6 km above the crater rim during 10-13, and again during 25-30 (figures 64 and 65). During the later dates ashfall was reported to the NE and NW. The SO2 levels were back down to 1,600 tons per day by 11 September and increased to 2,600 tons per day by the 26th.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 64. Ash plumes at Asosan on 29 September 2019. Courtesy of Volcanoverse.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 65. Activity at Asosan in late September 2019. Left: incandescence and a gas plume at the Nakadake No. 1 crater on the 28th. Right: an eruption produced an ash plume at 0839 on the 30th. Aso Volcano Museum surveillance camera image (left) and Kusasenri surveillance camera image (right) courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (September 2019 monthly report).

Similar elevated activity continued through October with ash plumes reaching 1.3 km above the crater and periodic ashfall reported at the Kumamoto Regional Meteorological Observatory, and out to 4 km S to SW on the 19th and 29th. Temperatures up to 580°C were recorded at the No. 1 crater on 23 October and incandescence was occasionally visible at night through the month (figure 66). Gas surveys detected 2,800 tons per day of SO2 on 7 October, which had increased to 4,000 tons per day by the 11th.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 66. Drone images of the Asosan Nakadake crater area on 23 October 2019. The colored boxes show the same vents and the photographs on the left correlate to the thermal images on the right. The yellow box is around the No. 1 crater, with temperature measurements reaching 580°C. The emissions in the red box reached 50°C, and up to 100°C on the southwest crater wall (blue box). Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (October 2019 monthly report).

Ash plume emission continued through November (figure 67 and 68). Plumes reached 1.5 to 2.4 km above sea level during 13-18 November and ashfall occurred downwind, with a maximum of 1.4 km above the crater rim for the month. Ashfall was reported near Aso City Hall on the 27th. Incandescence was observed until 6 November. During the first half of October sulfur dioxide emissions were slightly lower than the previous month, with measurements detecting under 3,000 tons per day. In the second half of the month emissions increased to 2,000 to 6,300 tons per day. This was accompanied by an increase in volcanic tremor.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 67. Examples of ash plumes at Asosan on 2, 8, 9, and 11 November 2019. The plume on 2 November reached 1.3 km above the crater rim. Kusasenri surveillance camera images courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 68. Ash emissions from the Nakadake crater at Asosan on 15 and 17 November 2019. The continuous ash emission is weak and is being dispersed by the wind. Copyright Mizumoto, used with permission.

Throughout December activity remained elevated with ash plumes reaching 1.1 km above the Nakadake No. 1 crater and producing ashfall. The maximum gas plume height was 1.8 km above the crater. A total of 23 eruptions were recorded, and incandescence at the crater was observed through the month. Sulfur dioxide emissions continued to increase with 5,800 tons per day recorded on the 27th, and 7,400 tons per day recorded on the 31st.

Overall, eruptive activity has continued intermittently since 26 July and SO2 emissions have increased through the year. Incandescence was seen at the crater since 2 October and this is consistent with an increase in thermal energy detected by the MIROVA algorithm around that time (figure 69).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 69. Thermal anomalies were low through 2019 with a notable increase around October to November. Log radiative power plot courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. The 24-km-wide Asosan caldera was formed during four major explosive eruptions from 300,000 to 90,000 years ago. These produced voluminous pyroclastic flows that covered much of Kyushu. The last of these, the Aso-4 eruption, produced more than 600 km3 of airfall tephra and pyroclastic-flow deposits. A group of 17 central cones was constructed in the middle of the caldera, one of which, Nakadake, is one of Japan's most active volcanoes. It was the location of Japan's first documented historical eruption in 553 CE. The Nakadake complex has remained active throughout the Holocene. Several other cones have been active during the Holocene, including the Kometsuka scoria cone as recently as about 210 CE. Historical eruptions have largely consisted of basaltic to basaltic-andesite ash emission with periodic strombolian and phreatomagmatic activity. The summit crater of Nakadake is accessible by toll road and cable car, and is one of Kyushu's most popular tourist destinations.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Mizumoto, Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan (Twitter: https://twitter.com/hepomodeler); Volcanoverse (URL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi3T_esus8Sr9I-3W5teVQQ).

Tinakula (Solomon Islands) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report


Solomon Islands

10.386°S, 165.804°E; summit elev. 796 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Intermittent thermal activity suggests ongoing eruption, July-December 2019

Remote Tinakula lies 100 km NE of the Solomon Trench at the N end of the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the South Pacific country of the Solomon Islands located 400 km to the W. It has been uninhabited since an eruption with lava flows and ash explosions in 1971 when the small population was evacuated (CSLP 87-71). The nearest communities live on Te Motu (Trevanion) Island (about 30 km S), Nupani (40 km N), and the Reef Islands (60 km E); residents occasionally report noises from explosions at Tinakula. Ashfall from larger explosions has historically reached these islands. A large ash explosion during 21-26 October 2017 was a short-lived event; renewed thermal activity was detected beginning in December 2018 and intermittently throughout 2019. This report covers the ongoing activity from July-December 2019. Since ground-based observations are rarely available, satellite thermal and visual data are the primary sources of information.

MIROVA thermal anomaly data indicated intermittent but ongoing thermal activity at Tinakula during July-December 2019 (figure 35). It was characterized by pulses of multiple alerts of varying intensities for several days followed by no activity for a few weeks.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 35. The MIROVA project plot of Radiative Power at Tinakula from 2 March 2019 through the end of the year indicated repeated pulses of thermal energy each month except for August 2019. It was characterized by pulses of multiple alerts for several days followed by no activity for a few weeks. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Observations using Sentinel-2 satellite imagery were often prevented by clouds during July, but two MODVOLC thermal alerts on 2 July 2019 corresponded to MIROVA thermal activity on that date. No thermal anomalies were reported by MIROVA during August 2019, but Sentinel-2 satellite images showed dense steam plumes drifting away from the summit on four separate dates (figure 36). Two distinct thermal anomalies appeared in infrared imagery on 9 September, and a dense steam plume drifted about 10 km NW on 14 September (figure 37).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 36. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery for Tinakula recorded ongoing steam emissions on multiple days during August 2019 including 10 August (left) and 20 August (right). The island is about 3 km in diameter. Left image is natural color rendering with bands 4,3,2, right image is atmospheric penetration with bands 12, 11, and 8a. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. A bright thermal anomaly at the summit and a weaker one on the nearby upper W flank of Tinakula on 9 September 2019 (left) indicated ongoing eruptive activity in Sentinel-2 satellite imagery. While no thermal anomalies were visible on 14 September (right), a dense steam plume originating from the summit drifted more than 10 km NW. Atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

During October 2019 steam emissions were captured in four clear satellite images; a weak thermal anomaly was present on the W flank on 9 October (figure 38). MODVOLC recorded a single thermal alert on 9 November. Stronger thermal anomalies appeared twice during November in satellite images. On 13 November a strong anomaly was present at the summit in Sentinel-2 imagery; it was accompanied by a dense steam plume drifting NE from the hotspot. On 28 November two thermal anomalies appeared part way down the upper NW flank (figure 39). Thermal imagery on 3 December suggested that a weak anomaly remained on the NW flank in a similar location; a dense steam plume rose above the summit, drifting slightly SW on 18 December (figure 40). A thermal anomaly at the summit on 28 December was accompanied by a dense steam plume and corresponded to multiple MIROVA thermal anomalies at the end of December.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. A weak thermal anomaly was recorded on the upper W flank of Tinakula on 9 October 2019 in Sentinel-2 satellite imagery (left). Dense steam drifted about 10 km NW from the summit on 29 October (right). Atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. On 13 November 2019 a strong anomaly was present at the summit of Tinakula in Sentinel-2 imagery; it was accompanied by a dense steam plume drifting NE from the hotspot (left). On 28 November two thermal anomalies appeared part way down the upper NW flank (right). Atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Thermal imagery on 3 December 2019 from Tinakula suggested that a weak anomaly remained in a similar location to one of the earlier anomalies on the NW flank (left); a dense steam plume rose above the summit, drifting slightly SW on 18 December (center). A thermal anomaly at the summit on 28 December was accompanied by a dense steam plume (right) and corresponded to multiple MIROVA thermal anomalies at the end of December. Atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The small 3.5-km-wide island of Tinakula is the exposed summit of a massive stratovolcano at the NW end of the Santa Cruz islands. Similar to Stromboli, it has a breached summit crater that extends from the summit to below sea level. Landslides enlarged this scarp in 1965, creating an embayment on the NW coast. The satellitic cone of Mendana is located on the SE side. The dominantly andesitic volcano has frequently been observed in eruption since the era of Spanish exploration began in 1595. In about 1840, an explosive eruption apparently produced pyroclastic flows that swept all sides of the island, killing its inhabitants. Frequent historical eruptions have originated from a cone constructed within the large breached crater. These have left the upper flanks and the steep apron of lava flows and volcaniclastic debris within the breach unvegetated.

Information Contacts: MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).

Ibu (Indonesia) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



1.488°N, 127.63°E; summit elev. 1325 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Frequent ash plumes and small lava flows in the crater through December 2019

Heightened continuing activity at Ibu since March 2018 has been dominated by frequent ash explosions with weak ash plumes, and numerous thermal anomalies reflecting one or more weak lava flows (BGVN 43:05, 43:12, and 44:07). This report summarizes activity through December 2019, and is based on data from the Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), and various satellites.

Typical ash plumes during the reporting period of July-December 2019 rose 800 m above the crater, with the highest reported to 1.4 km in early October (table 5). They were usually noted a few times each month. According to MAGMA Indonesia, explosive activity caused the Aviation Color Code to be raised to ORANGE (second highest of four) on 14, 22, and 31 August, 4 and 30 September, and 15 and 20 October.

Table 5. Ash plumes and other volcanic activity reported at Ibu during December 2018-December 2019. Plume heights are reported above the crater rim. Data courtesy of PVMBG and Darwin VAAC.

Date Time Ash Plume Height Plume Drift Remarks
11 Dec 2018 -- 500 m -- Weather clouds prevented views in satellite data.
12 Jan 2019 1712 800 m S --
13 Jan 2019 0801 800 m S --
05-12 Feb 2019 -- 200-800 m E, S, W Weather conditions occasionally prevented observations.
25-26 Feb 2019 -- 1.1-1.7 km NE, ENE Thermal anomaly.
28 Feb 2019 -- 800 m N --
18 Mar 2019 -- 1.1 km E Plume drifted about 17 km NE.
23 Mar 2019 -- 1.1 km E --
28 Mar 2019 -- 800 m SE --
10 Apr 2019 -- 800 m N --
15-16 Apr 2019 -- 1.1 km N, NE --
18 Apr 2019 -- 800 m E --
07 May 2019 -- 1.1 km ESE --
08 May 2019 -- 1.1 km ESE --
09 May 2019 1821 600 m S Seismicity characterized by explosions, tremor, and rock avalanches.
10 May 2019 -- 500 m ESE --
14 May 2019 1846 800 m N --
14-16, 18-19 May 2019 -- 0.8-1.7 km NW, N, ENE --
23-24 May 2019 -- 1.1-1.4 km SE --
31 May 2019 -- 800 m W --
02 Jun 2019 -- 1.7 km W --
21 Jun 2019 -- 500 m N, NE --
24-25 Jun 2019 -- 0.2-1.1 km SE, ESE --
06 Jul 2019 -- 800 m N Intermittent thermal anomaly.
15 Jul 2019 -- 800 m NE --
07-12 Aug 2019 -- 200-800 m -- Plumes were white-to-gray.
14 Aug 2019 1107 800 m N Seismicity characterized by explosions and rock avalanches.
22 Aug 2019 0704 800 m W Seismicity characterized by explosions and rock avalanches.
31 Aug 2019 1847 800 m N Seismicity characterized by explosions and rock avalanches.
04 Sep 2019 0936 300 m S --
28 Sep 2019 -- 500-800 m WNW --
30 Sep 2019 1806 800 m N --
06-07 Oct 2019 -- 0.8-1.4 km S, N --
15 Oct 2019 0707 400 m S --
20 Oct 2019 0829 400 m W --
01-05 Nov 2019 -- 200-800 m E, N Plumes were white-and-gray.
20-21, 23-25 Nov 2019 -- 500-800 m Multiple Thermal anomaly on 21 Nov.
03 Dec 2019 -- 800 m NE Thermal anomaly.
26 Dec 2019 -- 800 m S Discrete ash puffs in satellite imagery.

Thermal anomalies were sometimes noted by PVMBG, and were also frequently obvious in infrared satellite imagery suggesting lava flows and multiple active vents, as seen on 22 November 2019 (figure 19). Thermal anomalies using MODIS satellite instruments processed by the MODVOLC algorithm were recorded 2-4 days every month from July to December 2019. In contrast, the MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) system detected numerous hotspots on most days (figure 20).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 19. Example of thermal activity in the Ibu crater on 22 November 2019, along with a plume drifting SE. One or more vents in the crater are producing small lava flows, an observation common throughout the reporting period. Sentinel-2 false color (urban) images (bands 12, 11, 4), courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 20. Thermal anomalies recorded at Ibu by the MIROVA system using MODIS infrared satellite data for the year 2019. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. The truncated summit of Gunung Ibu stratovolcano along the NW coast of Halmahera Island has large nested summit craters. The inner crater, 1 km wide and 400 m deep, contained several small crater lakes through much of historical time. The outer crater, 1.2 km wide, is breached on the north side, creating a steep-walled valley. A large parasitic cone is located ENE of the summit. A smaller one to the WSW has fed a lava flow down the W flank. A group of maars is located below the N and W flanks. Only a few eruptions have been recorded in historical time, the first a small explosive eruption from the summit crater in 1911. An eruption producing a lava dome that eventually covered much of the floor of the inner summit crater began in December 1998.

Information Contacts: Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); MAGMA Indonesia, Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral (URL: https://magma.vsi.esdm.go.id/); Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), National Disaster Management Agency, Graha BNPB - Jl. Scout Kav.38, East Jakarta 13120, Indonesia (URL: http://www.bnpb.go.id/); Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory Regional Office, PO Box 40050, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia (URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).

Lateiki (Tonga) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



19.18°S, 174.87°W; summit elev. 43 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Eruption 13-22 October 2019 creates new island, which disappears by mid-January 2020

Lateiki (Metis Shoal) is one of several submarine and island volcanoes on the W side of the Tonga trench in the South Pacific. It has produced ephemeral islands multiple times since the first confirmed activity in the mid-19th century. Two eruptions, in 1967 and 1979, produced islands that survived for a few months before eroding beneath the surface. An eruption in 1995 produced a larger island that persisted, possibly until a new eruption in mid-October 2019 destroyed it and built a new short-lived island. Information was provided by the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, and from satellite information and news sources.

Review of eruptions during 1967-1995. The first reported 20th century eruption at this location was observed by sailors beginning on 12 December 1967 (CSLP 02-67); incandescent ejecta rose several hundred meters into the air and "steam and smoke" rose at least 1,000 m from the ocean surface. The eruption created a small island that was reported to be a few tens of meters high, and a few thousand meters in length and width. Eruptive activity appeared to end in early January 1968, and the island quickly eroded beneath the surface by the end of February (figure 6). When observed in April 1968 the island was gone, with only plumes of yellowish water in the area of the former island.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 6. Waves break over Lateiki on 19 February 1968, more than a month after the end of a submarine eruption that began in December 1967 and produced a short-lived island. Photo by Charles Lundquist, 1968 (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory).

A large steam plume and ejecta were observed on 19 June 1979, along with a "growing area of tephra" around the site with a diameter of 16 km by the end of June (SEAN 04:06). Geologists visited the site in mid-July and at that time the island was about 300 m long, 120 m wide, and 15 m high, composed of tephra ranging in size from ash to large bombs (SEAN 04:07); ash emissions were still occurring from the E side of the island. It was determined that the new island was located about 1 km E of the 1967-68 island. By early October 1979 the island had nearly disappeared beneath the ocean surface.

A new eruption was first observed on 6 June 1995. A new island appeared above the waves as a growing lava dome on 12 June (BGVN 20:06). Numerous ash plumes rose hundreds of meters and dissipated downwind. By late June an elliptical dome, about 300 x 250 m in size and 50 m high, had stopped growing. The new island it formed was composed of hardened lava and not the tuff cones of earlier islands (figure 7) according to visitors to the island; pumice was not observed. An overflight of the area in December 2006 showed that an island was still present (figure 8), possibly from the June 1995 eruption. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery confirming the presence of Lateiki Island and discolored water was clearly recorded multiple times between 2015 and 2019. This suggests that the island created in 1995 could have lasted for more than 20 years (figure 9).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. An aerial view during the 1995 eruption of Lateiki forming a lava dome. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 8. Lateiki Island as seen on 7 December 2006; possibly part of the island that formed in 1995. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 9. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery confirmed the existence of an island present from 2015 through 2019 with little changes to its shape. This suggests that the island created in 1995 could have lasted for more than 20 years. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

New eruption in October 2019. The Kingdom of Tonga reported a new eruption at Lateiki on 13 October 2019, first noted by a ship at 0800 on 14 October. NASA satellite imagery confirmed the eruption taking place that day (figure 10). The following morning a pilot from Real Tonga Airlines photographed the steam plume and reported a plume height of 4.6-5.2 km altitude (figure 11). The Wellington VAAC issued an aviation advisory report noting the pilot's observation of steam, but no ash plume was visible in satellite imagery. They issued a second report on 22 October of a similar steam plume reported by a pilot at 3.7 km altitude. The MODVOLC thermal alert system recorded three thermal alerts from Lateiki, one each on 18, 20, and 22 October 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 10. NASA's Worldview Aqua/MODIS satellite imagery taken on 14 October 2019 over the Ha'apai and Vava'u region of Tonga showing the new eruption at Lateiki. Neiafu, Vava'u, is at the top right and Tofua and Kao islands are at the bottom left. The inset shows a closeup of Late Island at the top right and a white steam plume rising from Lateiki. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga and NASA Worldview.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 11. Real Tonga Airline's Captain Samuela Folaumoetu'I photographed a large steam plume rising from Lateiki on the morning of 15 October 2019. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga.

The first satellite image of the eruption on 15 October 2019 showed activity over a large area, much bigger than the preexisting island that was visible on 10 October (figure 12). Although the eruption produced a steam plume that drifted several tens of kilometers SW and strong incandescent activity, no ash plume was visible, similar to reports of dense steam with little ash during the 1968 and 1979 eruptions (figure 13). Strong incandescence and a dense steam plume were still present on 20 October (figure 14).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 12. The first satellite image of the eruption of Lateiki on 15 October 2019 showed activity over a large area, much bigger than the preexisting island that was visible on 10 October (inset). The two images are the same scale; the island was about 100 m in diameter before the eruption. Image uses Natural Color Rendering (bands 4, 3, 2). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. The steam plume from Lateiki on 15 October 2019 drifted more than 20 km SE from the volcano. A strong thermal anomaly from incandescent activity was present in the atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8a) closeup of the same image (inset). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 14. A dense plume of steam drifted NW from Lateiki on 20 October 2019, and a strong thermal signal (inset) indicated ongoing explosive activity. Courtesy of Annamaria Luongo and Sentinel Hub Playground.

A clear satellite image on 30 October 2019 revealed an island estimated to be about 100 m wide and 400 m long, according to geologist Taaniela Kula of the Tonga Geological Service of the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources as reported by a local news source (Matangitonga). There was no obvious fumarolic steam activity from the surface, but a plume of greenish brown seawater swirled away from the island towards the NE (figure 15). In a comparison of the location of the old Lateiki island with the new one in satellite images, it was clear that the new island was located as far as 250 m to the NW (figure 16) on 30 October. Over the course of the next few weeks, the island's size decreased significantly; by 19 November, it was perhaps one-quarter the size it had been at the end of October. Lateiki Island continued to diminish during December 2019 and January 2020, and by mid-month only traces of discolored sea water were visible beneath the waves over the eruption site (figure 17).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 15. The new Lateiki Island was clearly visible on 30 October 2019 (top left), as was greenish-blue discoloration in the surrounding waters. It was estimated to be about 100 m wide and 400 m long that day. Its size decreased significantly over subsequent weeks; ten days later (top right) it was about half the size and two weeks later, on 14 November 2019 (bottom left), it was about one-third its original size. By 19 November (bottom right) only a fraction of the island remained. Greenish discolored water continued to be visible around the volcano. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 16. The location of the new Lateiki Island (Metis Shoal), shown here on 30 October 2019 in red, was a few hundred meters to the NW of the old position recorded on 5 September 2019 (in white). Courtesy of Annamaria Luongo and Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 17. Lateiki Island disappeared beneath the waves in early January 2020, though plumes of discolored water continued to be observed later in the month. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. Lateiki, previously known as Metis Shoal, is a submarine volcano midway between the islands of Kao and Late that has produced a series of ephemeral islands since the first confirmed activity in the mid-19th century. An island, perhaps not in eruption, was reported in 1781 and subsequently eroded away. During periods of inactivity following 20th-century eruptions, waves have been observed to break on rocky reefs or sandy banks with depths of 10 m or less. Dacitic tuff cones formed during the first 20th-century eruptions in 1967 and 1979 were soon eroded beneath the ocean surface. An eruption in 1995 produced an island with a diameter of 280 m and a height of 43 m following growth of a lava dome above the surface.

Information Contacts: Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, PO Box 5, Nuku'alofa, Tonga (URL: http://www.gov.to/ ); Royal New Zealand Air Force (URL: http://www.airforce.mil.nz/); NASA Worldview (URL: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Annamaria Luongo, Brussels, Belgium (Twitter: @annamaria_84, URL: https://twitter.com/annamaria_84 ); Taaniela Kula, Tonga Geological Service, Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources; Matangi Tonga Online (URL: https://matangitonga.to/2019/11/06/eruption-lateiki).

Aira (Japan) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ongoing explosions with ejecta and ash plumes, along with summit incandescence, during July-December 2019

Sakurajima is a highly active stratovolcano situated in the Aira caldera in southern Kyushu, Japan. Common volcanism for this recent eruptive episode since March 2017 includes frequent explosions, ash plumes, and scattered ejecta. Much of this activity has been focused in the Minamidake crater since 1955; the Showa crater on the E flank has had intermittent activity since 2006. This report updates activity during July through December 2019 with the primary source information from monthly reports by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and various satellite data.

During July to December 2019, explosive eruptions and ash plumes were reported multiple times per week by JMA. November was the most active, with 137 eruptive events, seven of which were explosive while August was the least active with no eruptive events recorded (table 22). Ash plumes rose between 800 m to 5.5 km above the crater rim during this reporting period. Large blocks of incandescent ejecta traveled as far as 1.7 km from the Minamidake crater during explosions in September through December. The Kagoshima Regional Meteorological Observatory (11 km WSW) reported monthly amounts of ashfall during each month, with a high of 143 g/m2 during October. Occasionally at night throughout this reporting period, crater incandescence was observed with a highly sensitive surveillance camera. All explosive activity originated from the Minamidake crater; the adjacent Showa crater produced mild thermal anomalies and gas-and-steam plumes.

Table 22. Monthly summary of eruptive events recorded at Sakurajima's Minamidake crater in the Aira caldera, July through December 2019. The number of events that were explosive in nature are in parentheses. No events were recorded at the Showa crater during this time. Ashfall is measured at the Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory (KLMO), 10 km W of Showa crater. Data courtesy of JMA (July to December 2019 monthly reports).

Month Ash emissions (explosive) Max plume height above crater Max ejecta distance from crater Total amount of ashfall (g/m2)
Jul 2019 9 (5) 3.8 km 1.1 km --
Aug 2019 -- 800 m -- 2
Sep 2019 32 (11) 3.4 km 1.7 km 115
Oct 2019 62 (41) 3.0 km 1.7 km 143
Nov 2019 137 (77) 5.5 km 1.7 km 69
Dec 2019 71 (49) 3.3 km 1.7 km 54

An explosion that occurred at 1044 on 4 July 2019 produced an ash plume that rose up to 3.2 km above the Minamidake crater rim and ejected material 1.1 km from the vent. Field surveys conducted on 17 and 23 July measured SO2 emissions that were 1,200-1,800 tons/day. Additional explosions between 19-22 July generated smaller plumes that rose to 1.5 km above the crater and ejected material 1.1 km away. On 28 July explosions at 1725 and 1754 produced ash plumes 3.5-3.8 km above the crater rim, which resulted in ashfall in areas N and E of Sakurajima (figure 86), including Kirishima City (20 km NE), Kagoshima Prefecture (30 km SE), Yusui Town (40 km N), and parts of the Kumamoto Prefecture (140 km NE).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 86. Photo of the Sakurajima explosion at 1725 on 28 July 2019 resulting in an ash plume rising 3.8 km above the crater (left). An on-site field survey on 29 July observed ashfall on roads and vegetation on the N side of the island (right). Photo by Moto Higashi-gun (left), courtesy of JMA (July 2019 report).

The month of August 2019 showed the least activity and consisted of mainly small eruptive events occurring up to 800 m above the crater; summit incandescence was observed with a highly sensitive surveillance camera. SO2 emissions were measured on 8 and 13 August with 1,000-2,000 tons/day, which was slightly greater than the previous month. An extensometer at the Arimura Observation Tunnel and an inclinometer at the Amida River recorded slight inflation on 29 August, but continuous GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) observations showed no significant changes.

In September 2019 there were 32 eruptive events recorded, of which 11 were explosions, more than the previous two months. Seismicity also increased during this month. An extensometer and inclinometer recorded inflation at the Minamidake crater on 9 September, which stopped after the eruptive events. On 16 September, an eruption at 0746 produced an ash plume that rose 2.8 km above the crater rim and drifted SW; a series of eruptive events followed from 0830-1110 (figure 87). Explosions on 18 and 20 September produced ash plumes that rose 3.4 km above the crater rim and ejecting material as far as 1.7 km from the summit crater on the 18th and 700 m on the 20th. Field surveys measured an increased amount of SO2 emissions ranging from 1,100 to 2,300 tons/day during September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 87. Webcam image of an ash plume rising 2.8 km from the Minamidake crater at Sakurajima on 16 September 2019. Courtesy of Weathernews Inc.

Seismicity, SO2 emissions, and the number of eruptions continued to increase in October 2019, 41 of which were explosive. Field surveys conducted on 1, 11, and 15 October reported that SO2 emissions were 2,000-2,800 tons/day. An explosion at 0050 on 12 October produced an ash plume that traveled 1.7 km from the Minamidake crater. Explosions between 16 and 19 October produced an ash plume that rose up to 3 km above the crater rim (figure 88). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force 1st Air group observed gas-and-steam plumes rising from both the Minamidake and Showa craters on 25 October. The inflation reported from 16 September began to slow in late October.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 88. Photos taken from the E side of Sakurajima showing gas-and-steam emissions with some amount of ash rising from the volcano on 16 October 2019 after an explosion around 1200 that day (top). At night, summit incandescence is observed (bottom). Courtesy of Bradley Pitcher, Vanderbilt University.

November 2019 was the most active month during this reporting period with increased seismicity, SO2 emissions, and 137 eruptive events, 77 of which were explosive. GNSS observations indicated that inflation began to slow during this month. On 8 November, an explosion at 1724 produced an ash plume up to a maximum of 5.5 km above the crater rim and drifted E. This explosion ejected large blocks as far as 500-800 m away from the crater (figure 89). The last time plumes rose above 5 km from the vents occurred on 26 July 2016 at the Showa crater and on 7 October 2000 at the Minamidake crater. Field surveys on 8, 21, and 29 November measured increased SO2 emissions ranging from 2,600 to 3,600 tons/day. Eruptions between 13-19 November produced ash plumes that rose up to 3.6 km above the crater and ejected large blocks up 1.7 km away. An onsite survey on 29 November used infrared thermal imaging equipment to observe incandescence and geothermal areas near the Showa crater and the SE flank of Minamidake (figure 90).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 89. Photos of an ash plume rising 5.5 km above Sakurajima on 8 November 2019 and drifting E. Photo by Moto Higashi-gun (top left), courtesy of JMA (November 2019 report) and the Geoscientific Network of Chile.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 90. Webcam image of nighttime incandescence and gas-and-steam emissions with some amount of ash at Sakurajima on 29 November 2019. Courtesy of JMA (November 2019 report).

Volcanism, which included seismicity, SO2 emissions, and eruptive events, decreased during December 2019. Explosions during 4-10 December produced ash plumes that rose up to 2.6 km above the crater rim and ejected material up to 1.7 km away. Field surveys conducted on 6, 16, and 23 December measured SO2 emissions around 1,000-3,000 tons/day. On 24 December, an explosion produced an ash plume that rose to 3.3 km above the crater rim, this high for this month.

Sentinel-2 natural color satellite imagery showed dense ash plumes in late August 2019, early November, and through December (figure 91). These plumes drifted in different directions and rose to a maximum 5.5 km above the crater rim on 8 November.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 91. Natural color Sentinel-2 satellite images of Sakurajima within the Aira caldera from late August through December 2019 showed dense ash plumes rising from the Minamidake crater. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) analysis of MODIS satellite data showed intermittent thermal anomalies beginning in mid-August to early September 2019 after a nearly two-month hiatus (figure 92). Activity increased by early November and continued through December. Three Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images between late July and early October showed distinct thermal hotspots within the Minamidake crater, in addition to faint gas-and-steam emissions in July and September (figure 93).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 92. Thermal anomalies at Sakurajima during January-December 2019 as recorded by the MIROVA system (Log Radiative Power) started up in mid-August to early September after a two-month break and continued through December. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 93. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images showing small thermal anomalies and gas-and-steam emissions (left and middle) at Sakurajima within the Minamidake crater between late July and early October 2019. All images with "Atmospheric penetration" (bands 12, 11, 8A) rendering; courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

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: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Weathernews Inc. (Twitter: @wni_jp, https://twitter.com/wni_jp, URL: https://weathernews.jp/s/topics/201608/210085/, photo posted at https://twitter.com/wni_jp/status/1173382407216652289); Bradley Pitcher, Vanderbilt University, Nashville. TN, USA (URL: https://bradpitcher.weebly.com/, Twitter: @TieDyeSciGuy, photo posted at https://twitter.com/TieDyeSciGuy/status/1185191225101471744); Geoscientific Network of Chile (Twitter: @RedGeoChile, https://twitter.com/RedGeoChile, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RedGeoChile/, photo posted at https://twitter.com/RedGeoChile/status/1192921768186515456).

Suwanosejima (Japan) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



29.638°N, 129.714°E; summit elev. 796 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Explosions, ash emissions, and summit incandescence in July-December 2019

Suwanosejima, located south of Japan in the northern Ryukyu Islands, is an active andesitic stratovolcano that has had continuous activity since October 2004, typically producing ash plumes and Strombolian explosions. Much of this activity is focused within the Otake crater. This report updates information during July through December 2019 using monthly reports from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), and various satellite data.

White gas-and-steam plumes rose from Suwanosejima on 26 July 2019, 30-31 August, 1-6, 10, and 20-27 September, reaching a maximum altitude of 2.4 km on 10 September, according to Tokyo VAAC advisories. Intermittent gray-white plumes were observed rising from the summit during October through December (figure 40).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Surveillance camera images of white gas-and-steam emissions rising from Suwanosejima on 10 December 2019 (left) and up to 1.8 km above the crater rim on 28 December (right). At night, summit incandescence was also observed on 10 December. Courtesy of JMA.

An explosion that occurred at 2331 on 1 August 2019 ejected material 400 m from the crater while other eruptions on 3-6 and 26 August produced ash plumes that rose up to a maximum altitude of 2.1 km and drifted generally NW according to the Tokyo VAAC report. JMA reported eruptions and summit incandescence in September accompanied by white gas-and-steam plumes, but no explosions were noted. Eruptions on 19 and 29 October produced ash plumes that rose 300 and 800 m above the crater rim, resulting in ashfall in Toshima (4 km SW), according to the Toshima Village Office, Suwanosejima Branch Office. Another eruption on 30 October produced a similar gray-white plume rising 800 m above the crater rim but did not result in ashfall. Similar activity continued in November with eruptions on 5-7 and 13-15 November producing grayish-white plumes rising 900 m and 1.5 km above the crater rim and frequent crater incandescence. Ashfall was reported in Toshima Village on 19 and 20 November; the 20 November eruption ejected material 200 m from the Otake crater.

Field surveys on 14 and 18 December using an infrared thermal imaging system to the E of Suwanose Island showed hotspots around the Otake crater, on the N slope of the crater, and on the upper part of the E coastline. GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) observations on 15 and 17 December showed a slight change in the baseline length. After 2122 on 25-26 and 31 December, 23 eruptions, nine of which were explosive were reported, producing gray-white plumes that rose 800-1,800 m above the crater rim and ejected material up to 600 m from the Otake crater. JMA reported volcanic tremors occurred intermittently throughout this reporting period.

Incandescence at the summit crater was occasionally visible at night during July through December 2019, as recorded by webcam images and reported by JMA (figure 41). MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) analysis of MODIS satellite data showed weak thermal anomalies that occurred dominantly in November with little to no activity recorded between July and October (figure 42). Two Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images in early November and late December showed thermal hotspots within the summit crater (figure 43).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. Surveillance camera image of summit incandescence at Suwanosejima on 31 October 2019. Courtesy of JMA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Weak thermal anomalies at Suwanosejima during January-December 2019 as recorded by the MIROVA system (Log Radiative Power) dominantly occurred in mid-March, late May to mid-June, and November, with two hotspots detected in late September and late December. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images showing small thermal anomalies (bright yellow-orange) within the Otake crater at Suwanosejima on 8 November 2019 (left) and faintly on 23 December 2019 behind clouds (right). Both images with "Atmospheric penetration" (bands 12, 11, 8A) rendering; courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The 8-km-long, spindle-shaped island of Suwanosejima in the northern Ryukyu Islands consists of an andesitic stratovolcano with two historically active summit craters. The summit of the volcano is truncated by a large breached crater extending to the sea on the east flank that was formed by edifice collapse. Suwanosejima, one of Japan's most frequently active volcanoes, was in a state of intermittent strombolian activity from Otake, the NE summit crater, that began in 1949 and lasted until 1996, after which periods of inactivity lengthened. The largest historical eruption took place in 1813-14, when thick scoria deposits blanketed residential areas, and the SW crater produced two lava flows that reached the western coast. At the end of the eruption the summit of Otake collapsed forming a large debris avalanche and creating the horseshoe-shaped Sakuchi caldera, which extends to the eastern coast. The island remained uninhabited for about 70 years after the 1813-1814 eruption. Lava flows reached the eastern coast of the island in 1884. Only about 50 people live on the island.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/svd/vaac/data/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).

Barren Island (India) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Barren Island


12.278°N, 93.858°E; summit elev. 354 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Thermal anomalies and small ash plumes during February-April 2019 and September 2019-January 2020

Barren Island is a remote stratovolcano located east of India in the Andaman Islands. Its most recent eruptive episode began in September 2018 and has included lava flows, explosions, ash plumes, and lava fountaining (BGVN 44:02). This report updates information from February 2019 through January 2020 using various satellite data as a primary source of information.

MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) analysis of MODIS satellite data showed intermittent thermal anomalies within 5 km of the summit from mid-February 2019 through January 2020 (figure 41). There was a period of relatively low to no discernible activity between May to September 2019. The MODVOLC algorithm for MODIS thermal anomalies in comparison with Sentinel-2 thermal satellite imagery and Suomi NPP/VIIRS sensor data, registered elevated temperatures during late February 2019, early March, sparsely in April, late October, sparsely in November, early December, and intermittently in January 2020 (figure 42). Sentinel-2 thermal satellite imagery shows these thermal hotspots differing in strength from late February to late January 2020 (figure 43). The thermal anomalies in these satellite images are occasionally accompanied by ash plumes (25 February 2019, 23 October 2019, and 21 January 2020) and gas-and-steam emissions (26 April 2019).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. Intermittent thermal anomalies at Barren Island for 20 February 2019 through January 2020 occurred dominantly between late March to late April 2019 and late September 2019 through January 2020. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Timeline summary of observed activity at Barren Island from February 2019 through January 2020. For Sentinel-2, MODVOLC, and VIIRS data, the dates indicated are when thermal anomalies were detected. White areas indicated no activity was observed, which may also be due to meteoric clouds. Data courtesy of Darwin VAAC, Sentinel Hub Playground, HIGP, and NASA Worldview using the "Fire and Thermal Anomalies" layer.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Sentinel-2 thermal images show ash plumes, gas-and-steam emissions, and thermal anomalies (bright yellow-orange) at Barren Island during February 2019-January 2020. The strongest thermal signature was observed on 23 October while the weakest one is observed on 26 January. Sentinel-2 False color (bands 12, 11, 4) images courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

The Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reported ash plumes rising from the summit on 7, 14, and 16 March 2019. The maximum altitude of the ash plume occurred on 7 March, rising 1.8 km altitude, drifting W and NW and 1.2 km altitude, drifting E and ESE, based on observations from Himawari-8. The VAAC reports for 14 and 16 March reported the ash plumes rising 0.9 km and 1.2 km altitude, respectively drifting W and W.

Geologic Background. Barren Island, a possession of India in the Andaman Sea about 135 km NE of Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, is the only historically active volcano along the N-S volcanic arc extending between Sumatra and Burma (Myanmar). It is the emergent summit of a volcano that rises from a depth of about 2250 m. The small, uninhabited 3-km-wide island contains a roughly 2-km-wide caldera with walls 250-350 m high. The caldera, which is open to the sea on the west, was created during a major explosive eruption in the late Pleistocene that produced pyroclastic-flow and -surge deposits. Historical eruptions have changed the morphology of the pyroclastic cone in the center of the caldera, and lava flows that fill much of the caldera floor have reached the sea along the western coast.

Information Contacts: MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory Regional Office, PO Box 40050, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia (URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); NASA Worldview (URL: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/).

Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Whakaari/White Island

New Zealand

37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Explosion producing an ash plume and pyroclastic surge resulted in fatalities and injuries on 9 December 2019

Whakaari/White Island has been New Zealand's most active volcano since 1976. Located 48 km offshore, the volcano is a popular tourism destination with tours leaving the town of Whakatane with approximately 17,500 people visiting the island in 2018. Ten lives were lost in 1914 when part of the crater wall collapsed, impacting sulfur miners. More recently, a brief explosion at 1411 on 9 December 2019 produced an ash plume and pyroclastic surge that impacted the entire crater area. With 47 people on the island at the time, the death toll stood at 21 on 3 February 2019. At that time more patients were still in hospitals within New Zealand or their home countries.

The island is the summit of a large underwater volcano, with around 70% of the edifice below the ocean and rising around 900 m above sea level (figure 70). A broad crater opens to the ocean to the SE, with steep crater walls and an active Main Crater area to the NW rear of the crater floor (figure 71). Although the island is privately owned, GeoNet continuously monitors activity both remotely and with visits to the volcano. This Bulletin covers activity from May 2017 through December 2019 and is based on reports by GeoNet, the New Zealand Civil Defence Bay of Plenty Emergency Management Group, satellite data, and footage taken by visitors to the island.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 70. The top of the Whakaari/White Island edifice forms the island in the Bay of Plenty area, New Zealand, while 70% of the volcano is below sea level. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 71. This photo from 2004 shows the Main Crater area of Whakaari/White Island with the vent area indicated. The crater is an amphitheater shape with the crater floor distance between the vent and the ocean entry being about 700 m. The sediment plume begins at the area where tour boats dock at the island. Photo by Karen Britten, graphic by Danielle Charlton at University of Auckland; courtesy of GeoNet (11 December 2019 report).

Nearly continuous activity occurred from December 1975 to September 2000, including the formation of collapse and explosion craters producing ash emissions and explosions that impacted all of the Main Crater area. More recently, it has been in a state of elevated unrest since 2011. Renewed activity commenced with an explosive eruption on 5 August 2012 that was followed by the extrusion of a lava dome and ongoing phreatic explosions and minor ash emissions through March 2013. An ash cone was seen on 4 March 2013, and over the next few months the crater lake reformed. Further significant explosions took place on 20 August and 4, 8, and 11 October 2013. A landslide occurred in November 2015 with material descending into the lake. More recent activity on 27 April 2016 produced a short-lived eruption that deposited material across the crater floor and walls. A short period of ash emission later that year, on 13 September 2016, originated from a vent on the recent lava dome. Explosive eruptions occur with little to no warning.

Since 19 September 2016 the Volcanic Alert Level (VAL) was set to 1 (minor volcanic unrest) (figure 72). During early 2017 background activity in the crater continued, including active fumaroles emitting volcanic gases and steam from the active geothermal system, boiling springs, volcanic tremor, and deformation. By April 2017 a new crater lake had begun to form, the first since the April 2016 explosion when the lake floor was excavated an additional 13 m. Before this, there were areas where water ponded in depressions within the Main Crater but no stable lake.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 72. The New Zealand Volcanic Alert Level system up to date in February 2020. Courtesy of GeoNet.

Activity from mid-2017 through 2018. In July-August 2017 GeoNet scientists carried out the first fieldwork at the crater area since late 2015 to sample the new crater lake and gas emissions. The crater lake was significantly cooler than the past lakes at 20°C, compared to 30-70°C that was typical previously. Chemical analysis of water samples collected in July showed the lowest concentrations of most "volcanic elements" in the lake for the past 10-15 years due to the reduced volcanic gases entering the lake. The acidity remained similar to that of battery acid. Gas emissions from the 2012 dome were 114°C, which were over 450°C in 2012 and 330°C in 2016. Fumarole 0 also had a reduced temperature of 152°C, reduced from over 190°C in late 2016 (figure 73). The observations and measurements indicated a decline in unrest. Further visits in December 2017 noted relatively low-level unrest including 149°C gas emissions from fumarole 0, a small crater lake, and loud gas vents nearby (figures 74 and 75). By 27 November the lake had risen to 10 m below overflow. Analysis of water samples led to an estimate of 75% of the lake water resulting from condensing steam vents below the lake and the rest from rainfall.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 73. A GeoNet scientists conducting field work near Fumarole 0, an accessible gas vent on Whakaari/White Island in August 2017. Courtesy of GeoNet (23 August 2017 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 74. GeoNet scientists sample gas emissions from vents on the 2012 Whakaari/White Island dome. The red circle in the left image indicates the location of the scientists. Courtesy of GeoNet (23 August 2017 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 75. Active fumaroles and vents in the Main Crater of Whakaari/White Island including Fumarole 0 (top left). The crater lake formed in mid-2017 and gas emissions rise from surrounding vents (right). Courtesy of GeoNet (22 December 2017 report).

Routine fieldwork by GeoNet monitoring teams in early March 2018 showed continued low-level unrest and no apparent changes after a recent nearby earthquake swarm. The most notable change was the increase in the crater lake size, likely a response from recent high rainfall (figure 76). The water remained a relatively cool 27°C. Temperatures continued to decline at the 2012 dome vent (128°C) and Fumarole 0 (138°C). Spring and stream flow had also declined. Deformation was observed towards the Active Crater of 2-5 mm per month and seismicity remained low. The increase in lake level drowned gas vents along the lake shore resulting in geyser-like activity (figure 77). GeoNet warned that a new eruption could occur at any time, often without any useful warning.

In mid-April 2018 visitors reported loud sounds from the crater area as a result of the rising lake level drowning vents on the 2012 dome (in the western side of the crater) and resulting in steam-driven activity. There was no notable change in volcanic activity. The sounds stopped by July 2018 as the geothermal system adjusted to the rising water, up to 17 m below overfill and filling at a rate of about 2,000 m3 per day, rising towards more active vents (figure 78). A gas monitoring flight taken on 12 September showed a steaming lake surrounded by active fumaroles along the crater wall (figure 79).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 76. The increase in the Whakaari/White Island crater lake size in early March 2018 with gas plumes rising from vents on the other side. Courtesy of GeoNet (19 March 2018 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 77. The increasing crater lake level at Whakaari/White Island produced geyser-like activity on the lake shore in March 2018. Courtesy of Brad Scott, GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 78. Stills taken from a drone video of the Whakaari/White Island Main Crater lake and active vents producing gas emissions. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 79. Photos taken during a gas monitoring flight with GNS Science at Whakaari/White Island show gas and steam emissions, and a steaming crater lake on 12 September 2018. Note the people for scale on the lower-right crater rim in the bottom photograph. Copyright of Ben Clarke, University of Leicester, used with permission.

Activity during April to early December 2019. A GeoNet volcanic alert bulletin in April 2019 reported that steady low-level unrest continued. The level of the lake had been declining since late January and was back down to 13 m below overflow (figure 80). The water temperature had increased to over 60°C due to the fumarole activity below the lake. Fumarole 0 remained steady at around 120-130°C. During May-June a seismic swarm was reported offshore, unrelated to volcanic activity but increasing the risk of landslides within the crater due to the shallow locations.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 80. Planet Labs satellite images from March 2018 to April 2019 show fluctuations in the Whakaari/White Island crater lake level. Image copyright 2019 Planet Labs, Inc.

On 26 June the VAL was raised to level 2 (moderate to heightened volcanic unrest) due to increased SO2 flux rising to historically high levels. An overflight that day detected 1,886 tons/day, nearly three times the previous values of May 2019, the highest recorded value since 2013, and the second highest since measurements began in 2003. The VAL was subsequently lowered on 1 July due to a reduction in detected SO2 emissions of 880 tons/day on 28 June and 693 tons/day on 29 June.

GeoNet reported on 26 September that there was an increase in steam-driven activity within the active crater over the past three weeks. This included small geyser-like explosions of mud and steam with material reaching about 10 m above the lake. This was not attributed to an increase in volcanic activity, but to the crater lake level rising since early August.

On 30 October an increase in background activity was reported. An increasing trend in SO2 gas emissions and volcanic tremor had been ongoing for several months and had reached the highest levels since 2016. This indicated to GeoNet that Whakaari/White Island might be entering a period where eruptive activity was more likely. There were no significant changes in other monitoring parameters at this time and fumarole activity continued (figure 81).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 81. A webcam image taken at 1030 on 30 October 2019 from the crater rim shows the Whakaari/White Island crater lake to the right of the amphitheater-shaped crater and gas-and-steam plumes from active fumaroles. Courtesy of GeoNet.

On 18 November the VAL was raised to level 2 and the Aviation Colour Code was raised to Yellow due to further increase in SO2 emissions and volcanic tremor. Other monitoring parameters showed no significant changes. On 25 November GeoNet reported that moderate volcanic unrest continued but with no new changes. Gas emissions remained high and gas-driven ejecta regularly jetting material a few meters into the air above fumaroles in the crater lake (figure 82).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 82. A webcam image from the Whakaari/White Island crater rim shows gas-driven ejecta rising above a fumarole within the crater lake on 22 November 2019. Courtesy of GeoNet.

GeoNet reported on 3 December that moderate volcanic unrest continued, with increased but variable explosive gas and steam-driven jetting, with stronger events ejecting mud 20-30 m into the air and depositing mud around the vent area. Gas emissions and volcanic tremor remained elevated and occasional gas smells were reported on the North Island mainland depending on wind direction. The crater lake water level remained unchanged. Monitoring parameters were similar to those observed in 2011-2016 and remained within the expected range for moderate volcanic unrest.

Eruption on 9 December 2019. A short-lived eruption occurred at 1411 on 9 December 2019, generating a steam-and-ash plume to 3.6 km and covering the entire crater floor area with ash. Video taken by tourists on a nearby boat showed an eruption plume composed of a white steam-rich portion, and a black ash-rich ejecta (figure 83). A pyroclastic surge moved laterally across the crater floor and up the inner crater walls. Photos taken soon after the eruption showed sulfur-rich deposits across the crater floor and crater walls, and a helicopter that had been damaged and blown off the landing pad (figure 84). This activity caused the VAL to be raised to 4 (moderate volcanic eruption) and the Aviation Colour Code being raised to Orange.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 83. The beginning of the Whakaari/White Island 9 December 2019 eruption viewed from a boat that left the island about 20-30 minutes prior. Top: the steam-rich eruption plume rising above the volcano and a pyroclastic surge beginning to rise over the crater rim. Bottom: the expanded steam-and-ash plume of the pyroclastic surge that flowed over the crater floor to the ocean. Copyright of Michael Schade, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 84. This photo of Whakaari/White Island taken after the 9 December 2019 eruption at around 1424 shows ash and sediment coating the crater floor and walls. The helicopter in this image was blown off the landing pad and damaged during the eruption. Copyright of Michael Schade, used with permission.

A steam plume was visible in a webcam image taken at 1430 from Whakatane, 21 minutes after the explosion (figure 85). Subsequent explosions occurred at 1630 and 1749. Search-and-Rescue teams reached the island after the eruption and noted a very strong sulfur smell that was experienced through respirators. They experienced severe stinging of any exposed skin that came in contact with the gas, and were left with sensitive skin and eyes, and sore throats. Later in the afternoon the gas-and-steam plume continued and a sediment plume was dispersing from the island (figure 86). The VAL was lowered to level 3 (minor volcanic eruption) at 1625 that day; the Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 85. A view of Whakaari/White Island from Whakatane in the North Island of New Zealand. Left: there is no plume visible at 1410 on 9 December 2019, one minute before the eruption. Right: A gas-and-steam plume is visible 21 minutes after the eruption. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 86. A gas-and-steam plume rises from Whakaari/White Island on the afternoon of 9 December 2019 as rescue teams visit the island. A sediment plume in the ocean is dispersing from the island. Courtesy of Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

During or immediately after the eruption an unstable portion of the SW inner crater wall, composed of 1914 landslide material, collapsed and was identified in satellite radar imagery acquired after the eruption. The material slid into the crater lake area and left a 12-m-high scarp. Movement in this area continued into early January.

Activity from late 2019 into early 2020. A significant increase in volcanic tremor began at around 0400 on 11 December (figure 87). The increase was accompanied by vigorous steaming and ejections of mud in several of the new vents. By the afternoon the tremor was at the highest level seen since the 2016 eruption, and monitoring data indicated that shallow magma was driving the increased unrest.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 87. This RSAM (Real-Time Seismic Amplitude) time series plot represents the energy produced at Whakaari/White Island from 11 November to 11 December 2019 with the Volcanic Activity Levels and the 9 December eruption indicated. The plot shows the sharp increase in seismic energy during 11 December. Courtesy of GeoNet (11 December 2019 report).

The VAL was lowered to 2 on the morning of 12 December to reflect moderate to heightened unrest as no further explosive activity had occurred since the event on the 9th. Volcanic tremor was occurring at very high levels by the time a bulletin was released at 1025 that day. Gas emissions increased since 10 January, steam and mud jetting continued, and the situation was interpreted to be highly volatile. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange. Risk assessment maps released that day show the high-risk areas as monitoring parameters continued to show an increased likelihood of another eruption (figure 88).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 88. Risk assessment maps of Whakaari/White Island show the increase in high-risk areas from 2 December to 12 December 2019. Courtesy of GeoNet (12 December 2019 report).

The volcanic activity bulletin for 13 December reported that volcanic tremor remained high, but had declined overnight. Vigorous steam and mud jetting continuing at the vent area. Brief ash emission was observed in the evening with ashfall restricted to the vent area. The 14 January bulletin reported that volcanic tremor had declined significantly over night, and nighttime webcam images showed a glow in the vent area due to high heat flow.

Aerial observations on 14 and 15 December revealed steam and gas emissions continuing from at least three open vents within a 100 m2 area (figure 89). One vent near the back of the crater area was emitting transparent, high-temperature gas that indicated that magma was near the surface, and produced a glow registered by low-light cameras (figure 90). The gas emissions had a blue tinge that indicated high SO2 content. The area that once contained the crater lake, 16 m below overflow before the eruption, was filled with debris and small isolated ponds mostly from rainfall, with different colors due to the water reacting with the eruption deposits. The gas-and-steam plume was white near the volcano but changed to a gray-brown color as it cooled and moved downwind due to the gas content (figure 91). On 15 December the tremor remained at low levels (figure 92).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 89. The Main Crater area of Whakaari/White Island showing the active vent area and gas-and-steam emissions on 15 December 2019. Gas emissions were high within the circled area. Before the eruption a few days earlier this area was partially filled by the crater lake. Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 90. A low-light nighttime camera at Whakaari/White Island imaged "a glow" at a vent within the active crater area on 13 December 2019. This glow is due to high-temperature gas emissions and light from external sources like the moon. Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 91. A gas-and-steam plume at Whakaari/White Island on 15 December 2019 is white near the crater and changes to a grey-brown color downwind due to the gas content. Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 92. The Whakaari/White Island seismic drum plot showing the difference in activity from 12 December (top) to 15 December (bottom). Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).

On 19 December tremor remained low (figure 93) and gas and steam emission continued. Overflight observations confirmed open vents with one producing temperatures over 650°C (figure 94). SO2 emissions remained high at around 15 kg/s, slightly lower than the 20 kg/s detected on 12 December. Small amounts of ash were produced on 23 and 26 December due to material entering the vents during erosion.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 93. This RSAM (Real-Time Seismic Amplitude) time series plot represents the energy produced at Whakaari/White Island from 1 November to mid-December 2019. The Volcanic Alert Levels and the 9 December eruption are indicated. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 94. A photograph and thermal infrared image of the Whakaari/White Island crater area on 19 December 2019. The thermal imaging registered temperatures up to 650°C at a vent emitting steam and gas. Courtesy of GeoNet.

The Aviation Colour Code was reduced to Yellow on 6 January 2020 and the VAL remained at 2. Strong gas and steam emissions continued from the vent area through early January and the glow persisted in nighttime webcam images. Short-lived episodes of volcanic tremor were recorded between 8-10 January and were accompanied by minor explosions. A 15 January bulletin reported that the temperature at the vent area remained very hot, up to 440°C, and SO2 emissions were within normal post-eruption levels.

High temperatures were detected within the vent area in Sentinel-2 thermal data on 6 and 16 January (figure 95). Lava extrusion was confirmed within the 9 December vents on 20 January. Airborne SO2 measurements on that day recorded continued high levels and the vent temperature was over 400°C. Observations on 4 February showed that no new lava extrusion had occurred, and gas fluxes were lower than two weeks ago, but still elevated. The temperatures measured in the crater were 550-570°C and no further changes to the area were observed.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 95. Sentinel-2 thermal infrared satellite images show elevated temperatures in the 9 December 2019 vent area on Whakaari/White Island. False color (urban) satellite image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The uninhabited Whakaari/White Island is the 2 x 2.4 km 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 SE side of the crater is open at sea level, with the recent activity centered about 1 km from the shore close to the rear crater wall. Volckner Rocks, sea stacks that are remnants of a lava dome, lie 5 km NW. Descriptions of volcanism since 1826 have included intermittent moderate phreatic, phreatomagmatic, and Strombolian eruptions; activity there also forms a prominent part of Maori legends. The formation of many new vents during the 19th and 20th centuries caused 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. Explosive activity in December 2019 took place while tourists were present, resulting in many fatalities. The official government name Whakaari/White Island is a combination of the full Maori name of Te Puia o Whakaari ("The Dramatic Volcano") and White Island (referencing the constant steam plume) given by Captain James Cook in 1769.

Information Contacts: New Zealand GeoNet Project, a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science, Wairakei Research Centre, Private Bag 2000, Taupo 3352, New Zealand (URL: http://www.geonet.org.nz/); GNS Science, Wairakei Research Centre, Private Bag 2000, Taupo 3352, New Zealand (URL: http://www.gns.cri.nz/); Bay of Plenty Emergency Management Group Civil Defense, New Zealand (URL: http://www.bopcivildefence.govt.nz/); Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, Auckland, New Zealand (URL: https://www.rescuehelicopter.org.nz/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Ben Clarke, The University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, United Kingdom (URL: https://le.ac.uk/geology, Twitter: https://twitter.com/PyroclasticBen); Michael Schade, San Francisco, USA (URL: https://twitter.com/sch).

Kadovar (Papua New Guinea) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Frequent gas and some ash emissions during May-December 2019 with some hot avalanches

Kadovar is an island volcano north of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Manam. The first confirmed historical activity began in January 2018 and resulted in the evacuation of residents from the island. Eruptive activity through 2018 changed the morphology of the SE side of the island and activity continued through 2019 (figure 36). This report summarizes activity from May through December 2019 and is based largely on various satellite data, tourist reports, and Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reports.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 36. The morphological changes to Kadovar from 2017 to June 2019. Top: the vegetated island has a horseshoe-shaped crater that opens towards the SE; the population of the island was around 600 people at this time. Middle: by May 2018 the eruption was well underway with an active summit crater and an active dome off the east flank. Much of the vegetation has been killed and ashfall covers a lot of the island. Bottom: the bay below the SE flank has filled in with volcanic debris. The E-flank coastal dome is no longer active, but activity continues at the summit. PlanetScope satellite images copyright Planet Labs 2019.

Since this eruptive episode began a large part of the island has been deforested and has undergone erosion (figure 37). Activity in early 2019 included regular gas and steam emissions, ash plumes, and thermal anomalies at the summit (BGVN 44:05). On 15 May an ash plume originated from two vents at the summit area and dispersed to the east. A MODVOLC thermal alert was also issued on this day, and again on 17 May. Elevated temperatures were detected in Sentinel-2 thermal satellite data on 20, 21, and 30 May (figure 38), with accompanying gas-and-steam plumes dispersing to the NNW and NW. On 30 May the area of elevated temperature extended to the SE shoreline, indicating an avalanche of hot material reaching the water.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. The southern flank of Kadovar seen here on 13 November 2019 had been deforested by eruptive activity and erosion had produced gullies down the flanks. Copyrighted photo by Chrissie Goldrick, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images show elevated temperatures at the summit area, and down to the coast in the top image. Gas-and-steam plumes are visible dispersing towards the NW. Sentinel-2 false color (urban) satellite image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel-Hub Playground.

Throughout June cloud-free Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images showed elevated temperatures at the summit area and extending down the upper SE flank (figure 38). Gas-and-steam plumes were persistent in every Sentinel-2 and NASA Suomi NPP / VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) image. MODVOLC thermal alerts were issued on 4 and 9 June. Similar activity continued through July with gas-and-steam emissions visible in every cloud-free satellite image. Thermal anomalies appeared weaker in late-July but remained at the summit area. An ash plume was imaged on 17 July by Landsat 8 with a gas-and-ash plume dispersing to the west (figure 39). Thermal anomalies continued through August with a MODVOLC thermal alert issued on the 14th. Gas emissions also continued and a Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) was issued on the 19th reporting an ash plume to an altitude of 1.5 km and drifting NW.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. An ash plume rising above Kadovar and a gas plume dispersing to the NW on 17 July 2019. Truecolor pansharpened Landsat 8 satellite image courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

An elongate area extending from the summit area to the E-flank coastal dome appears lighter in color in a 7 September Sentinel-2 natural color satellite image, and as a higher temperature area in the correlating thermal bands, indicating a hot avalanche deposit. These observations along with the previous avalanche, persistent elevated summit temperatures, and persistent gas and steam emissions from varying vent locations (figure 40) suggests that the summit dome has remained active through 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Sentinel-2 visible and thermal satellite images acquired on 7 September 2019 show fresh deposits down the east flank of Kadovar. They appear as a lighter colored area in visible, and show as a hot area (orange) in thermal data. Sentinel-2 natural color (bands 4, 3, 2) and false color (urban) satellite image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel-Hub Playground.

Thermal anomalies and emissions continued through to the end of 2019 (figure 41). A tour group witnessed an explosion producing an ash plume at around 1800 on 13 November (figure 42). While the ash plume erupted near-vertically above the island, a more diffuse gas plume rose from multiple vents on the summit dome and dispersed at a lower altitude.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. The summit area of Kadovar emitting gas-and-steam plumes in August, September, and November 2019. The plumes are persistent in satellite images throughout May through December and there is variation in the number and locations of the source vents. PlanetScope satellite images copyright Planet Labs 2019.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. An ash plume and a lower gas plume rise during an eruption of Kadovar on 13 November 2019. The summit lava dome is visibly degassing to produce the white gas plume. Copyrighted photos by Chrissie Goldrick, used with permission.

While gas plumes were visible throughout May-December 2019 (figure 43), SO2 plumes were difficult to detect in NASA SO2 images due to the activity of nearby Manam volcano. The MIROVA thermal detection system shows continued elevated temperatures through to early December, with an increase during May-June (figure 44). Sentinel-2 thermal images showed elevated temperatures through to the end of December but at a lower intensity than previous months.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. This photo of the southeast side Kadovar on 13 November 2019 shows a persistent low-level gas plume blowing towards the left and a more vigorous plume is visible near the crater. This is an example of the persistent plume visible in satellite imagery throughout July-December 2019. Copyrighted photo by Chrissie Goldrick, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. The MIROVA plot of radiative power at Kadovar shows thermal anomalies throughout 2019 with some variations in frequency. Note that while the black lines indicate that the thermal anomalies are greater than 5 km from the vent, the designated summit location is inaccurate so these are actually a the summit crater and on the E flank. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. The 2-km-wide island of Kadovar is the emergent summit of a Bismarck Sea stratovolcano of Holocene age. It 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. Prior to an eruption that began in 2018, a lava dome formed the high point of the andesitic volcano, filling an arcuate landslide scarp open to the south; 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. A period of heightened thermal phenomena took place in 1976. An eruption began in January 2018 that included lava effusion from vents at the summit and at the E coast.

Information Contacts: Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); NASA Worldview (URL: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov); Chrissie Goldrick, Australian Geographic, Level 7, 54 Park Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia (URL: https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/).

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Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network - Volume 37, Number 03 (March 2012)

Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Akutan (United States)

Steaming, seismically active

Fournaise, Piton de la (France)

Increased seismicity and eruption during late 2010

Hierro (Spain)

Update on submarine eruption

Kelut (Indonesia)

Amid quiet, a look back at aspects of the 2007 eruption

Long Valley (United States)

2009 summary, deep seismic swarm at Mammoth Mountain

Maderas (Nicaragua)

Destructive 2005 seismicity; youngest deposits dated 70.4 ± 6.1 ka B.P

Puyehue-Cordon Caulle (Chile)

June 2011 eruption emits circum-global ash clouds

Reventador (Ecuador)

Dome growth; lava and pyroclastic flows; lahar takes bridge

Akutan (United States) — March 2012 Citation iconCite this Report


United States

54.134°N, 165.986°W; summit elev. 1303 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Steaming, seismically active

We report Akutan non-eruptive seismic activity after our mid-1996 report (BGVN 21:06) through December 2010. AVO (Alaska Volcano Observatory) reporting emphasized seismicity in 2000, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010, including seismicity during 2007 triggered by an M 8.2 earthquake in the Kurile islands.

Background. Akutan Island is home to indigenous people located in several coastal villages, and the base of a large fish processing facility. The island resides in the Aleutian arc, a string of islands projecting ~2,000 km into the Bering Sea from the Alaskan Peninsula (figure 2).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Akutan, an island ~32 km by ~20 km, lies on the E Aleutian arc in the Bering Sea near the coast of Alaska. Courtesy of Neal and McGimsey (1996), revised by GVP.

Akutan Island (figure 3) has a vegetated coast line dotted with spectacular bridges and caves created by the erosion of numerous lava tubes. Waythomas and others (1998) presented a map showing that much of the coastline is susceptible to rockfall avalanches and points out that these may trigger local tsunamis. The authors also analyzed the likely path of lava flows.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Akutan Island and its volcanic features, including fumaroles, hot springs, and a new steaming area. A cindercone resides in the NE quadrant of the generally circular caldera. The fumarole field, shown in red, is down slope on the E flank of the summit. The Trident seafood plant, shown as a yellow star, lays along the E coast. Courtesy of AVO, revised by GVP.

A 2 km diameter caldera atop the 1,303 m high volcano is breached to the NW, and elsewhere encircled by crater walls 60 to 365 m high. The caldera contains a ~200 m high cinder cone, and a small lake. Fumeroles lay along the summit flank toward the E (Miller and others, 1998). The cinder cone has been the site of all historical eruptive activity (Richter and others, 1998; Waythomas and others, 1998).

The village of Akatan ( figure 4), ~ 13 km E of the volcano, hosts the Trident seafood plant, the largest such plant in North America, employing up to 900 seasonal workers (McGimsey, 2011). Akutan villagers and seafood plant employees fled the island during the 1996 seismic events (Li and others, 2000). The cited references provide many details omitted here.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. Akutan coastal image with seafood plant in foreground adjacent to Akutan village. Image courtesy of AVO, created by Helena Buurman.

According to Diefenbach and others (2009), Akutan has been the most active of the volcanoes monitored by AVO, having over 20 eruptions since 1790; more than any other Alaskan volcano.

A 2009 report by AVO noted that 11 eruptions occurred at Akutan during 1980-1992, many lasting several months (table 5). The most recent eruption started in December 2009 but the eruption's end was not clearly constrained (table 5). A seismic swarm took place in 1996, an episode without a corresponding eruption.

Table 5. Akutan eruptions tabulated from January 1980 to 2009. Courtesy of Diefenbach and others (2009).

Start Date End Date VEI
08 Jul 1980 08 Jul 1980 2
07 Oct 1982 May 1983 2
03 Feb 1986 14 Jun 1986 2
31 Jan 1987 24 Jun 1987 2
26 Mar 1988 20 Jul 1988 2
27 Feb 1989 31 Mar 1989 2
22 Jan 1990 22 Jan 1990 2
06 Sep 1990 01 Oct 1990 2
15 Sep 1991 28 Nov 1991 2
08 Mar 1992 31 May 1992 2
18 Dec 1992 -- 1

From 1980 to 2009, Alaskan eruptions made up to 77% of the total reported in the United States (Diefenbach and others, 2009). Note that, even though during 1980-2009 Akutan erupted more times than other US volcanoes, this distinction is only one of many that can be used for comparisons. For example, in the course of that interval and the 11 recorded eruptions at Akutan, it clearly emitted less material and the eruptive intervals spanned much less time than eruptions at either Kilauea or Mt. St. Helens.

1996 seismicity. In March 1996, two strong earthquake swarms struck the island, causing minor damage and prompting some residents and dozens of plant employees to leave the island. The seismicity, reported in BGVN 21:06, was probably the result of a magmatic intrusion (Lu and others, 2000). They stated the following:

"In March 1996 an intense swarm of volcano-tectonic earthquakes (~3,000 felt by local residents, M max = 5.1, cumulative moment of 2.7 × 1018 N m) beneath Akutan Island in the Aleutian volcanic arc, Alaska, produced extensive ground cracks but no eruption of Akutan volcano. Synthetic aperture radar interferograms that span the time of the swarm reveal complex island-wide deformation: the western part of the island including Akutan volcano moved upward, while the eastern part moved downward. The axis of the deformation approximately aligns with new ground cracks on the western part of the island and with Holocene normal faults that were reactivated during the swarm on the eastern part of the island. The axis is also roughly parallel to the direction of greatest compressional stress in the region. No ground movements greater than 2.83 cm were observed outside the volcano's summit caldera for periods of 4 years before or 2 years after the swarm. We modeled the deformation primarily as the emplacement of a shallow, E-W trending, north dipping dike plus inflation of a deep, Mogi-type [spherical] magma body beneath the volcano. The pattern of subsidence on the eastern part of the island is poorly constrained. It might have been produced by extensional tectonic strain that both reactivated preexisting faults on the eastern part of the island and facilitated magma movement beneath the western part. Alternatively, magma intrusion beneath the volcano might have been the cause of extension and subsidence in the eastern part of the island."

The 11 March 1996 swarm involved more than 80 earthquakes of M 3.0 or greater with the largest measuring M 5.2. The 13 March swarm involved more than 120 events of M 3.0 or greater with the largest measuring M 5.3 (Waythomas and others, 1998).

As a result, new ground cracks developed ( figure 5) and Waythomas and others (1998) described them as follows: "Numerous fresh, linear ground cracks were discovered in three areas on Akutan Island during field studies in the summer of 1996. Ground breaks and cracks likely formed during the strong seismic swarms in March. The ground cracks extend discontinuously from the NE side of the island near Lava Point to the island's SE side [figure 5].

"The most extensive ground cracks are between Lava Point and the volcano summit [ figure 6]. In this area, the cracks are confined to a zone 300 to 500 m wide and 3 km long. Vertical displacement of the ground surface along individual cracks is 30 to 80 cm. The ground cracks probably formed as magma moved toward the surface between the two most recently active vents on the volcano. Ground cracks on the SE side of the island occur on known faults, indicating that they probably formed in response to motion along these preexisting structures. No ground cracks were found at the head of Akutan Harbor even though this was an area where numerous earthquakes occurred from March through July, 1996."

Figure (see Caption) Figure 5. Location of ground cracks and seismometers on Akutan, as published in 1998. Three sets of ground cracks, shown as black lines, presumably formed during the March 1996 earthquake swarm. The most extensive breaks occurred on the NW flank of the volcano near Lava Point with the other two shorter sets to the SE in line with the first. On the map, the green triangles locate seven monitoring stations, one at the summit, and others spread throughout the island as well as one at the village. Courtesy of AVO, Waythomas and others (1998), annotated by GVP.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 6. Ground breaks like this were found at Akutan in a zone about 300-500 m wide and ~ 3,000 m long on the NW flank of the volcano. Surface deposits offset by the cracks consist of course tephra and colluvium. The backpack in the lower left delineates scale (distant figures removed for clarity). Courtesy of AVO, Waythomas and others (1998).

A permanent seismic network was installed during the summer of 1996 which currently consists of seven short-period stations and five broadband stations (figure 5).

Akutan seismicity, 2000 to 2010. According to AVO annual reports covering the interval 1997-2011, noteworthy seismicity occurred during the years 2000, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010.

On 19 January 2000, five earthquakes occurred in less than 30 minutes with epicenters 10-11 km E of the summit at hypocentral depths of ~5-6 km. This was the same region as the March 1996 volcanic swarm.

Akutan was one of several Alaska volcanoes with behavioral anomalies triggered by the M 8.2 earthquake generated in the Kurile Islands on 12 January 2007 at 0423 UTC (McGimsey, 2011). Seismologists located four of the seven largest triggered M 0.0-0.5 earthquakes at Akutan and found their depths in the range from +0.86 to -2.17 km (figure 7). The locations fell along the trend of intense seismicity and ground breakage that occurred in March 1996 at Akutan (Neal and others, 1997; Waythomas and others, 1998; Lu and others, 2005). The AVO Akutan seismic network recorded the triggered seismicity.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. Epicenters at Akutan triggered by the 13 January 2007, M 8.2 Kurile Islands earthquake (the event occurred at 0423 UTC, 12 January 2007). The four largest events (red dots) lie along the same trend (blue line) as that of intense seismicity with accompanied ground breakage that occurred during dike intrusion in March 1996 (Waythomas and others, 1998). Open triangles mark locations of seismic stations. Plot of earthquake locations by John Power. Courtesy of AVO, McGimsey and others (2011).

In early October 2007, AVO remote sensors detected signs of renewed inflation of the W flank during the previous month using GPS time series. This inflation was in the same area that inflated during the 1996 seismic crisis. A few days later, on 8 October 2007, the manager of the Trident seafood processing plant called to alert AVO of strong steaming near Hot Springs Bay (figure 8) at a spot significantly up slope from established hot springs in the valley. This plume location was considered "new" by local observers. The established lower-valley thermal springs rarely emit a concentrated, vertically rising steam plume and most earlier reports of steaming arose from the prominent fumarole field located at the 460 m elevation of the E flank at the headwaters of Hot Springs Bay valley. This is also the area of maximum deflation following the 1996 seismic swarms. No unusual seismic activity was noted for the period of W-flank inflation or the location of this steaming episode (McGimsey and others, 2011).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 8. Midway up Akutan's Hot Springs Bay valley on the E flank of Akutan from a point well upslope of the previously active hot springs area, a steam column rises from a new site. AVO photo taken 8 October 2007 by David Abbasian.

In 2008, over 100 seismic events were recorded. During the next two years, Akutan seismic events decreased to about half that number. During 2010 low frequency earthquakes doubled compared to 2009 (Table 6).

Table 6. Akutan seismic activity for 2008-2010 compiled from AVO/USGS annual reports. Total earthquakes (in the second column) summed those in the Volcano-tectonic and Low frequency columns. '--' indicates data not reported. Courtesy of AVO.

Year Total earthquakes Volcano-tectonic Low-frequency
2008 105 -- --
2009 45 41 4
2010 42 34 8

According to AVO, Akutan seismic events during the years 2009 and 2010 were temporally spread roughly throughout the months except for a tight cluster of M 2 earthquakes reported at depths of between ~5 km to ~10 km during the first weeks of January 2010. The majority of earthquakes in 2010 were located within ~5 km of the crater along a N-trending line spanning 10 km. In 2009 the spread was longer, over 20 km.

References. Diefenbach, A.K., Guffanti, M., and Ewert, J.W., 2009, Chronology and references of volcanic eruptions and selected unrest in the United States, 1980-2008: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009-1118, 85 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2009/1118/].

Dixon, J.P., Stihler, S.D., Power, J.A., and Searcy, C.K., 2010, Catalog of Earthquake Hypocenters at Alaskan Volcanoes: January 1 through December 31, 2009: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 531.

Dixon, J.P., Stihler, S.D., Power, J.A., and Searcy, C.K., 2011, Catalog of earthquake hypocenters at Alaskan Volcanoes: January 1 through December 31, 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 645.

Kent, T., 2011, Hydrothermal Alteration of Open Fractures in Prospective Geothermal Drill Cores, Akutan Island, Alaska, Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, 2011, Abstract ##V13D-2637.

Lu, Z., Wicks Jr., C., Power, J.A., and Dzurisin, D., 2000, Ground deformation associated with the March 1996 earthquake swarm at Akutan volcano, Alaska, revealed by satellite radar interferometry, J. Geophys. Res., 105(B9), 21,483-21,495 (DOI:10.1029/2000JB900200).

Miller, T.P., McGimsey, R.G., Richter, D.H., Riehle, J.R., Nye, C.J., Yount, M.E., and Dumoulin, J.A., 1998, Catalog of the historically active volcanoes of Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-582, 104 p. (Also available at http://www.avo.alaska.edu/downloads/catalog.php.)

McGimsey, R.G., Neal, C.A., Dixon, J.P., Malik, Nataliya, and Chibisova, M., 2011, 2007 Volcanic activity in Alaska, Kamchatka, and the Kurile Islands: Summary of events and response of the Alaska Volcano Observatory: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5242, 110 p.

Neal, C.A. and McGimsey, R.G., 1997, 1996 Volcanic Activity In Alaska And Kamchatka: Summary Of Events And Response Of The Alaska Volcano Observatory: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-433.

Richter, D.H., Waythomas, C.F., McGimsey, R.G., and Stelling, P.L., 1998, Geologic map of Akutan Island, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-135, 22 p., 1 plate.

Waythomas, C.F., Power, J.A., Richter, D.H., and McGimsey, R.G., 1998, Preliminary volcano-hazard assessment for Akutan Volcano east-central Aleutian Islands, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 98-0360, 36 p., 1 plate.

Geologic Background. One of the most active volcanoes of the Aleutian arc, Akutan contains 2-km-wide caldera with an active intracaldera cone. An older, largely buried caldera was formed during the late Pleistocene or early Holocene. Two volcanic centers are located on the NW flank. Lava Peak is of Pleistocene age, and a cinder cone lower on the flank produced a lava flow in 1852 that extended the shoreline of the island and forms Lava Point. The 60-365 m deep younger caldera was formed during a major explosive eruption about 1600 years ago and contains at least three lakes. The currently active large cinder cone in the NE part of the caldera has been the source of frequent explosive eruptions with occasional lava effusion that blankets the caldera floor. A lava flow in 1978 traveled through a narrow breach in the north caldera rim almost to the coast. Fumaroles occur at the base of the caldera cinder cone, and hot springs are located NE of the caldera at the head of Hot Springs Bay valley and along the shores of Hot Springs Bay.

Information Contacts: Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), a cooperative program of a) U.S. Geological Survey, 4200 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508-4667, USA, b) Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, PO Box 757320, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320, USA, and c) Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys.

Piton de la Fournaise (France) — March 2012 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)

Increased seismicity and eruption during late 2010

Our last Bulletin report (BGVN 35:03) covered eruptive activity through the last eruptive episode, which ended 12 January 2010.

Beginning 14 August and through 10 September 2010, the Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise (OVPDLF) recorded a slow but steady increase in the number and magnitude of earthquakes from Piton de la Fournaise. Inflation of the summit area began in late August. The following report is based on data received from OVPDLF. It discusses eruptions and related behavior as late as 10 December 2010.

On 13 September 2010, localized deformation W of the Dolomieu crater and a small number of landslides in the crater was observed. On 20 September instruments recorded a significant increase in the number of earthquakes located at the W and S of the Dolomieu crater, although their average magnitude was low.

On 24 September, OVPDLF reported the possibility of an impending eruption. During the night, a seismic crisis began with a series of several tens of earthquakes localized under the Dolomieu crater, which was associated with inflation (approximately 3 cm), especially close to the summit. The most significant deformations were measured on the rim and the N and S sides of the volcano, indicating a shallow magma body was distributed directly below the Dolomieu crater. After decreasing on 27 September, seismicity rose again by 29 September. Earthquakes were located at the base of the volcano, and inflation was noted particularly in the E. A significant number of landslides were detected in the crater. The Alert level remained at 1 ("probable or imminent eruption").

Beginning 7 October 2010, there was a steady increase in the number and magnitude of volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes. During 10-11 October the summit area inflated 3-7 cm, and an increase in the number of landslides in the crater was detected. The Alert level remained at 1.

Increased seismicity was again recorded on 14 October 2010, with a new seismic crisis of more than several hundred earthquakes. During this phase, significant ground deformation occurred near the summit, which generated numerous rockfalls inside the Dolomieu crater. At 1411, the seismicity moved toward the SE part of the volcano (Château Fort), and at 1910 an eruption began within the Enclos Fouqué, about 1.5 km SE of the Dolomieu crater rim. Lava fountaining occurred from four vents along a fissure. The Alert level was raised to 2 ("eruption in progress in the Fouqué caldera").

Eruptive activity continued on 15-16 October 2010, developing along a fissure. This eruption included low lava fountains and fed a lava flow moving to the ESE. Lava issued from an area close to the old Château Fort crater at the base of the SE flank of Dolomieu crater and remained within the Enclos Fouqué. Four small cones were active along the eruptive fissure; lava fountaining occured from three of them. A lava flow moved slowly about 1.6 km to the E and SE and approached the break in slope at the Grandes pentes. OVPDLF measured lava temperatures of ~1,100°C.

On 17 October 2010 explosions and degassing accompanied lava emissions. These explosions and degassing decreased on 18 October. The volcanic tremor also decreased to one-seventh compared to the beginning of the eruption. The number of VT events remained low (7/day); the strongest event occurred at 2323, a M 1.4 earthquake localized at about 1,600 m depth under the Bory summit crater. The base and the summit of the volcano remained in inflation. Preliminary estimation of the lava volume erupted was 600,000 m3.

During 19-21 October consistent eruptive activity continued, with weak emissions and small lava fountains at the main eruptive vents located along the eruptive fissure. Explosive activity and degassing decreased, and tremor remained stable. Lava flows extended ESE to ~2 km. Gas emissions decreased, but concentrated to the S and W of the fissure.

On 22 October 2010 eruptions continued, located close to the Château Fort area, in the southern portion of the Enclos Fouqué. During 22-26 October lava fountains and gas emissions originated from one vent, and lava traveled ESE. Gas emissions decreased significantly. At this point, only one cone was active and only a few lava fountains were observed. Volcanic tremor was stable. No earthquakes had been reported since the previous day. GPS ground deformation showed a weak deflation under the volcano.

A sudden increase in activity and tremor began on 27 October 2010 and continued on 28 October. On 29 October, observation made during a flight disclosed that a part of summit cone 3 (the only active cone) had collapsed. Some lava ejecta and gas emissions occurred from this cone, which also contained a small active lava pond. Lava from this cone fed a small, slow moving lava flow. This new lava field remained upstream of the cone named Gros Benard. On 31 October, OVPDLF reported that the eruption had ended.

On 9 December 2010, following a seismic crisis and inflation, a new eruption began from an eruptive fissure oriented N-S, just above the Mi-Côte peak, at ~2,500 m elevation, characterized by lava fountaining and two lava flows. Many small landslides occurred in the Dolomieu crater. Later that day lava flows from two fissures on the N flank of Piton de la Fournaise, ~1 km NW of the Dolomieu crater rim, traveled about 1.5 km N and NW. On 10 December 2010, seismicity and deformation measurements indicated that eruption of lava had stopped.

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: Laurent Michon and Patrick Bachélery, Laboratoire GéoSciences Réunion, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Université de La Réunion, CNRS, UMR 7154-Géologie des Systèmes Volcaniques, La Réunion, France; Guillaume Levieux, and Thomas Staudacher, and Valérie Ferrazzini, Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise (OVPDLF), Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 14 route nationale 3, 27ème km, 97418 La Plaine des Cafres, La Réunion, France (URL: http://www.ipgp.fr/fr/ovpf/actualites-ovpf/).

Hierro (Spain) — March 2012 Citation iconCite this Report



27.73°N, 18.03°W; summit elev. 1500 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Update on submarine eruption

[NOTE: The location shown on the summary page is that for the main summit of Hierro volcano on El Hierro Island. The location of the submarine vent of Hierro that erupted beginning in October 2011 was found to be at latitude 27°37.18' N and longitude 17° 59.58' W.]

In BGVN 36:10 we discussed a submarine eruption of a vent of Hierro volcano that began in early October 2011 S of La Restinga, a town at the southermost tip of El Hierro Island (figure 7). The eruption was preceded by increased seismicity, although this seismicity declined significantly by mid-November 2011 (figures 8 and 9). Based on seismic activity monitored by the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN-National Geographic Institute), authorities for the Canary Islands decided in late March 2012 to shut down the web cameras at La Restinga. Volcanic tremor was still present, although at minimal levels, and some seismicity continued beneath the island. The patch of brown water over the submarine vent (location shown in figure 8) continued to be observed throughout both March and April (figure 10).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. Location maps showing the Canary Islands, with volcanoes, and their intra-plate location with respect to plate boundaries. Information on the locations and latest eruptions of the volcanoes is found in table 1. El Hierro Island (and its volcano of the same name) appears on the SW margin of the archipelago. (a) Geographic and geodynamic setting of the NW African continental margin with the Canary Islands; numbers on the Canary Islands show the ages of the oldest surface volcanism, in millions of years before present (Ma). The Canary Islands developed in a geodynamic setting characterized by Jurassic oceanic lithosphere formed during the first stage of opening of the Atlantic at 180-150 Ma and lying close to a passive continental margin on the African plate. The archipelago lies adjacent to a region of intense deformation comprising the Atlas mountains, a part of the Alpine orogenic belt. The intraplate Canary Islands archipelago is within the African plate, bounded by the Azores-Gibralter fault on the north and the mid-Atlantic ridge on the west. (b) Close-up view of the Canary Islands, showing the names of the islands, and the ages of the oldest surface volcanism for each island. Courtesy of Viñuela (2012) and Carracedo and others (2002).

Table 1. Background information on the six main Canary Islands and their volcanoes. Latest eruption dates are from Siebert and others (2010) and Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program website. The volcano age indicates date of oldest volcanic rocks of each island (Carracedo and others, 2002).

Volcano/island name Location Summit elevation (m) Year(s) of latest eruption(s) Volcano age (Ma)
Fuerteventura 28.358°N 14.02°W 529 1803-05 20.6
Gran Canaria 28.00°N 15.58°W 1,950 1125 14.5
Hierro/El Hierro 27.23°N 18.03°W 1,500 2011-12, 1793 1.12
Lanzarote 29.03°N 13.63°W 670 1824, 1730 15.5
La Palma 28.57°N 17.83°W 2,426 1971, 1949, 1712 1.77
Tenerife 28.271°N 16.641°W 3,715 1909, 1798 11.6
Figure (see Caption) Figure 8. Topographic map of El Hierro Island showing the locations of IGN seismic monitoring stations. A small red triangle offshore of the southernmost tip of the island locates the submarine vent of Hierro that began erupting in October 2011. The pronounced curved form on the N side of the island resulted from lateral collapse; see figure 11b. Courtesy of IGN.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 9. Cumulative energy (in joules) based on daily seismic monitoring at El Hierro island from 18 July 2011 through 19 March 2012. The sharp upturn in the curve occurred ~27 September 2011, leveled out ~9 October 2011, resumed to a sharp upturn on ~29 October 2011 to level out again ~21 November 2011. Since that time, the seismic energy has not increased measureably. Courtesy of IGN.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 10. A natural-color satellite image collected on 10 February 2012 showed the site of the Hierro submarine vent eruption, offshore from the fishing village of La Restinga. Bright aquamarine-colored water indicated high concentrations of volcanic material in the water above the vent, which lies at a water depth of between 200 and 300 m. A patch of turbulent light brown water on the sea surface indicated the area most strongly affected. This image was acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard the Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite. NASA Earth Observatory image prepared by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data.

Bathymetry and water chemistry. For 4 months following the eruption (a period from 22 October 2011 through 26 February 2012), the Instituto Oceanográfico Español (IOE-Spanish Oceanographic Institute) conducted 12 oceanographic cruise legs (called La Campaña Bimbache-Bimbache Campaign; Bimbache refers to native inhabitants of El Hierro), documenting the submarine morphology and water chemistry changes resulting from the eruption. Reports of these cruises on board the research vessel Ramon Margalef are found on the IEO web site; some highlights follow.

During the 7th leg, 8-12 January 2012, IEO scientists found that the volcano's summit was ~130 m below the water surface, 30 m more since its last survey on 2 December 2011. The diameter of the volcano's base was about 800 m, and its height ~200 m above the ocean floor. The total volume of material emitted since the eruption onset in October 2011 to the date of this cruise leg, calculated by bathymetry compared to 1998, was 145 x 106 m3. This volume included a new eruptive cone and associated lava flows. This new material nearly completely covered the W escarpment of the submarine canyon where the eruption was located. It was also found that a split in the top of the cone recorded in the bathymetric survey of 30 November 2011 no longer existed.

During the 9th leg, 6-8 February 2012, Hierro volcano was found to have grown somewhat more in height. The most significant differences between this and the 7th leg (January 2012) occurred at the top of the cone, including a slight increase in the elevation of its summit, which now reached to ~120 m below the water surface, and the emergence of a secondary cone, ~23 m high, attached to the side of the main cone, with a summit depth of 200 m. The emergence of the secondary cone and the greater mass of material on the volcano flank had caused a flattening of the structure. The slope ranged between 25° and 30° on the N flank, with slopes of up to 35° on the E and W flanks.

The 10th leg, 9-13 February 2012, was dedicated to water sampling. Observers found very high levels of hydrogen sulfide (H2.S), with a below normal pH, and very high partial pressure of CO2.

The IEO report of the 11th leg, 23-24 February 2012, notes that the coordinates of the main summit of the new volcano were: latitude 27°37.18' N and longitude 17° 59.58' W.

During a cruise from 5 to 9 April 2012 by researchers from IEO and the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), 19 hydrographic stations were occupied. Data was collected on the physical-chemical properties of the water around the volcano (including temperature, salinity, depth, fluorescence, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, pH, alkalinity, total inorganic carbon, and CO2 partial pressure). The researchers intend to quantify the environmental impact caused by the volcano 7 months after the beginning of the eruption. The physical-chemical properties of the water column in an area of 500 m radius around the submarine volcanic cone where found to be still significantly affected. At this stage, the degassing of the volcano was fundamentally of CO2, with complete absence of sulfur compounds.

Remote submarine vessel observations. The University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) web site on 16 March 2012 reported initial filming of the submarine vent using the robot submarine vessel Atlantic Explorer. They reported particles of tephra in the mouth of the still-active vent. At a depth of 120 m, hot jets emerged from a vent, forming converging water convection cells reaching upwards to depths of ~40-60 m. From the same depths, some pyroclastic ejecta were seen in the form of large volcanic bombs. The SW flank of the main volcanic vent cone sloped steeply and was the resting place of many large pyroclastics, some of which are similar to the hollow volcanic bombs (lava balloons) that reached the ocean surface during November and December 2011. Marine life had returned to near the vent, and at a depth of ~170 m and under a rain of ash they observed a school of fish (possibly amberjack).

Geologic setting. Carracedo and others (2012a) provided further details on the geologic setting of El Hierro island and the 2011 vent eruption. They state that "As early as 1793, administrative records of El Hierro indicate that a swarm of earthquakes was felt by locals; fearing a greater volcanic catastrophe, the first evacuation plan of an entire island in the history of the Canaries was prepared. The 1793 eruption was probably submarine . . . over the next roughly 215 years the island was seismically quiet. Yet seismic and volcanic activity are expected on this youngest Canary Island due to its being directly above the presumed location of the Canary Island hot spot, a mantle plume that feeds upwelling magma just under the surface, similar to the Hawaiian Islands." Currently, roughly 10,000 people live on the island of El Hierro.

The report continued (references have been removed): "El Hierro, 1.12 million years old, is the youngest of the Canary Islands and rests on a nearly 3,500-m-deep ocean bed (figure 11a). According to stratigraphic data, two eruptions are known to have occurred on El Hierro, one ~4,000 years ago at Tanganasoga volcano complex and one 2,500 ± 70 years ago at Montaña Chamuscada cinder cone (figure 11b). The principal configuration of El Hierro is controlled by a three-armed rift zone system. The last stage of growth of El Hierro started some 158,000 years ago, characterized by volcanism that concentrated mainly at the crests of the three-armed rift system."

Figure (see Caption) Figure 11. El Hierro maps and diagrams to illustrate the setting and context of the 2011 eruption. (a) Location of the submarine vent (red star); image from Masson and others (2002); inset shows the island's location within the Canary Islands archipelago. (b) Simplified geological map of El Hierro, showcasing two recent eruptions. (c) Epicenter distribution migrating southward, 19 July to 8 October 2011 (data from IGN). (d) Hypocenter depths increased during 3 August to 9 October 2011, and then they became shallower (

Carracedo and others (2012a) described the pattern of earthquakes detected by IGN's permanent seismic network. The pattern consisted of an event every few minutes and an average short-period body wave magnitude of about M 1-2. Though the most of these quakes were largely insignificant in terms of seismic hazards, they initially focused N of the island (figure 11c), concentrated within the lower oceanic crust at depths of 8 and 14 km, in agreement with petrological evidence of previous eruptions. The seismic and petrological data are thus in line with a scenario of a magma batch becoming trapped as an intrusion horizon near the base or within the oceanic crust. Shifting seismic foci suggested that magma progressively accumulated and expanded laterally in a southward direction along the southern rift zone, which caused a vertical surface deformation of ~40 mm based on GPS measurements.

The report continues: "Soon after the initial earthquake swarm was observed by the permanent seismometers associated with IGN, efforts were made to mobilize a more complete monitoring seismic and GPS array spaced roughly 2,000 m apart throughout the island. This expanded network, completely installed by September 2011, allowed scientists to follow the progress of the recent activity at El Hierro."

"The new instruments revealed that earthquakes and magma transport remained active but as of the beginning of October 2011 showed no sign of having breached the oceanic crust. Instead, magma continued to move south until, on 9 October, the magma apparently progressed rapidly toward the surface, as indicated by the first-time occurrence of shallow earthquakes (at depths of

"The eruption continued through 15 October, with the appearance of submarine volcanic 'bombs' with cores of white and porous pumice-like material encased in a fine coating of basaltic glass [figure 12; see figure 4 in BGVN 36:10 showing a cross-section view of a bomb]. These bombs are probably xenoliths from pre-island sedimentary rocks that were picked up and heated by the ascending magma, causing them to partially melt and vesiculate." According to Carracedo and others (2012b), "the interiors of these floating rocks are glassy and vesicular (similar to pumice), with frequent mingling between the pumice-like interior and the enveloping basaltic magma. These floating rocks have become known locally as 'restingolites' after the nearby village of La Restinga." Some 'restingolite' samples contain quartz crystals, jasper fragments, gypsum aggregates and carbonate relicts, materials more compatible with sedimentary rocks than with a purely igneous origin for the cores of the floating stones. Figure 13 shows one explanation for the formation these bombs.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 12. Lava fragments ('restingolites') floating on the sea surface about 2 km offshore from La Restinga village on 27 November 2011. At some times a few hundreds of these fragments were present. They arrived at the sea surface at high temperature and, while cooling, they vaporized sea water, suffered intense degassing, and, in some cases broke into small pieces. Courtesy of Alicia Rielo, IGN.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. Sketch summarizing the inferred structure of El Hierro Island and the 2011 intrusive and extrusive events. Ascending magma that, according to the distribution of seismic events prior to eruption, moved sub-horizontally from N to S in the oceanic crust and contacted pre-volcanic sedimentary rocks. The floating blocks were attributed to magma-sediment interaction beneath the volcano. These blocks, called 'restingolites', were carried toward the ocean floor during eruption, being melted and vesiculated while immersed in magma. Once erupted onto the ocean floor, they separated from the erupting lava and floated on the sea surface due to their high vesicularity and low density (from Troll and others, 2011). Courtesy of Carracedo and others (2012b).

2012 El Hierro Conference. A conference on the 2011-2012 submarine eruption will take place in the Canary Islands on 10-15 October 2012. The scientific program will cover a broad variety of topics related to volcanic risk management at oceanic island volcanoes and the balance between short-term hazards posed by volcanoes and benefits of volcanism over geologic time.

References. Carracedo, J-C., Perez-Torrado, F-J., Rodriguez-Gonzalez, A., Fernandez-Turiel, J-L., Klügel, A., Troll, V.R., and Wiesmaier, S., 2012a, The ongoing volcanic eruption of El Hierro, Canary Islands, Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, v. 93, no. 9, pp. 89-90.

Carracedo, J.C., Torrado, F.P., González, A.R., Soler, V., Turiel, J.L.F., Troll, V.R., and Wiesmaier, S., 2012b, The 2011 submarine volcanic eruption in El Hierro (Canary Islands), Geology Today, v. 28, issue 2, pp. 53-58.

Carracedo, J.C., 2008, Canarian Volcanoes: La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, 213 pp., Editorial Rueda, Madrid.

Carracedo, J.C., Pérez, F.J., Ancochea, E., Meco J., Hernán, F., Cubas C.R., Casillas, R., Rodriguez, E., and Ahijado, A., 2002, Cenozoic volcanism II: The Canary Islands, in: The Geology of Spain, Gibbons, W., and Moreno, T., eds, The Geological Society of London, pp. 439-472.

Carracedo, J.C., Badiola, E.R., Guillou, H.J., de La Nuez, J., and Torrado, F.J.P., 2001, Geology and volcanology of La Palma and El Hierro, western Canaries, Estudios Geológicos, v. 57, no. 5-6, pp. 171-295.

Guillou, H., Carracedo, J.C., Torrado, F.P., and Badiola, E.R., 1996, K-Ar ages and magnetic stratigraphy of a hotspot-induced, fast grown oceanic island: El Hierro, Canary Islands, Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, v. 73, no. 1-2, pp. 141-155.

Masson, D.G., Watts, A.B., Gee, M.J.R., Urgeles, R., Mitchell, N.C., Le Bas, T.P., and Canals, M., 2002, Slope failures on the flanks of the western Canary Islands, Earth-Science Reviews, v. 57, no. 1-2, pp. 1-35.

Siebert, L., Simkin, T., and Kimberly, P., 2010, Volcanoes of the World, Third Edition, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and University of California Press, Berkeley, 551 pp.

Troll, V.R., Klügel, A., Longpré, M.-A., Burchardt, S., Deegan, F.M., Carracedo, J.C., Wiesmaier, S., Kueppers, U., Dahren, B., Blythe, L.S., Hansteen, T., Freda, C.D., Budd, A., Jolis, E.M., Jonsson, E., Meade, F., Berg, S., Mancini, L., and Polacci, M., 2011, Floating sandstones off El Hierro (Canary Islands, Spain): the peculiar case of the October 2011 eruption. Solid Earth Discussion, v. 3, pp. 975-999.

Viñuela, J.M., 2012, (online) The Canary Islands Hot Spot, www.mantleplumes.org/Canary.html, updated 21 December 2007, accessed 27 March 2012.

Geologic Background. The triangular island of Hierro is the SW-most and least studied of the Canary Islands. The massive shield volcano is truncated by a large NW-facing escarpment formed as a result of gravitational collapse of El Golfo volcano about 130,000 years ago. The steep-sided scarp towers above a low lava platform bordering 12-km-wide El Golfo Bay, and three other large submarine landslide deposits occur to the SW and SE. Three prominent rifts oriented NW, NE, and south at 120 degree angles form prominent topographic ridges. The subaerial portion of the volcano consists of flat-lying Quaternary basaltic and trachybasaltic lava flows and tuffs capped by numerous young cinder cones and lava flows. Holocene cones and flows are found both on the outer flanks and in the El Golfo depression. Hierro contains the greatest concentration of young vents in the Canary Islands. Uncertainty surrounds the report of an historical eruption in 1793.

Information Contacts: Alicia Felpeto Rielo, Instituto Geográfico Nacional (IGN), General Ibáñez de Ibero, 3. 28003, Madrid, España (URL: http://www.ign.es/); Volcano Discovery (URL: http://www.volcanodiscovery.com); Earthquake Report (URL: http://www.earthquake-report.com); University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) (URL: http://www.ulpgc.es); Canaries News (URL: http://www.canariesnews.com); Instituto Oceanográfico Español (IEO) (URL: htp://www.ieo.es).

Kelut (Indonesia) — March 2012 Citation iconCite this Report



7.93°S, 112.308°E; summit elev. 1731 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Amid quiet, a look back at aspects of the 2007 eruption

A memorable eruption at Kelut began in August 2007 injecting what became a substantial lava dome in the midst of a crater lake. The process was devoid of large violent steam explosions of the kind often associated with molten lava extruding into a lake. The passively emplaced lava dome evaporated and displaced most or all of the crater lake. Dome extrusion had clearly stopped by April 2008 (BGVN 33:07) or perhaps by May 2008 (De Bélizal and others, 2012). Since then and as late as April 2012, the Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM), has noted ongoing quiet, at times broken by the emergence of diffuse white plumes. Those plume were seen in June 2009 rising 50-150 m above the crater and the new dome was still emitting steam in February 2012. As of 30 March 2012, the Alert Level remained Green, although CVGHM recommended that people not approach the lava dome due to instability of the area and the presence of potentially high temperatures and poisonous gases.

Three short subsections follow. The first discusses uplift at Kelut during 2007-2008 as part of a larger survey of volcanic deformation on Java (Philibosian and Simons, 2011). The next subsection discusses a paper that provides an overview on the unexpectedly tranquil eruption, which, though of substantial size, was one of Kelut's few substantial yet passive eruptions in the historic record (De Bélizal and others, 2012). The authors surveyed residents to assess how they felt about how authorities had managed the crisis. The third subsection below discusses the dome's declining thermal output in early 2008, and presents a photo taken in February 2011 showing the steaming dome's spiny upper surface.

2007-2008 deformation. Philibosian and Simons (2011) discussed satellite-borne (Japanese ALOS) L-band synthetic aperture radar used to conduct a comprehensive survey of volcanic deformation on Java during 2007-2008. For Kelut, the authors found a possible 15 cm line-of-sight change in late 2008, an uplift. The area of uplift was limited to the very top of Kelut and was only a few hundred meters wide. However, the authors state that, given there were only two radar acquisitions after this late 2008 uplift, it was "difficult to judge whether this was permanent, real deformation rather than a short-term atmospheric effect." According to the authors, "the volcano did not exhibit a significant deformation before or during the dome extrusion in our time series" (figure 13).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. Time series of Kelut's deformation during October 2006-January 2009 (summing all the time steps and for satellite track 428). The plot shows the 15-cm line-of-sight change consistent with an uplift peaking during late 2008. The period of observed lava dome extrusion (shown in red) corresponded with a minor uplift (under 5 cm along the line of sight). Taken from Philibosian and Simons (2011).

2007 eruption and crisis management revisited. De Bélizal and others (2012) discuss a survey conducted shortly after the end of an evacuation process triggered by Kelut's eruption that started in 2007.

The authors summarized Kelut's unrest that started prior to the extrusions first seen in August by noting that earlier, on 1 November 2007, CVGHM recorded a new peak of seismicity with signals having reached shallow depths beneath the crater floor. The crater lake temperature recorded by a thermal camera increased significantly by 6 November. A steam plume developed, reaching 550 m above the crater lake. A new lava dome extruded through the ~350 m diameter crater lake (BGVN 33:03). Progressively, nearly all the lake water vaporized as the lava dome grew to a diameter of 400 m and a height of 260 m representing a volume of ~35 x 106 m3.

According to De Bélizal and others (2012), "recorded volcanic seismicity decreased shortly after the onset of dome growth. Tiltmeter records also showed the absence of any significant deformation on the flanks of the volcano. These data suggested that the magmatic pressure decreased within the volcano therefore greatly reducing the likelihood of a violent explosion. Thus, on 8 November 2007, Indonesian authorities decided to end the emergency phase. The volcano Alert Level was lowered to Level 3 'Siaga' until 30 November, when it was then lowered to Level 2 'Waspada' until August 2008."

The passively extrusive and unexpectedly non-explosive eruption was the first here in recent historical times. This called for careful monitoring of both the eruptive behavior of the volcano and the stability of a lake-bound dome plugging the vent. Tourism and agriculture ceased on its flanks for many months in anticipation of potential sudden signs of renewed activity.

The article stated that the crisis management team ordered an evacuation, which followed the rise to Alert Level 4 on 16 October 2007 (BGVN 33:03), but it noted that many residents disregarded the order because they did not consider that an eruption was imminent. The authors conducted interviews with members of the crisis management team, and undertook a questionnaire-based survey in the settlement nearest to the crater to determine how residents reacted to the crisis and how they thought authorities managed the crisis. The survey was carried out while Kelut was still under surveillance for fear of an explosive phase. According to the authors, the crisis management team "was well organized and strategic"; however, the results "showed that crisis management was not fully integrated with the way of life of the local communities at risk, and that information, communication and trust were lacking."

Decreasing thermal alerts in 2008 and an early 2011 photo. During November and December 2007, there were numerous days with MODVOLC thermal alerts. This number decreased in January 2008 to only six days that month. After January 2008, thermal alerts had been absent as late as 27 April 2012. The probable cause was the cooling of the dome to the point where the levels of thermal radiation emitted dropped below the threshold values needed to create MODVOLC alerts.

A photo of Kelut taken by Daniel Quinn in early 2011 shows the steaming, rough-surfaced lava dome in the crater (figure 14). The photo only showed a small portion of the entire crater floor, but on the N side of the dome, the crater floor contained a dark brown, muddy-colored patch of water the photographer considered a large puddle. Some 2010 photos on the Picassa website showed a small body of water on the crater floor at that time.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 14. A late January or early February 2011 photo taken of Kelut's new dome from a high spot on the NNW rim. Apparent are both the dome's spiny upper surface, and many areas of the dome still emitting small amounts of steam. The photo appeared on the Picassa website and is used with the permission of the photographer, Daniel Quinn.

According to Daniel Quinn, the photo in figure 14 was taken on the rim at a spot accessed via a small pavilion he passed walking from the car parking area. He took the photo having walked clockwise about as far around the rim as he could travel before reaching vertical cliffs. Pungent odors were absent during his visit.

References. De Bélizal, É., Lavigne, F., Gaillard, J., Grancher, D., Pratomo, I., and Komorowski, J. , 2012. The 2007 eruption of Kelut volcano (East Java, Indonesia): Phenomenology, crisis management and social response, Geomorphology, v. 136, issue 1, p. 165-175.

Philibosian, B., and Simons, M., 2011. A survey of volcanic deformation on Java using ALOS PALSAR interferometric time series, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems, v. 12, no. 11, 8 November 2011, Q11004, 20 pp. (DOI:10.1029/2011GC003775).

Geologic Background. The relatively inconspicuous Kelut stratovolcano contains a summit crater lake that has been the source of some of Indonesia's most deadly eruptions. A cluster of summit lava domes cut by numerous craters has given the summit a very irregular profile. Satellitic cones and lava domes are also located low on the E, W, and SSW flanks. Eruptive activity has in general migrated in a clockwise direction around the summit vent complex. More than 30 eruptions have been recorded from Gunung Kelut since 1000 CE. The ejection of water from the crater lake during the typically short but violent eruptions has created pyroclastic flows and lahars that have caused widespread fatalities and destruction. After more than 5000 people were killed during an eruption in 1919, an ambitious engineering project sought to drain the crater lake. This initial effort lowered the lake by more than 50 m, but the 1951 eruption deepened the crater by 70 m, leaving 50 million cubic meters of water after repair of the damaged drainage tunnels. After more than 200 deaths in the 1966 eruption, a new deeper tunnel was constructed, and the lake's volume before the 1990 eruption was only about 1 million cubic meters.

Information Contacts: Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://vsi.esdm.go.id/); Daniel P. Quinn (URL: http://bubbingtondump.com/).

Long Valley (United States) — March 2012 Citation iconCite this Report

Long Valley

United States

37.7°N, 118.87°W; summit elev. 3390 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

2009 summary, deep seismic swarm at Mammoth Mountain

This report on Long Valley caldera, California, summarizes USGS reports for 2009. The volcano remained non-eruptive. Long Valley Observatory (LVO) is now part of the California Volcano Observatory (CalVO). A tectonic earthquake sequence during 2011 in nearby Hawthorne, Nevada, is also discussed.

Long Valley caldera entered relative quiescence in the spring of 1999 (BGVN 26:07) following unrest that began in 1980 (SEAN 07:05); this relative quiescence continued through 2009.

Seismicity during 2009 was characterized by a low level of seismicity within the caldera, and a typical higher level of seismicity in the surrounding Sierra Nevada range (figure 41). Three recorded earthquakes were larger than M 3.0, yet none of them occurred within the region of Long Valley caldera as delimited by LVO. The largest earthquakes within Long Valley caldera were an M 2.7 on 9 January in the S moat, and a pair of M 2.3 earthquakes on 10 December that were located beneath the resurgent dome.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. Seismicity in the region of Long Valley caldera and the surrounding Seirra Nevada range. The upper red dashed outline indicates volcanic areas associated with Long Valley caldera (including Mammoth Mountain and Inyo Craters), and the red dashed and dotted outline indicates the adjacent Sierra Nevada range. Earthquake epicenters are shown with symbols proportional to earthquake magnitudes, according to the scale at top-right. Modified from USGS-LVO.

Deep seismic swarm at Mammoth Mountain.At Mammoth Mountain, increased seismicity began in late May, and a deep seismic swarm occurred on 29 September. The 29 September seismic swarm included over 50 M ≥0.5 high-frequency earthquakes that occurred at depths of 20-25 km, depths inferred to be in the mafic lower crust (figure 42). The high frequencies of these earthquakes indicated brittle-rock failure similar to shallow earthquakes that typically occur at <10 km depth, and were distinctly different than the long-period earthquakes that occur within the silicic upper crust, at depths of 10-25 km. The increased seismicity at Mammoth Mountain during 2009 produced more earthquakes there than occurred within Long Valley caldera (figures 41, 42, and 43).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Map (left) and cross-section (right) views focusing on Mammoth Mountain seismicity during 2009. Note the two main clusters of earthquakes at ~0-7 km and ~20-25 km depth. Earthquakes are shown by symbols proportional to earthquake magnitude, shown by the scale at left. The line A-A' on the map indicates the plane of projection of the cross-section. The inferred mafic lower crust and silicic upper crust regions are indicated to the right of the cross-section. The cross-section also indicates interpreted brittle and plastic zones and the typical source area for deep, long-period (LP) earthquakes. Modified from USGS-LVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Plot of the cumulative number of earthquakes within Long Valley caldera (dashed line) and beneath Mammoth Mountain (solid line, highlighted in orange) during 2009. The 29 September deep earthquake swarm took place within a longer episode of enhanced seismicity at Mammoth Mountain that lasted from mid-2009 through at least the end of the year. Mammoth Mountain's cumulative 2009 seismicity surpassed that at the rest of the Long Valley caldera area. Courtesy of USGS-LVO.

Slow inflation of the caldera's resurgent dome. Deformation trends during 2007-2009 highlighted slow inflation of the resurgent dome. At the end of 2009, the height of the resurgent dome remained ~75 cm higher than prior to the onset of unrest in 1980. Measurements since 2007 indicated horizontal displacement rates of ~5 mm/year, mostly in a pattern radiating away from the resurgent dome (figure 44).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. Horizontal displacement rates determined by GPS at different measurement sites in and around Long Valley caldera during the start of 2007 to early 2010, which highlight a trend of expansion away from the resurgent dome. Displacement rate vectors are relative to two reference sites located off the map in the Sierra Nevada range. Ellipses around arrows represent standard 2σ errors on the measurements. Light gray arrows represent insignificant displacement rates. The black dashed outline indicates the extent of Long Valley caldera, the gray dashed outline labeled "inflation source" indicates the resurgent dome, and the gray dashed outline at the SW edge of Long Valley caldera indicates Mammoth Mountain. From S to N, the brown dashed outlines indicate the Inyo Domes, Mono Craters, and Mono Lake islands. Modified from USGS-LVO.

During 2009, soil CO2 emission measurements revealed variations typical of most previous years. The increase in seismicity at Mammoth Mountain on 29 September did not produce a corresponding increase in CO2 emissions.

2011 Hawthorne, Nevada, earthquake sequence. In March 2011, an earthquake sequence (mentioned in LVO weekly activity updates) began in Hawthorne, Nevada (~100 km NNE of the center of Long Valley caldera) that, according to Smith and others (2011), initially sparked brief concerns of unrest at Mud Springs volcano (figure 45). Mud Springs volcano is a probable Pleistocene volcano of the Aurora-Bodie volcanic field, Nevada (Wood and Kienle, 1992). The Hawthorne earthquakes did not show volcanic signatures in near-source seismograms (Smith and others, 2011), and the sequence was quickly identified as tectonic in origin.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 45. Mapped epicenters and magnitudes (legend, bottom right) of the 2011 Hawthorne, Nevada, earthquake sequence through 19 May 2011. Hawthorne is ~10 km to the NE of the top right margin of the image. Green triangles mark the locations of three temporary seismometers (TVH1-3) installed during 17-19 April 2011. Mud Springs volcano and its associated lava flows are labeled at the bottom of the image. Modified from the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, University of Nevada, Reno.

According to Smith and others (2011), "An additional concern, as the sequence . . . proceeded, was a clear progression eastward toward the Wassuk Range front fault. The east dipping range bounding fault is capable of M 7+ events, and poses a significant hazard to the community of Hawthorne and local military facilities. The Hawthorne Army Depot is an ordinance storage facility and the nation's storage site for surplus mercury."

Earthquakes of the March 2011 sequence were as strong as M 4.6 (figure 46); the largest earthquakes may have been felt in Bridgeport, CA (~60 km SW of Hawthorne, and ~70 km NNW from the center of Long Valley caldera), according to LVO. The earthquakes occurred along at least two shallow faults, originating at 2-6 km depth (Smith and others, 2011). The earthquake sequence "slowly decreased in intensity through mid-2011" (Smith and others, 2011).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 46. Mapped areas of felt responses to the M 4.6 earthquake that occurred on 16 April 2011 (see scale at bottom). The hypocenter is indicated by the red star (center). This was the strongest earthquake of the 2011 Hawthorne, Nevada earthquake sequence. The red triangle near the bottom of the map shows the location of Long Valley caldera. Modified from the Nevada Seismological Laboratory, University of Nevada, Reno.

References. Smith, K.D., Johnson, C., Davies, J.A., Agbaje, T., Antonijevic, S.K., and Kent, G., 2011. The 2011 Hawthorne, Nevada, Earthquake Sequence; Shallow Normal Faulting. American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2011, Abstract ##S53B-2284.

Wood, C.A. and Kienle, J., 1992. Volcanoes of North America: United States and Canada, Cambridge University Press, 354 p., pgs. 256-262.

Geologic Background. The large 17 x 32 km Long Valley caldera east of the central Sierra Nevada Range formed as a result of the voluminous Bishop Tuff eruption about 760,000 years ago. Resurgent doming in the central part of the caldera occurred shortly afterwards, followed by rhyolitic eruptions from the caldera moat and the eruption of rhyodacite from outer ring fracture vents, ending about 50,000 years ago. During early resurgent doming the caldera was filled with a large lake that left strandlines on the caldera walls and the resurgent dome island; the lake eventually drained through the Owens River Gorge. The caldera remains thermally active, with many hot springs and fumaroles, and has had significant deformation, seismicity, and other unrest in recent years. The late-Pleistocene to Holocene Inyo Craters cut the NW topographic rim of the caldera, and along with Mammoth Mountain on the SW topographic rim, are west of the structural caldera and are chemically and tectonically distinct from the Long Valley magmatic system.

Information Contacts: Dave Hill, California Volcano Observatory (CalVO), formerly theLong Valley Observatory (LVO), U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA (URL: http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/calvo/); Nevada Seismological Laboratory, Laxalt Mineral Engineering Building, Room 322, University of Nevada-Reno, Reno, NV 89557 (URL: http://www.seismo.unr.edu/).

Maderas (Nicaragua) — March 2012 Citation iconCite this Report



11.446°N, 85.515°W; summit elev. 1394 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Destructive 2005 seismicity; youngest deposits dated 70.4 ± 6.1 ka B.P

In this report we present seismicity at Maderas from 1998 through 2011, highlight the 2005 earthquake swarm, describe the "Tomography Under Costa Rica and Nicaragua" (TUCAN) Broadband Seismometer Experiment and the subsequent analysis of an Mw 6.3 event also from 2005, and summarize results from fieldwork conducted in 2009 with new age dates from Kapelancyzk and others (2012).

The 2009 field investigation also characterized two distinct phases of volcanism at Maderas, as recent as the Upper Pleistocene (70.4 ± 6.1 ka before present). Despite this interval without documented eruptions, it is plausible that the volcano could erupt again, but risk of a future eruption from Maderas is considered low (Kapelancyzk, 2011). More likely are hazards associated with non-eruptive processes such as seismically triggered mass wasting and gas emissions. A deadly lahar in 1996 (BGVN 21:09) emphasized that non-eruptive processes still offer considerable hazards and justify efforts to watch for and catalog non-eruptive events.

Maderas and Concepción volcanoes sit at opposite ends of the dumbbell-shaped Ometepe Island (figure 1). The population on the island is estimated at 30,000 however seasonal tourism increases that number during the year. These volcanoes are monitored by the Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER) with seismic stations and regular field investigations by staff volcanologists.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. This map of Central America focuses on Maderas volcano; the inset zooms in on Lake Nicaragua and Ometepe Island. Dashed lines represent the large-scale geologic features, the Nicaraguan depression (ND) to the S and the Median Trough (MT) to the N; triangles represent volcanic centers (Kapelanczyk and others, 2012).

Seismicity. One seismic station is located on Ometepe Island within a network of ~32 stations in Nicaragua. From 1998 to 2011, INETER reported that seismicity was irregular although in most years, they located fewer than four earthquakes (table 1). Earthquakes were frequently ML < 3.5 (ML= Local earthquake magnitude) with focal depths ranging between the surface and 179 km.

Table 1. Earthquakes located near Maderas volcano from 1998 through 2011. For each year, the table also lists the range of the earthquakes' local magnitudes (ML), the range of their focal depths, and their average focal depths. INETER did not comment on earthquakes that were anomalously deep (e.g. 179 km below sea level). Courtesy of INETER.

Year EQ Count ML Range of focal depths (km) Avg. focal depths (km)
1998 1 3.6 0 0
2000 1 3.3 1 1
2003 3 2.2-3.7 1-176 62
2004 3 2.3-3.7 4-7 6
2005 406 1.0-4.8 0-24 7
2006 11 1.9-3.3 4-11 7
2007 2 1.9-2.8 1-3 2
2008 1 2.1 179 179
2009 1 3.5 172 172
2011 1 2.3 11 11

During 2005, INETER's network registered a total of 2,785 earthquakes throughout Nicaragua; 2,629 of these events were located by seismologists, 78 caused shaking that was strong enough to be reported by local populations, and 406 were located near Maderas volcano. Many of these events were located beneath Lake Nicaragua and S of Maderas volcano (figure 2). According to an interview presented in a La Prensa news article, 71% of the events were attributed to strain release along the subduction zone while 27% were associated with the volcanic chain. INETER reported that a significant number of earthquakes also occurred offshore in the Pacific Ocean with magnitudes greater than 5.0.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. (Left) A map of epicenters for the entire year of 2005 plotted for Nicaragua and the surrounding region. (Right) A map of epicenters for the month of September 2005 plotted for the Lake Nicaragua region. On both maps, note the concentration of epicenters around Maderas at the SE portion of Ometepe Island. Courtesy of INETER.

Large regional earthquake. In their monthly bulletins, INETER reported that the earthquake swarm from August through September 2005 included an ML 5.7 earthquake that occurred on 3 August. The USGS National Earthquake Information Center reported this event as Ms 6.2 (Ms = surface-wave magnitude). This earthquake was located ~15 km S of Maderas volcano (figure 3) and INETER reported that many homes on Ometepe Island were destroyed. Shaking was felt by local residents on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua as well as the interior of the country and in Costa Rica. INETER noted that this was the first time in memory that an event of this magnitude occurred near Maderas. Aftershocks continued for several weeks after the event (La Prensa).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Map views of initial (left) and double-difference (right) relocated hypocenters. The green and red stars correspond to the Mw 5.3 and 6.3 fore and main shock, respectively (Mw = moment magnitude). The initial hypocenters were cataloged by INETER except for the main shock, which was located separately using TUCAN P and S phase data (horizontal plane 95% confidence ellipse shown). The red inverted triangle represents the INETER catalog location of the main shock. Note that contour intervals are inconsistent with those elsewhere in the literature. Map is modified from French and others (2010).

This major seismic event was also captured by the "Tomography Under Costa Rica and Nicaragua" (TUCAN) Broadband Seismometer Experiment. This array of instruments was in the field from July 2004 to March 2006 (French and others, 2010). Project collaborators conducted a relocation and directivity analysis based on data from 16 of the 48 TUCAN stations. They determined the rupture was on a vertical, N60°E striking main shock plane; a secondary fault, with a strike of N350°E-N355°E, was also activated during the 5 hours following the main event.

The seismic analysis provided important insight into the regional tectonic setting while also characterizing activity that was independent from the coincident volcanism at Concepción Volcano. Just six days prior to the 3 August 2005 Mw 6.3 event, INETER reported high local seismicity and an ash explosion from Concepción (BGVN 30:07). Explosive activity had begun on 28 July but they lacked any other local diagnostic signatures at Maderas or Concepción related to the Mw 6.3 event. French and others (2010) conclude that "the eruption was not triggered at short time scales by stress transfer from slip on this fault. No earthquakes in [the] analysis relocated beneath Concepción either before or after the eruption."

These were also significant findings as they correlate well with the larger interpretation of the region's tectonic setting, supporting the "bookshelf model" (LaFemina and others, 2002). This model addresses the complexities of Nicaragua's deforming tectonic blocks that include clockwise rotation and slip on NE-striking left-lateral faults.

Volcanic history. In 2009, field investigations by Michigan Technological University student Lara Kapelanczyk yielded new age dates and geologic mapping for Maderas. Previous investigators had characterized Maderas as a small-volume (~30 km3) stratovolcano (Carr and others, 2007), lacking historic volcanic activity (Borgia and others, 2000), and having unique structural characteristics variously attributed to gravitational spreading (van Wyk de Vries and Borgia, 1996) and localized faulting (Mathieu and others, 2011).

Geologic mapping and rock sampling during field campaigns in 2009 contributed to new insight about the eruptive history of Maderas as well as the geologic hazards of the area. Geomorphologic characteristics also distinguish Maderas as an older volcanic site compared to its frequently active neighbor, Concepción (figure 4). Satellite remote sensing also distinguishes deep ravines that cut through the edifice of Maderas, features that suggest long-term, uninterrupted erosion. As recent as March 2010 (BGVN 36:10), Concepción has erupted ash and tephra.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. A view across Lake Nicaragua in March 2010 toward the twin volcanoes on Ometepe Island, Concepción (left) and Maderas (right). Intermittent ash explosions characterized Concepción's activity in 2010. In this view, a diffuse ash plume covered Concepción's summit and was dissipating at a low altitude, spreading toward the shoreline. Courtesy of Lara Kapelanczyk, Michigan Technological University.

Geochemical data and 40Ar/39Ar dating determined that Maderas is an andesitic volcano with lava flows dating from 179.2 ± 16.4 ka to 70.4 ± 6.1 ka. These ages are significant in that, for the first time, quantitative data shows that Maderas has not been active for tens of thousands of years.

Kapelanczyk (2011) concluded that, during its lifespan, edifice construction at Maderas was marked by fault displacements that cross the major sectors of the volcano (figure 5). These major events led to the formation of a central graben and distinguish two phases of activity at Maderas: cone growth with pre-graben lava flows and post-graben lava flows. Pre-graben activity included the formation of a lateral vent and two littoral maars to the NE while post-graben activity included a lateral vent to the NW. Maar structures were also described in this research as well as structural information about the summit crater which includes a small lake, Laguna de Maderas (figure 6).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 5. Geologic map of Maderas volcano (Kapelancyzk and others, 2012). Note the normal faults (heavy black lines) bounding the NNW-trending graben crossing the structure, an extension of the San Ramon fault zone (Funk and others, 2009). Pre- and post-graben lithologies and structures were recognized by Kapelancyzk (2011). Laguna de Maderas appears as the gray area within the summit crater.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 6. View inside of the Maderas summit crater looking SE toward Laguna de Maderas, the summit crater lake. Courtesy of Lara Kapelanczyk, Michigan Technological University.

Based on the new information about Maderas's volcanic history, the risk associated with eruptions is considered low (Kapelanczyk, 2011). However, geophysical monitoring is important due to processes such as occasional, significant earthquakes and the potential for debris flows on the steep flanks.

In 1996 a deadly lahar occurred on the E flank (BGVN 21:09). This event was triggered during a heavy rainstorm and released a significant volume of material, enough to destroy the town of El Corozal and other settlements nearby. Deep, steep-sided ravines have cut through the slopes, especially on the lower NE and SW flanks (figure 7).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. This satellite image of Ometepe Island was processed by GVP using near-, mid-infrared, and infrared bands (4,5,7). Water-poor soils appear cyan; brown-to-red areas indicate moist soils; water is black. A small pond is located within the circular crater of Maderas (Laguna de Maderas) and deep erosional features radiate from the summit, distinguishing the relatively older edifice from the neighboring volcano, Concepción. Recent lava flows on Concepción appear black/blue and have distinctive terminal lobes. Landsat acquired this ETM+ image on 27 January 2000 (NASA Landsat Program, 2003).

References. Borgia, A., Delaney, P.T. and Denlinger, R.P., 2000. Spreading volcanoes. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 28, 539-570.

Carr, M.J., Saginor, I., Alvarado, G.E., Bolge, L.L., Lindsay, F.N., Milidakis, K., Turrin, B.D., Feigenson, M.D. and Swisher, C.C., 2007. Element fluxes from the volcanic front of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G3), 8, 6.

French, S.W., Warren, L.M., Fischer, K.M., Abers, G.A., Strauch, W., Protti, J.M., and Gonzalez, V., 2010. Constraints on upper plate deformation in the Nicaraguan subduction zone from earthquake relocation and directivity analysis, Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems (G3), 11, 3.

Funk, J., Mann, P., McIntosh, K., and Stephens, J., 2009. Cenozoic tectonics of the Nicaraguan depression, Nicaragua, and Median Trough, El Salvador, based on seismic-reflection profiling and remote-sensing data, GSA Bulletin 121, 11-12, 1491-1521.

Kapelanczyk, L.N., 2011. An eruptive history of Maderas Volcano using new 40Ar/39Ar ages and geochemical analyses [Master's thesis]: Houghton, MI, Michigan Technological University, 118 p.

Kapelanczyk, L.N., Rose, W.I., and Jicha, B.R., 2012. An eruptive history of Maderas volcano using new 40Ar/39Ar ages and geochemical analyses. Bulletin of Volcanology, In Review.

LaFemina, P.C., Dixon, T.H., and Strauch, W., 2002. Bookshelf faulting in Nicaragua, Geology, 30, 751-754.

Mathieu, L., van Wyk de Vries, B., Pilato, M. and Troll, V.R., 2011. The interaction between volcanoes and strike-slip, transtensional and transpressional fault zones: Analogue models and natural examples. Journal of Structural Geology, 33, 898-906.

NASA Landsat Program, 2003, Landsat ETM+ scene 7dx20000127, SLC-Off, USGS, Sioux Falls, Jan. 27, 2000.

van Wyk de Vries, B. and Borgia, A., 1996. The role of basement in volcano deformation. Geological Society Special Publication, 110, 95-110.

Geologic Background. Volcán Maderas is a roughly conical stratovolcano that forms the SE end of the dumbbell-shaped Ometepe island in Lake Nicaragua. The basaltic-to-trachydacitic edifice is cut by numerous faults and grabens, the largest of which is a NW-SE-oriented graben that cuts the summit and has at least 140 m of vertical displacement. The small Laguna de Maderas lake occupies the bottom of the 800-m-wide summit crater, which is located at the western side of the central graben. The SW side of the edifice has been affected by large-scale slumping. Several pyroclastic cones, some of which may have originated from littoral explosions produced by lava flow entry into Lake Nicaragua, are situated on the lower NE flank down to the level of Lake Nicaragua. The latest period of major growth was considered to have taken place more than 3000 years ago, but later detailed mapping has shown that the most recent dated eruptive activity took place about 70,000 years ago and that it has likely been inactive for tens of thousands of years (Kapelanczyk et al., 2012). A lahar in September 1996 killed six people in an E-flank village, but associated volcanic activity was not confirmed.

Information Contacts: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Apartado Postal 2110, Managua, Nicaragua (URL: http://www.ineter.gob.ni/); Global Land Cover Facility (URL: http:// http://www.glcf.umiacs.umd.edu/); National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC), US Geological Survey, Geologic Hazards Team Office, Colorado School of Mines, 1711 Illinois St., Golden, CO 80401, USA (URL: https://earthquake.usgs.gov/); La Prensa (URL: http://archivo.laprensa.com.ni).

Puyehue-Cordon Caulle (Chile) — March 2012 Citation iconCite this Report

Puyehue-Cordon Caulle


40.59°S, 72.117°W; summit elev. 2236 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

June 2011 eruption emits circum-global ash clouds

Until 4 June 2011, the volcanic complex named Puyehue-Cordón Caulle had been quiet since its last major eruption in 1960. This report summarizes an increase in seismicity in early 2011 and the ensuing eruption that began on 4 June 2011. Our previous and only reports on the complex were in March and April 1972, which offered and then dismissed a report of a 1972 eruption (CSLP Cards 1362 and 1371). Information here goes through 2011 but omits some remote sensing observations. The eruption continued through at least April 2012, but in March and again in April 2012 the eruption's diminished vigor resulted in successively lowered alert statuses. During the height of the eruption the vent emitted ash plumes and generated significant ashfall, and flights were cancelled as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Pyroclastic flows occurred, with runout distances up to 10 km.

The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle complex includes Puyehue volcano at the SE end and the Cordillera Nevada caldera at the NW end. The current eruption discussed here vented at a location roughly between these two features, along the same fissure complex that had been active in the 1960 eruption. Available information failed to disclose any other eruptive sites during the reporting interval. Although the eruption continues as this report goes to press in March 2012, the report discusses activity only during 2011. A subsequent report will discuss further details, including satellite data on eruptive plumes, and updates since the end of the 2011 reporting period. This report also contains a table that condenses reporting from the Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC).

Precursory seismicity. The Southern Andes Volcanological Observatory-National Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN) reported that on 26 April 2011 an overflight of the volcano was conducted in response to recent increased seismicity and observations of fumarolic activity by nearby residents. Scientists confirmed fumarolic activity, but did not observe any other unusual activity.

On 27 April a seismic swarm (with about 140 events under ML 3.0) was detected at depths of 4-6 km below the complex. Most were hybrid earthquakes, the largest being M 3.9. Lower levels of seismicity continued through 29 April. That day the Alert Level was raised to Yellow (on a scale from Green to Yellow to Red).

According to SERNAGEOMIN, between 2000 on 2 June and 1959 on 3 June 2011, about 1,450 earthquakes occurred at Puyehue-Cordón Caulle (~60 earthquakes/hour, on average). More than 130 earthquakes occurred with magnitudes greater than 2.0. The earthquakes were mostly hybrid and long-period, and located in the SE sector of the Cordón Caulle rift zone at depths of 2-5 km. A flight over the volcano revelaed no significant changes. Area residents reported feeling earthquakes during the evening of 3 June through the morning of 4 June.

For a six-hour period on 4 June, seismicity increased to an average of 230 earthquakes/hour, with hypocenter depths of 1-4 km. About 12 events were of magnitudes greater than 4.0, and 50 events were of magnitudes greater than 3.0. As a result of the increased seismicity, the Alert Level was raised from Yellow to Red on 4 June.

Eruption. On 4 June 2011, an explosion from Cordón Caulle produced a set of plumes, including an ash plume described as 5 km wide and with its top at ~12 km altitude. Portions of the plume bifurcated; at ~5 km altitude a part of the plume drifted S, and at ~10 km altitude parts drifted W and E. A news account (Agency France-Presse) around this time, quoting a government official, said the eruption would lead to the evacuation of 4,270 residents.

According to the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia-Ministerio del Interior (ONEMI), SERNAGEOMIN had noted the presence of pyroclastic flow deposits, but not lava. Residents reported a strong sulfur odor and significant ash and pumice fall. According to the BBC, the number of evacuees rose to 3,500-4,000 during the next several days.

According to SERNAGEOMIN, the eruption from the Cordón Caulle rift zone, although somewhat diminished, continued on 5 June. At least five pyroclastic flows were generated from partial collapses of the eruptive column and traveled N in the Nilahue River drainage. These pyroclastic flows extended up to 10 km from the vent.

Figures 1-3 show scenes of the volcano from various perspectives, including a natural color January 2012 image from space.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Puyehue-Cordón Caulle's eruption seen in a long-exposure photo taken during 4-6 June 2011. The photo depicts molten material discharging over a wide area near the eruption column's base. Above the glowing, molten material there grew a substantial, rapidly rising ash plume. Much of the scene is lit by numerous bolts of lightning. Courtesy of Daniel Basualto, European Pressphoto Agency.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. A long-exposure photograph of the eruption at the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle complex taken on 5 June 2011. The complex scene shows a wide eruption column aglow with prominent lightning strikes branching across its surface. The long exposure is evidenced by the long star trails (with stars forming streaks due to the Earth's rotation) and the superimposition of many distinct bolts of lightning. Courtesy of Franscisco Negroni, Agencia Uno/European Pressphoto Agency.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Satellite photo acquired on 26 January 2012 of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle area. The natural color image was taken by the Advanced Land Imager aboard the Earth Observing (EO-1) satellite. The emissions, which blow in a narrow band toward the SE, can clearly be observed emanating from the Cordón Caulle fissure complex and not from the Puyehue volcano itself. According to a NASA Earth Observatory report, after 8 months of ceaseless activity, the landscape around the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle complex was covered in ash. The light-colored ash appears most clearly on the rocky, alpine slopes surrounding the active vent and the Puyehue caldera. Within the caldera, the ash appears slightly darker, possibly because it may be resting on wet snow that is melting and ponding during the South American summer. NASA also noted that evergreen forests on the E side of the volcano complex have been damaged by months of nearly continuous ashfall, and are now an unhealthy brown, while forests to the W had only received intermittent coatings of ash and appeared relatively healthy. Courtesy of NASA (Robert Simmon, Mike Carlowicz, and Jesse Allen).

Eruptive plumes were dense, oftentimes continuous, and extended E over Argentina and then the Atlantic Ocean (table 1). Ashfall reached up to about 15 cm thick in Argentina and adjacent parts of Chile (figures 4-6). Numerous flights were cancelled as far away as Australia and New Zealand, and many airports were forced to close temporarily (see section below).

Table 1. The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle ash plume altitudes and drift distances and directions documented by aviation authorities between 4 June 2011 and 3 January 2012. A plume on any particular date may be a continuation of a plume on the previous day(s). All maximum plume heights are stated in altitudes (a.s.l.). '-' indicates data not reported. Cloud cover often prevented video camera and satellite observations. Data from the Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) and SERNAGEOMIN.

Date (2011) Max. plume altitude (km) Plume drift Remarks
04 Jun 10.7-13.7 870 km ESE 5-km-wide ash-and-gas plume.
05 Jun 10.7-12.2 1,778 km ESE Plume drifted over Atlantic Ocean toward Australia.
06 Jun -- 178 km ENE --
07 Jun 5.5-9.8 E Continuous emission, plume 65-95 km wide; large ash cloud drifted E over Atlantic Ocean.
08 Jun 10 1,200 km NE, SE Plume moved over Atlantic Ocean.
09 Jun -- 200 km ENE Cloud cover obscured view.
10 Jun 6 SE Cloud cover obscured view.
11 Jun 6-10 350 km E, 600 km ENE Explosion caused plume to rise to 10 km a.s.l.
12 Jun 10 300 km E, 1,000 km ENE Series of explosions, tremor lasted 2 hr, 20 min; 4 hybrid earthquakes.
13 Jun 11 250 km SE Incandescence, tremor.
14 Jun 5.5-7.6 -- Explosions generated pyroclastic flows.
15 Jun-21 Jun 4-8 1,400 km ESE Small explosions on 15 June, ashfall heavy, pulses of tremor.
22 Jun-28 Jun 4-6 1,450 km NNW, 200-900 km various Active lava flow.
29 Jun-05 Jul 4-6 200-900 km NW, N, E Active lava flow.
06 Jul-12 Jul 3-4 75 km NE Explosions on 7-8 Jul caused windows to vibrate in Riñinahue.
13 Jul-19 Jul 4-7 80-240 km E, 150 km NW Incandescence on 18 July. Active lava flow.
20 Jul-26 Jul 3-5 100-250 km E, SE, 80 km E Incandescence on 20 Jul. Active lava flow.
27 Jul-02 Aug 4-7 100-200 km SE, 80-400 km various Incandescence on 26 and 29-30 Jul. Active lava flow.
03 Aug-09 Aug 4-5 100-700 km SE, 1,000 km NE --
10 Aug-16 Aug 4 100-150 km E, SE Mostly white plumes.
17 Aug-23 Aug 4-6 200-270 km NW, 500 km NW, SE Two explosions, harmonic tremor for 25 minutes; incandescence on 18-19 Aug.
24 Aug-30 Aug 3 -- Four explosions; ashfall in Temuco.
31 Aug-06 Sep 3 30-80 km SE, E --
07 Sep-13 Sep 3-6 10-60 km NE, E, SE --
14 Sep-20 Sep 5-6 60 km E, 40-70 km N, NW --
21 Sep-27 Sep 5-7 30-300 km various --
28 Sep-04 Oct 6 30-300 km various --
05 Oct-11 Oct 6 30-60 km various --
12 Oct-18 Oct 5-7 30-200 km various --
19 Oct-25 Oct 4-10 50-250 km various Explosion and incandescence on 22 Oct; lava flows reported on previous days.
26 Oct-01 Nov 7-10 30-350 km various Small incandescent explosions on 28-31 Oct.
02 Nov-08 Nov 4-7 30-120 km various --
09 Nov-15 Nov 6-9 90-250 km NE, 200 km NW, 400 km SE Small explosions and incandescence; ashfall on Chile/Argentine border.
16 Nov-22 Nov 5-6 250 km SE, 100 km SW Incandescence on 20 Nov.
23 Nov-29 Nov 5-6 -- Ash plume reached Atlantic Ocean.
30 Nov-06 Dec 4-5 90-100 km various Incandescence.
07 Dec-13 Dec 5-6 90 km SE, 250 km ENE Ashfall to E.
14 Dec-20 Dec 5 30-270 km SE, S, NE --
21 Dec-27 Dec 3-7 20-250 km various Small incandescent explosions.
28 Dec-03 Jan 2012 3-7 20-260 km various Small incandescent explosions; ash fell up to 580 km SE, in Argentina.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. Photograph published on 6 June 2011 of workers using earth-moving equipment to remove the ash that fell 100 km SE of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. As discussed in a subsection below, the ash led to the cancellation of numerous public activities, and flights were suspended. Courtesy of Alfredo Leiva, Associated Press.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 5. Photograph of an Air Austral jet stranded at the airport at San Carlos de Beriloche, Argentina, on 7 June 2011 after being covered with ash that blew over the Andes from the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle complex. Courtesy of Alfredo Leiva, Associated Press.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 6. A member of the media walks along a road covered with ash from the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle complex that crossed Cardenal Samoré pass, a major linkage along the border between Argentina and Chile. Courtesy of Ivan Alvarado, Reuters.

According to news accounts (BBC, MailOnline, Merco Press), the Nilahue river, which runs off the N slopes of the volcano, became clogged with ash and overflowed its banks. The press reports said that the river water was steaming, having been locally heated up to 45°C by hot volcanic material, and more than four million salmon and other fish died.

During 4-5 June, ashfall several centimeters thick was reported in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina (about 100 km SE of the volcano) and in surrounding areas (figures 4-6). ONEMI reported that the Cardenal Samoré mountain pass border crossing between Argentina and Chile had temporarily closed on 4 June due to poor visibility caused by the heavy ashfall. According to a press report (EMOL), the road crossing the border was covered with ash that locally reached 10-15 cm thick. According to MailOnline and Boston.com, ash covered Lake Nahuel Huapi, Argentina's largest lake, which lies in the eastern foothills of the Andes. Videos documenting the eruption are abundant on the YouTube website (a search there using "Puyehue volcano" brings up over 400 hits. See several examples in the Reference list below).

By 9 June 2011, pumice and vitreous tephra had accumulated in many area lakes and rivers, darkening the color or their waters (figure 7).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. Photo of ash-clogged Nilahue River (Chile) with steam hanging above the river. Courtesy of Reuters.

A government observation flight on 11 June revealed that the vent was located at the head of the Nilahue River's basin, a spot immediately N of the 1960 eruption fissure. Observers found that abundant amounts of ash had accumulated around the vent, as well as to the E and SW.

Scientists aboard an observation flight on 13 June reported that the eruption formed a cone located in the center of a crater ~300 to ~400 m in diameter. Gas-and-steam plumes rose from two or three locations along the same fissure as the eruptive vent. Scientists watching a strong ash emission saw the lower part of the ash column collapse. Dark gray ash plumes that rose to an altitude of ~11 km. Instrumental records around that time registered pulses of tremor. At other points on 13 June, plume heights oscillated.

On 20 June, a news article (Agency France-Presse) reported that authorities had ended the evacuation, enabling residents to return home.

SERNAGEOMIN personnel along with regional authorities flew over the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle complex on 20 June. They observed a viscous lava flow, confirming speculation of magma ascent based on seismic data from the previous few days. A 50-m-wide lava flow had traveled 200 m NW and 100 m NE from the point of emission, filling a depression. A white plume with a gray base rose 3-4 km above the crater. Devastated vegetation from pyroclastic flows was observed near the Nilahue and Abutment rivers. Pulses of tremor were detected by the seismic network.

Plumes continued through at least the end of 2011. Although there were no new aerial observations, the seismic signals indicated that the lava flow remained active. Ashfall was periodically reported in areas downwind, including on 22 June in Riñinahue (5-10 mm of ash), Llifen, Futrono, and Curarrehue, and on 25 June in Riñinahue, Pucón, and Melipeuco (in the region of Araucanía).

Decline in seismicity. By the end of June, seismic activity had decreased further. During July through at least 31 December 2011, the eruption continued at a low level. Numerous plumes (mostly white, but sometimes containing ash) were noted during this period, often rising as high as 2.5 km above the crater (4.7 km altitude) and occasionally higher. Cloudy weather often prevented satellite and camera observations. Some of the ash plumes dropped ash in nearby communities, and some ash plumes extended for hundreds of kilometers, continuing to disrupt air traffic. Occasional incandescence and lava flows were noted.

During 18-19 August 2011, a period of harmonic tremor lasted about 25 minutes and may have indicated lava emission. Incandescence was observed at night. An observation flight on 19 August showed that solidified lava had filled up a depression around the cliffs of the Cordón Caulle area; no active lava flows were noted.

On 30 October 2011 seismicity indicated a possible minor lava effusion. Ashfall was reported in Río Bueno (80 km WNW).

During the night of 11-12 November 2011, crater incandescence and small explosions were observed. Satellite imagery showed ash plumes drifting 90 km NE on 11 November and 400 km SE on 12 November. Ash fell in areas on the border of Chile and Argentina, and at Paso Samore on 12 November. As of 31 December 2011, the Alert Level remained at Red.

Disruption of airline traffic. Based upon a review of news accounts on the Internet, the massive ash plumes resulting from the eruption caused major delays and cancellations of air traffic worldwide. Between 4-14 June, numerous flights were cancelled or disrupted in Paraguay, Chile, southern Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. News accounts (Reuters, CBS News, Global Media Post) reported that the two major airports serving Buenos Aires, Argentina, and the international airport in Montevideo, Uruguay, closed for several days as did many airports in southern Argentina, including those in Patagonia. One of the worst hit airports serves the ski resort city of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. On 9 June alone, workers removed about 15,000 tons of volcanic ash (600 truckloads) from the airport's main runway.

According to news accounts (Sydney Morning Herald, Agency France-Presse, Stuff, Australian Associated Press), by the middle of June, the ash plume that had been drifting mostly E since the beginning of the eruption had reached Australia and New Zealand. This caused flight disruptions and airport closures in Australia.

By the third week in June, according to the Associated Press, plumes from the eruption had circumnavigated the globe, arrived in the W part of Chile (in Coyhaique, 550 km S of the volcano), and again caused the cancellation of domestic flights. During the last week of June, numerous flights in and around Argentina and Chile were again cancelled, as well as some flights in Uruguay. According to Stuff, Associated Press, and South Africa To, ash from the second circumnavigation of the ash plume again disrupted flights at Capetown and Port Elizabeth, South Africa, as well as in Australia.

During the first two weeks of July, numerous flights in and around Argentina and Uruguay were cancelled and some airports remained closed. According to Merco, the first private plane landed around 17 July at the airport in Bariloche, Argentina, since the airport had closed on 4 June. On 17 September, the first commercial flights resumed at Bariloche.

Ash clouds remained a problem for months after the eruption. According to news articles, several domestic and international flights in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay were cancelled on 16 October due to re-suspended ash kicked up by high winds in the region. Flights resumed the next day. According to the Agency France-Presse, airborne ash again disrupted or cancelled flights in Uruguay and Argentina on 22 and 26 November.

References (sample of videos available on Youtube):

1. !!Rock, ash fill overflowing river in Chile (Cordon Caulle)!!; MSNBC.com, uploaded by ThisisMotherNature on 10 June 2011. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mw3132MPfvE [Lahar scenes; MSNBC newscast in English]

2. Chile Volcano Erupts (Breathtaking Raw Video) 4th June 2011; (original author uncertain), uploaded by horrificStorms on 14 June 2011. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=fvwp&NR=1&v=ZIq0tlYVb9U [Umbrella cloud forms above rising ash plume, seen from the ground; a yet-unidentified newscast]

3. Dormant Puyehue volcano in Chile erupts after lying dormant for decades; SkyNews, 2011, uploaded by TruthTube451 on 5 June 2011. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=xhANgMJdvsk Source: SkyNews (URL: http://news.sky.com) [Newscast showing rising plumes, ashfall, and scenes of mitigation efforts]

4. Buzo intentando nadar en el lago Nahuel Huapi, el cuál se encuentra cubierto por una gruesa capa de cenizas volcánicas emitidas por volcán Puyehue. Uploaded by SonyOficial on 14 June 2011. URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_cXUVZJxP8&feature=fvsr [An amusing attempt to enter Nahuel Huapi Lake to scuba dive beneath a thick mat of floating tephra. This video exceeded 1 million views on 16 November 2011.]

Geologic Background. The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex (PCCVC) is a large NW-SE-trending late-Pleistocene to Holocene basaltic-to-rhyolitic transverse volcanic chain SE of Lago Ranco. The 1799-m-high Pleistocene Cordillera Nevada caldera lies at the NW end, separated from Puyehue stratovolcano at the SE end by the Cordón Caulle fissure complex. The Pleistocene Mencheca volcano with Holocene flank cones lies NE of Puyehue. The basaltic-to-rhyolitic Puyehue volcano is the most geochemically diverse of the PCCVC. The flat-topped, 2236-m-high volcano was constructed above a 5-km-wide caldera and is capped by a 2.4-km-wide Holocene summit caldera. Lava flows and domes of mostly rhyolitic composition are found on the E flank. Historical eruptions originally attributed to Puyehue, including major eruptions in 1921-22 and 1960, are now known to be from the Cordón Caulle rift zone. The Cordón Caulle geothermal area, occupying a 6 x 13 km wide volcano-tectonic depression, is the largest active geothermal area of the southern Andes volcanic zone.

Information Contacts: Southern Andes Volcanological Observatory-National Geology and Mining Service (SERNAGEOMIN), Avda Sta María No. 0104, Santiago, Chile (URL: http://www.sernageomin.cl/); Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Servicio Meteorológico Nacional-Fuerza Aérea Argentina, 25 de mayo 658, Buenos Aires, Argentina (URL: http://www.smn.gov.ar/vaac/buenosaires/productos.php); Robert Simmon, Mike Carlowicz, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory (URL: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov); Agency France-Presse (URL: http://www.afp.com/afpcom/en/); Associated Press (URL: http://www.ap.org/); Australian Associated Press (AAP) (URL: http://aap.com.au/); BBC News (URL: http://www.bbc.co.uk/); Big Pond News (URL: http://bigpondnews.com); Boston.com (URL: http://www.boston.com); CBS News (URL: https://www.cbsnews.com/); EMOL (URL: http://www.emol.com/); europaPress (URL: http://www.europapress.es); European Pressphoto Agency (URL: http://wn.com/european_pressphoto_agency); Flight Global (URL: http://www.flightglobal.com); Global Media Post (URL: http://www.globalmediapost.com; La Mañana Neuquén (URL: http://www.lmneuquen.com.ar/); Mail Online (URL: http://www.dailymail.com.uk); MercoPress (URL: http://en.mercopress.com); Reuters (URL: http://www.reuters.com); Sky News (URL: news.sky.com); Stuff (URL: http://www.stuff.co.nz); South Africa To (URL: http://www.southafrica.to); Sydney Morning Herald (URL: http://news.smh.com.au/); The Telegraph (URL: http://bigpondnews.com).

Reventador (Ecuador) — March 2012 Citation iconCite this Report



0.077°S, 77.656°W; summit elev. 3562 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Dome growth; lava and pyroclastic flows; lahar takes bridge

Reventador discharged a series of small eruptions and lava flows during 2007-2009 (BGVN 33:04; 33:08; 34:03; and 34:09). Our last report (BGVN 34:09) discussed events through 26 October 2009. Since then seismicity generally remained moderate to low through at least April 2012, and ash emissions accompanying lava-dome growth intermittently occurred. Much of this report stems from work by the Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG). The andesitic volcano contains a 4-km summit caldera that opens to form a large U-shaped scarp that funnels material SE (see map in BGVN 28:06). A VEI 4 eruption on 3 November 2002 (BGVN 27:11) occurred unexpectedly after a 26-year repose.

During this reporting interval, October 2009-April 2012, small plumes with occasional ash emissions accompanied dome growth (table 5). In August 2011, the top of the growing lava dome first reached the same height as the highest part of the rim. MODVOLC thermal alerts, which are satellite based using the MODIS instrument, were absent during 2011, possibly due to masking effects of cloud cover. The two tallest plumes noted in table 5 rose to approximately 7 km altitude. In addition, as discussed below in text, pyroclastic flows were also seen during the reporting interval. Lahars were common, including one that destroyed a bridge over a river on the SE flank on 25 May 2010.

Table 5. Summary of behavior and plumes at Reventador between mid-October 2009 and 18 April 2012. Some aspects of the October 2009 activity were previously reported (BGVN 34:09). Cloud cover frequently prevented observations of the volcano, and minor plumes may not have been recorded or were omitted. Heights above crater were converted to altitude by adding the summit elevation of 3.6 km. '-' indicates data not reported. Data provided by the Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG), the Guayaquil Meteorolgical Watch Office (MWO) in Ecuador, and the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC).

Date Plume altitude (km) Plume drift direction Remarks
14 Oct 2009 -- -- Increased seismicity and harmonic tremor. Residents during the middle of October heard roaring and booming noises and saw glowing.
16-17 Oct 2009 -- -- An IG field party saw a lava flow on the cone's S flank on the 16th and 17th. An overflight on the 16th also revealed a lava flow on the N flank.
19 Oct 2009 -- -- An areal infrared (FLIR) camera took images of S flank lava flows that covered a large area. A plume with little or no ash rose to 7.5 km altitude and drifted NW, W, and S. An explosion ejected glowing material from the crater and blocks rolled down the flanks.
21-22 Oct 2009 -- -- Aerial infrared observations again imaged the N flank lava flow, and detected multiple lobes in the S-flank flows. A part of the lava dome's base had been removed but the dome itself had gained some small spines, especially towards the S. Material near the crater had temperatures up to 400°C.
05 Nov 2009 7 NE Pilot report. Ash not seen in satellite imagery, although weather clouds were present.
07 Nov 2009 4 -- --
14 Nov 2009 -- 10-20 km W, WNW --
20 Nov 2009 6.1 -- --
18 Feb 2010 -- -- Ash not identified in satellite imagery.
08 Apr 2010 4.6-6.7 W Pilot report. Cloud cover prevented satellite observation.
20-23 Apr 2010 4.9-5.5 S 200-m-long pyroclastic flow seen during IG flight on 20th (see text). Plume height and direction from aviation reports on 23rd.
26 Apr 2010 4 -- --
29 Apr 2010 -- -- Low ash content.
07 May 2010 5.2 -- Pilot report. Cloud cover prevented satellite observation.
08 May 2010 -- -- IG reported lahars including some that later destroyed a bridge over Marker river (see text).
30 Aug 2010 -- -- Pilot report. Ash not seen in satellite imagery.
09 Sep 2010 5.5 -- Pilot report.
28 Sep 2010 5.6 NW Ash fell on Reventador amid seismic episodes (see text).
30 Sep 2010 -- NW Satellite detected diffuse plume but no ash. IG reported ash over Reventador.
06 Oct 2010 -- NE Steam plume also emitted that day.
02 Nov 2010 4.6 -- Cloud cover prevented satellite observation.
04 Jan 2011 5.2 -- Ash not detected by satellite, and no reports of ashfall. IG later inferred extensive dome growth during 2011 (see text).
14 Jul 2011 -- -- An IG flight revealed the dome's top had reached as high as the highest point on the rim. Plumes were continuous though fumarolic (probably not ash bearing). Seismicity had started in May 2011 but became more pronounced around the start of July.
03-09 Aug 2011 -- -- Cloud cover hid the lava dome but IG seismic instruments recored both long-period and explosion earthquakes.
06-07 Jan 2012 -- -- IG field inspection revealed constant steam-and-gas emissions a lava dome that rose ten's of meters above crater rim.
11 Feb 2012 5.2 NW Pilot report. IG noted that on the 12th, seismicity increased a lava flow was detected on the NE flank.
16 Feb 2012 -- 19 km SE Ash detected by satellite.
18 Feb 2012 3.6 -- --
26 Mar 2012 -- 25 km NNW --
18 Apr 2012 5.6 NW --

On 20 April 2010, IG scientists flying over Reventador saw an explosion that generated a pyroclastic flow. It traveled ~200 m down the S flank. Recent deposits from earlier pyroclastic flows were also seen on the same flank. Steam-and-gas emissions also continued. On 8 May 2010, IG noted a small lahar inside the caldera.

On 25 May a destructive lahar took place that was detected for 90 minutes by the seismic network. It traveled down the SE flank and destroyed a bridge over the Marker River, ~8 km SE of the summit area. The loss of the bridge disrupted travel along Route E45 between Baeza (~34 km SSW) to Lago Agrio (also called Nueva Loja, ~121 NE).

On 28 September 2010, IG recorded three seismic episodes from Reventador. Cloud cover prevented observations during the first episode. The second seismic episode was accompanied by a steam plume containing a small amount of ash that rose 400-500 m above the crater. The third episode occurred in conjunction with a steam-and-ash plume that rose 2 km above the crater. Ash fell on the flanks.

In May 2011, seismicity began to increase and became more pronounced by early July.

During an overflight on 14 July 2011, IG scientists noted that the lava dome at the top of the 2008 cone had continued to grow (figures 37 and 38). The dome had reached the same height, or higher, as the highest part of the crater rim formed during 2002 (figures 37 and 38). Intense fumarolic activity produced continuous plumes.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. Annotated photo of Reventador taken looking NW on 14 July 2011. The green lines trace the topographic margin of the summit caldera initially formed in the sudden 2002 eruption. The conical structure outlined in orange is a scoria or tephra cone (which includes some lavas) and spills out of the breach toward the viewer. The red line outlines the dome, initially seen in 2004, that grew substantially in 2011. Courtesy of J. Bustillos/Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. Thermal image of Reventador crater for comparison with the visual image (figure 37), also taken 14 July 2011. The measured temperature of the growing dome was ~150°C. Courtesy of S. Vallejo/Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional.

During 3-9 August cloud cover prevented observations of the lava dome, but the seismic network detected long-period and explosion-type earthquakes.

During a field trip on 6-7 January 2012, IG staff observed constant emissions of gas and steam that originated from the growing lava dome. At this point in time the dome had broadened and stood a few ten's of meters above the crater rim.

During 10-13 February 2012, IG detected new activity, including a thermal anomaly, an ash plume, and crater incandescence. This elevated activity continued during 15-21 February. Incandescence near the summit was again observed during 25-26 March but seismicity decreased around this time.

In accordance with these other observations, occasional MODVOLC thermal alerts were posted. Between 1 November 2009-1 April 2012, there were 12 days with MODVOLC thermal alerts. No thermal alerts were detected in 2011. As of 26 April 2012, six days in 2012 had thermal alerts (10, 13, 22, 26 February, 18 March, and 26 April).

Geologic Background. Reventador is the most frequently active of a chain of Ecuadorian volcanoes in the Cordillera Real, well east of the principal volcanic axis. The forested, dominantly andesitic Volcán El Reventador stratovolcano rises to 3562 m above the jungles of the western Amazon basin. A 4-km-wide caldera widely breached to the east was formed by edifice collapse and is partially filled by a young, unvegetated stratovolcano that rises about 1300 m above the caldera floor to a height comparable to the caldera rim. It has been the source of numerous lava flows as well as explosive eruptions that were visible from Quito in historical time. Frequent lahars in this region of heavy rainfall have constructed a debris plain on the eastern floor of the caldera. The largest historical eruption took place in 2002, producing a 17-km-high eruption column, pyroclastic flows that traveled up to 8 km, and lava flows from summit and flank vents.

Information Contacts: Instituto Geofísico-Escuela Politécnica Nacional (IG), Casilla 17-01-2759, Quito, Ecuador (URL: http://www.igepn.edu.ec/); Guayaquil Meteorological Watch Office (MWO); Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB), NOAA/NESDIS E/SP23, NOAA Science Center Room 401, 5200 Auth Rd, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL: http://www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/vaac/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP), MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/).

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.

Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989)  Atmospheric Effects (1995-2001)

Special Announcements

Special announcements of various kinds and obituaries.

Special Announcements

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

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 (BGVN 22:08) False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption

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

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

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

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

UFO adherent claims new volcano in Sea of Marmara

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

Fumaroles and minor seismicity since October 2002

12/2005 (BGVN 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/).