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.

 Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network - Volume 38, Number 11 (November 2013)

Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Ebulobo (Indonesia)

August 2013–glowing areas and hot plumes

Ibu (Indonesia)

Growing lava dome; numerous thermal alerts September 2011-March 2014

Nishinoshima (Japan)

November 2013 submarine flank eruption spurs island growth

Planchon-Peteroa (Chile)

February-June 2011 eruption; ashfall in local towns in May 2011

Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom)

By March 2014, an over 50-month-long decline in extrusion (Pause 5)

Yasur (Vanuatu)

Explosive activity during May, August, and November 2013

Ebulobo (Indonesia) — November 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



8.82°S, 121.18°E; summit elev. 2124 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

August 2013–glowing areas and hot plumes

Our last report (CSLP 19-69) discussed a summit eruption at Ebulobo stratovolcano, near the S coast of Central Flores island, that in 1969 had emitted ash and steam as well as "fire" (generally taken as incandescence but also possibly flames). CVGHM (Center for Volcanology and Mitigation of Geologic Disasters), issued a report on Ebulobo on 26 August 2013 informing readers that during August 2013, observers noted one or more hot emissions escaping from the crater. The resulting plume was of sparse consistency, white in color, under weak pressure, and it rose to 5-30 m above the peak. "Smoke" was noted.

The CVGHM report noted that on the night of 21 August 2013, observers on the volcano's N side saw incandescence at the summit area. Observations during the night of 22-23 August revealed points of glowing remained unchanged. The glowing was considered anomalous, having not been seen since 2011. The exact cause of the incandescent regions was not reported No new fissures, lava flows or pyroclastic flows were reported. The glowing later terminated as discussed in an October follow up report.

During June 2013, the system recorded the earthquakes shown in table 1.

Table 1. A summary of seismicity recorded at Ebulobo. Dashes signify cases without reported data. Extracted from the 26 August and 17 October CVGHM reports.

Month (2013) Shallow (VB) Deep volcanic (VA) Low-frequency (long period) Local tectonic (TL) Long distance (TJ)
June -- 12 1 18 47
July -- 19 1 18 38
August -- 57 -- 45 60
September 2 62 -- 27 67
1-16(?) October 2 13 7 7 35

During 1-22 August 2013, the seismic system also recorded tremor with maximum amplitudes in the range of 0.5-15 mm.

Ebulobo (figure 1) has a dedicated observation post and two seismic instruments as discussed further below.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Ebulobo as seen in a photo taken 9 June 2009. Copyrighted photo by Andrzej-Muda.

Glow diminishes and Alert Level drops (to I). During September-October white plumes rose as high as 100 m above the crater. Despite that, the glowing area had remained absent after 27 August. On 17 October CVGHM scaled back the Alert from II to I (Normal, on a scale that reaches IV).

More background. The following was extracted from CVGHM reporting.

"Ebulobo Volcano is located in the district of Nagekeo, province of Nusa Tenggara Timur. Eruptions of Ebulobo generally have consisted of lava streams that quickly formed mounds but have never so far resulted in sudden eruptive outbursts that produced a symmetrically shaped mass to the volcano. Ebulobo's eruptions have occurred between 3 and 58 years. In its historical record, its latest eruptive activity took place in 1941 and consisted of a lava stream.

"Observation of Ebulobo's activity is carried out from its monitoring post in the village of Ekowolo, sub-district of Boa Wae and is done visually and according to tremor events. The monitoring is done by means of a Type VR-60 seismograph and a Type L4C seismometer. The readings are transmitted by a telemetric system."

Geologic Background. Ebulobo, also referred to as Amburombu or Keo Peak, is a symmetrical stratovolcano in central Flores Island. The summit of 2124-m-high Gunung Ebulobo cosists of a flat-topped lava dome. The 250-m-wide summit crater of the steep-sided volcano is breached on three sides. The Watu Keli lava flow traveled from the northern breach to 4 km from the summit in 1830, the first of only four recorded historical eruptions of the volcano.

Information Contacts: Center for Volcanology and Mitigation of Geologic Disasters (CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); and theNational Agency for Disaster Management (BNPB), Gedung Graha 55 Jl. Tanah Abang II No. 57 Postal Code: 10120, Jakarta Pusat, Indonesia (URL: http://www.bnpb.go.id/).

Ibu (Indonesia) — November 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Growing lava dome; numerous thermal alerts September 2011-March 2014

In the first nine months of 2011, Ibu was the scene of frequent avalanches and at least one weak explosion that generated minor white-to-gray plumes (BGVN 36:08). Seismic activity decreased during September 2011, prompting the Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM) to lower the Alert Level to 2 (on a scale of 1-4) on 8 September (the Level rose again later). This report discusses activity from 9 September 2011 through March 2014. The location of Ibu is shown in BGVN 36:08.

According to CVGHM, seismicity increased and volcanic tremor was detected during May through 6 June 2013. The lava dome grew, especially the N part, and by early June had grown taller than the N crater rim. White-to-gray plumes rose 200-450 m above the crater rim. Based on visual and instrumental observations, as well as the hazard potential, CVGHM increased the Alert Level to 3 on 7 June. The public was warned to stay at least 3 km away from the active crater.

CVGHM reported that during 7 June-9 December 2013, the lava dome continued to grow, and incandescent material from the dome filled the river valley in the direction of Duono village, about 5 km NW. The seismicity remained relatively stable. Observers saw occasional weak white-to-gray plumes. On 10 December 2013, the Alert Level was lowered to 2; however, the public was warned to stay at least 2 km away from the active crater, and 3.5 km away from the N part.

Between 1 September 2011 and March 2014, MODVOLC thermal alerts were issued on 70 days, or an average of almost one day every two weeks. Such alerts are consistent with dome growth such as that noted above. (Those alerts are derived from satellite data collected by the MODIS instrument and processed by the Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology.) For comparison, between 1 January 2011 and 13 September 2011, these alerts only appeared about once every 2.4 weeks on average.

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: Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM), Saut Simatupang, 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://vsi.esdm.go.id/); 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/).

Nishinoshima (Japan) — November 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



27.247°N, 140.874°E; summit elev. 25 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

November 2013 submarine flank eruption spurs island growth

A new island emerged on 20 November 2013 out of the ocean as the result of a Surtseyan eruption on the S flank of Nishinoshima, a small volcanic island in the Izu-Bonin arc, ~940 km S of Tokyo (figure 1). The new island, originally called Niijima ('new island') by the Japan Coast Guard (JCG), eventually merged with Nishinoshima on 24 December 2013. We continue to describe the now merged islands under the name 'Nishinoshima.'

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Location of Nishinoshima island shown on an annotated topographic map of the Izu-Bonin arc; the insert shows the area of the main map and the larger regional geography. The map highlights the location of Nishinoshima (Nsi). Other features located respectively from N to S are: Os–Oh–shima; Nij–Nii–jima; Myk–Miyake–jima; Mkr–Mikura–jima; Krs–Kurose hole; Hcj–Hachijo–jima; Shc–outh Hachijo caldera; Ags–Aoga–shima; Myn–Myojin knoll; Sms–South Sumisu; Ssc–South Sumisu caldera; Tsm–Torishima; Sfg–Sofugan; G–Getsuyo seamount; Ka–Kayo seamount; S–Suiyo seamount; Kn–Kinyo seamount; D–Doyo seamount; Nsi–Nishinoshima; Kkt–Kaikata seamount; Ktk–Kaitoku seamount; and Kij–Kita Iou-jima. After Kodaira and others (2007).

Niijima emerges. Niijima emerged by 20 November 2013 from the ocean surface at an area ~0.5 km SSE off the coast of Nishinoshima. The latter is a small (700 m2), uninhabited volcanic island that last erupted and expanded in during 1973-74. Additional background information is included at the end of this report.

Based on satellite images, the Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reported that at 0717 UTC on 20 November 2013 a plume rose 600 m over a new island which emerged ~500 m S of Nishinoshima (figure 2). At 0630 UTC on 22 November, a plume rose 900 m. MODVOLC satellite thermal alerts were measured almost daily from 1635 UTC on 23 November and continued through the latest alert noted at 0120 UTC on 7 April 2014.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Niijima produces a plume as it emerges from the ocean to form a new island off the coast of Nishinoshima on 20 November 2013. Courtesy of Kurtenbach (2013); image from the JCG.

On 21 November JCG and the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) noted that the island formed was by then ~200 m in diameter. A warning of dense black emissions from the eruption was issued by JCG on 20 November, and television footage (Frisk, 2013) showed on 21 November ash and rocks exploding from the crater as steam billowed out of the crater (figure 3). On 24 November, JCG reported lava flows coming from the newly-formed crater. They extended to the coastline of the island, and bombs continued to be ejected.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. A photograph of Niijima from 21 November 2013 shortly after it emerged from the ocean . Note the large airborne rock erupting from the crater. Courtesy of Kurtenbach (2013); picture provided by JCG.

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA's Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured a natural-color image on 8 December 2013 (figure 4). JMA reported that by early December the area of the new island had grown to 56,000 m2, about three times its initial size, and was 20 to 25 m above sea level.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. NASA Earth Observatory satellite image acquired on 8 December 2013 from the EO-1 ALI sensor. The discolored water around the island was attributed to material included volcanic minerals, gases, and seafloor sediment stirred up by the ongoing volcanic eruption. The faint white puffs above the center and SW portion of the island are likely steam and other volcanic gases associated with the eruption. Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory web site.

Niijima merges with Nishinoshima. NASA's EO-1 ALI satellite again captured a natural-color image of Nishinoshima and Niijima islands on 24 December 2013 and shows only a narrow channel of water appearing to separate the two (figure 5). The water around the islands continued to be discolored by volcanic minerals and gases, as well as by seafloor sediment stirred up by the ongoing eruption. A faint plume, likely steam and other volcanic gases associated with the eruption, drifted SE. Infrared imagery from the same satellite on the same date showed intense heat from the fresh lava, which continued to build the new island. A strip of isolated, discolored (orange) seawater appeared at the junction of the two islands (figure 6).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 5. NASA Earth Observatory satellite image acquired 24 December 2013. Courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory; satellite image by Jesse Allen using EO-1 ALI data from the NASA EO-1 team.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 6. An aerial photograph just prior to the merger of the two islands, taken on 24 December 2013, with Niijima on the right and Nishinoshima on the left. Seawater trapped at the junction has been discolored to orange, attributed to the presence of particulate matter and biochemical activity of organisms in the water. Courtesy of the JCG.

Figure 7 is a drawing by the Japanese Coast Guard (JCG) showing the location of the coastline and the growth of the new island (Niijima) from 20 November 2013 to 26 December 2013. It is striking how much of the island expanded during 13-24 December 2013.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. Scale drawing of the merged islands showing the changing coastlines as the new island grew. Colored enclosing lines during the current eruption of Nishinoshima as shown for the following dates: 20, 21, 22, 26, and 30 November 2013, and 1, 4, 7, 13, 24, and 26 December 2013 (note legend translated from Japanese for dates and color of mapped shorelines). Image and interpretation courtesy of JCG.

According to JCG's aerial observation on 20 January 2014, the new part of Nishinoshima island had an area of 0.3 km2 (750 m E to W, and 600 m N to S) (figure 8).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 8. An aerial photograph, looking W, of Nishinoshima island taken on 20 January 2014. The newly merged island, Niijima, on the left, continued to expand NW. White and brown plumes rose from vents on the new land, and the water around the SW portion was discolored. Photo courtesy of the JCG.

New images from an overflight on 3 February (figure 9) confirmed that the activity on the former new island continued steadily. Over the past weeks, the vent fed several active lava flow fronts that enlarged the land in more or less all directions. In particular, there are two active flows relatively close to the vent which had been traveling E and formed a small, almost closed bay with green-orange discolored water inside. The previous shorelines for 20 January 2014 (yellow enclosing line) and 21 November 2013 (white enclosing line) are superimposed over the image to show the growth of the island.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 9. Aerial photography of the island on 3 February 2014. For comparison, the previous shorelines on 20 January 2014 (yellow enclosing line) and 21 November 2013 (white enclosing line). Image courtesy of JCG.

According to Pfeiffer (2014), the island continued growing with lava flows traveling in several directions (figure 10). Its highest peak, formed by the most western of the two active vents, was measured at 66 m. The new addition has more than doubled the size of the island by 16 February. A black-sand beach formed on the NE shore of the old part of the island, as a result of lava fragments washed up by currents and waves.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 10. Direction of lava flow from the western side of two active vents is show by vectors superimposed on the image of the island. North is to the top of the photo. The flow arrows were drawn by JCG over an aerial photograph of the island taken 16 February 2014. Courtesy of JCG.

In summary, the new addition to Nishinoshima grew ~500 m SSE of the island's S flank, beginning ~20 November 2013, from a depth of ~50 m to a height of ~65 m from an originating time no earlier than 1974, the time of the latest addition to the island. Based on continued emissions and satellite-based thermal alerts, it is apparent as of 13 March 2014 that Niijima was still expanding outward in all directions from the vents, and that Nishinoshima had grown to over three times its original size.

Further background. The new island was located in the Volcano Islands, a group of three Japanese active volcanic islands that lie atop the Izo-Bonin-Mariana arc system (Stern and Bloomer, 1992) that stretches S of Japan and N of the Marianas (figure 1).

According to the Geological Survey of Japan, Nishinoshima was an emerged submarine volcano in 1974 with a height of ~3,000 m from the surrounding ocean floor and ~30 km wide at its base.

For further details on earlier Nishinoshima activity refer to our earlier reports in predecessor publications, CSLP 93-73 (eight cards issued during 1973-1974), SEAN 04:07, and BVE 25. The latter (BVE 25) is a 1985 Smithsonian report called the Bulletin of Volcanic Eruptions noting that aerial observations on 2 December 1985 disclosed pale green water SW from the island.

The Geological Survey of Japan reported that Nishinoshima is of andesite to basaltic-andesite composition; Aoki and others (1983) classified the volcano's rocks as high-alkali tholeiite. Nishinoshima is surrounded on all sides by cones, vents, pillars, and parasitic seamounts, and its local bathymetry from surveys in 1911 and 1992 are shown in figure 11.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 11. Comparison of bathymetric maps (depths in meters) around Nishinoshima before and after 1973 eruption. The emerged island is shown in green. Depths of 0-100 m are in white, 100-400 m in light blue, 400-700 m in medium blue, and 700-1,000 m in darker blue. The map on the right shows a survey conducted in 1992, after the eruption, based on 1:50,000 basic map of "Nishino-shima" by the Japan Coast Guard (1993). The map on the left shows a survey conducted prior to the eruption, based on mapping in 1911 (Ossaka, 1973). The new island of Niijima first appeared above the sea surface ~500 m SSE of the S coast of Nishinoshima island shown in the 1992 map. Courtesy of the Geological Survey of Japan (2013).

From the 1992 bathymetric map seen at right on figure 11, it is apparent that the ocean depth from which Niijima erupted in 2013, was ~50 m. A sketch of the setting showing a cross sectional view (roughly NNW-SSE) appears in figure 12.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 12. A sketch depicting an approximately NNW (to the left) to SSE (to the right) cross-section across Nishinoshima (blue indicates sea water) portraying some historical stages of growth. The label "Current Nishinoshima" refers to the pre-existing island prior to and in the early stages of the 2013 eruption. Other labels indicate (a) "Nishinoshima before 1973" (also see 1911 bathymetric map in figure 11), (b) flanking material added to Nishinoshima as it "Emerged during the 1973-74 eruption" (also see 1992 bathymetric map in figure 11), and (c) Niijima "Emerging during ongoing eruption" (red area emerging from the sea early in the 2013 eruption). Original drawing courtesy of The Asahi Shimbun (2013).

References. Aoki, H., and Tokai University Research Group for Marine Volcano, 1983, Petrochemistry of the Nishinoshima Islands, La mer, v. 22, pp. 248-256.

Earth of Fire: Actualité volcanique, Article de fond sur étude de volcan, tectonique, récits et photos de voyage [Volcano News, Feature Article on study of volcanos, tectonics, travel stories and photos], 2013, Evolution of Nishino-shima's eruption, Earth-of-Fire web site (URL: http://www.earth-of-fire.com/page-8837676.html).

Frisk, A., 2013 (21 November), WATCH: Incredible video, photos show new island forming off Japan after volcanic eruption, Global News (URL: http://globalnews.ca/news/981245/watch-incredible-video-photos-show-new-island-forming-off-japan-after-volcanic-eruption/ ).

Geological Survey of Japan, 2013, Nishinoshima (URL: https://gbank.gsj.jp/volcano/Quat_Vol/volcano_data/G22.html).

Japan Coast Guard, 1993, 1:50,000 basic map of "Nishino-shima."

Kodaira, S., Sato, T., Takahashi, N., Miura, S., Tamura, Y., Tatsumi, Y., and Kaneda, Y., 2007, New seismological constraints on growth of continental crust in the Izu-Bonin intra-oceanic arc, Geology, v. 35, no. 11, pp. 1031-1034 (doi: 10.1130/G23901A.1).

Kurtenbach, E., 2013 (21 November), Volcano raises new island far south of Japan, AP (Associated Press) (URL: http://news.yahoo.com/volcano-raises-island-far-south-japan-054228644.html).

Ossaka, J., 1973, On the submarine eruption of Nishinoshima, Bulletin of the Volcanological Society of Japan, v. 18, no. 2, p. 97-98, 173-174.

Pfeiffer, T., 2014 (21 February), Nishinoshima volcano (Izu Islands, Japan): island has doubled in elevation, Volcano Discovery web site (URL: http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/nishino-shima/news/42781/Nishino-Shima-volcano-Izu-Islands-Japan-island-has-doubled-in-elevation.html).

Shun, N., 2014, Kaitei chikei (bottom topography), Nishinoshima Kazan (in Japanese), Geological Survey of Japan web site (URL: https://gbank.gsj.jp/volcano/Act_Vol/nishinoshima/page3.html).

The Asahi Shimbun, 2013 (22 November), Japan counts on survival of new island to expand territorial waters (URL: https://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201311220084).

Geologic Background. The small island of Nishinoshima was enlarged when several new islands coalesced during an eruption in 1973-74. Another eruption that began offshore in 2013 completely covered the previous exposed surface and enlarged the island again. Water discoloration has been observed on several occasions since. The island is the summit of a massive submarine volcano that has prominent satellitic peaks to the S, W, and NE. The summit of the southern cone rises to within 214 m of the sea surface 9 km SSE.

Information Contacts: Japan Coast Guard (JCG) (URL: http://www.kaiho.mlit.go.jp/); MODVOLC, 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/); NASA Earth Observatory (URL: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov); ANN (All Nippon News Network) (URL: https://www.youtube.com/user/ANNnewsCH); VolcanoCafe web site (URL: http://volcanocafe.wordpress.com); Earth of Fire web site (URL: http://www.earth-of-fire.com/); Demis web site (URL: http://www.demis.nl/home/pages/Gallery/examples.htm.).

Planchon-Peteroa (Chile) — November 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



35.223°S, 70.568°W; summit elev. 3977 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

February-June 2011 eruption; ashfall in local towns in May 2011

The last Bulletin report (BGVN 35:11) detailed an explosive eruption that began with gas-and-ash explosions in September 2010 and ended in mid-October 2010. Renewed activity began in February 2011 and continued through June 2011. In this report, we highlight the significant ash events from early-to-mid 2011 as well as the continuous monitoring efforts of Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN) during 2011-2013.

During 17 February-27 June 2011, unrest was detected from Planchón-Peteroa and significant meteorological information (SIGMET) notices were distributed by the Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) (table 3). Ash plumes were reported once or twice a month during this time period, although satellite images were not able to detect many of the events. Ash and gas plumes became continuous during late April, and ash plumes rose as high as 5.8 km above sea level(on 26 April). On 29 April, SERNAGEOMIN raised the Alert Level to 3 (Yellow).

Table 3.Emissions from Planchón-Peteroa during 18 February-27 June 2011. The Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur (OVDAS) maintained a web-camera that contributed to numerous direct observations of emissions and is frequently listed as a source. Courtesy of VAAC.

Date Altitude (km) Drift Direction Info Sources Comments
18 Feb 2011 3-4.3 km SE SIGMET No ash visible in satellite images.
18 Mar 2011 3-4.3 km SE SIGMET; ODVAS Steam-and-gas plume visible from ODVAS web-camera. No ash visible in satellite images.
26 Mar 2011 -- -- SIGMET No ash visible in satellite images.
1-16 Apr 2011 -- -- SERNAGEOMIN White vapor plumes visible from the web-camera based in Romeral.
17 Apr 2011 4.6 NE SIGMET No ash visible in satellite images.
18 Apr 2011 4.6 NE SIGMET No ash visible in satellite images.
26 Apr 2011 5.8 E SIGMET No ash visible in satellite images.
16-19, 21, 25-29 Apr 2011 1.2-6.4 SW and NW SIGMET; SERNAGEOMIN Frequent ash plumes. Web-camera images captured plumes containing ash- to lapilli-sized particles during 17-19 and 29 Apr.
Alert Level 3 (Yellow) on 29 April 2011
30 Apr 2011 1.2-6.4 NW and N SIGMET; SERNAGEOMIN No ash visible in satellite images.
1 May 2011 4-6.1 NW SIGMET No ash visible in satellite images.
2-3 May 2011 4.6-5.5 NE and E SIGMET; ODVAS Ash-and-gas plumes.
4-5 May 2011 4.3-7.3 NW and ENE SERNAGEOMIN; ODVAS Overflight by SERNAGEOMIN on 4 May. No ash visible in satellite images. Ashfall was reported by proximal towns (see text).
6 May 2011 4.6-5.5 SE GOES A thin plume of ash, steam, and gas.
7-10 May 2011 4.3-5.5 SE SERNAGEOMIN; ODVAS Gas-and-ash plumes visible from ODVAS web-camera. No ash visible in satellite images.
Alert Level 2 (Green) on 13 June 2011
24-25 Jun 2011 4.6 W, NE, and E SIGMET No ash visible in satellite images.
27 Jun 2011 na NW Buenos Aires VAAC Gas-and-steam plumes possibly containing ash.

Seismicity in April 2011 was dominated by volcano-tectonic (VT) events; 405 were detected, and locations were primarily concentrated in an area 25 km NE of the volcanic complex as well as along the N flank, ~6 km from the crater. Earthquakes were MC 2) and 30 long-period (LP) (RD 4 cm2) events were also detected that month. SERNAGEOMIN frequently reported seismic data in terms of RD, which is the value calculated from reduced displacements.

SERNAGEOMIN reported that ash emissions on 17, 18, and 29 April correlated with episodes of tremor with RD oscillating between 1 and 3 cm2. Overflights conducted on 26, 27, and 29 April determined that the active crater had not changed geometry and also appeared structurally stable (figure 7). The observers noted that tephra deposits from the previous explosions were notable SE and SW of the volcano. Deposits from the 29 April explosion were particularly easy to define during the overflight.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. This photo of Planchón-Peteroa was taken during one of a series of overflights during 26, 27, and 29 April 2011. A column of ash rose from the active crater and tephra had visibly covered much of the snow immediately SE and SW of the crater. Courtesy of Orlando Rivera, Exploraciones Mineras Andinas S.A.

Buenos Aires VAAC reported a significant ash plume detected by satellite images on 2 May 2011. The plume drifted between 4.9 and 5.5 km above sea level. toward the NE at ~7.7 meters/second. The OVDAS web-camera also captured images of the plume appearing diffuse and ~3.7 km wide. The VAAC noted that the plume rapidly dissipated during 1315-1845 local time.

The following day, continuous emissions of ash, steam, and gas were reported by SIGMET and the VAAC, although satellite images were not able to detect any emissions. By 1000, the VAAC reported SIGMET data for a plume that rose 4.6-5.5 km above sea level, moving E. At 1500, satellite images captured a diffuse and ~15 km wide ash plume. The plume drifted E at 5 meters/second and had risen 5.5 km above sea level.

Elevated activity during 4-5 May produced ashfall that reached the towns of Minera Río Teno (about 70 km NW) and Las Leñas (in Argentina, 45 km ENE). An overflight conducted by SERNAGEOMIN confirmed continued ash emissions and explosions that occurred approximately every 30 seconds. The explosive activity rarely produced plumes higher than 1,000 m above the crater. Gray ash deposits were visible downwind of the crater; the wind tended to disperse tephra widely and the observers noted that wind directions were frequently directed to the E, NE, NNE, NNE, and NW.

During 30 April-8 May, SERNAGEOMIN noted that seismicity included tremor (RD of 2-3 cm2) and VT earthquakes (ML

Geologists from SERNAGEOMIN conducted an overflight of Planchón-Peteroa on 13 June 2011. RedMaule interviewed the observers who were on the helicopter which included representatives of SERNAGEOMIN and Oficina Nacional de Emergencia del Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Pública (OMENI) as well as the mayor of Maule, Chile. The observers noted that persistent degassing continued; a low-level white plume (

Figure (see Caption) Figure 8. During an overflight of Planchón-Peteroa on 13 June 2011, few bare rocks were visible around the active crater due to snow-cover and ice; a low-level plume of white vapor rose from the crater. These six photos are stillshots taken from a video interview camera; note that the look direction varies in each photo with the approximate direction noted in the upper-left-hand corner of each photo. The tall peak of Planchón is visible in the background of the photo looking N. Courtesy of SERNAGEOMIN and RedMaule.

During 30 April-8 May, SERNAGEOMIN noted that seismicity included tremor (RD of 2-3 cm2) and VT earthquakes (ML

The Buenos Aires VAAC released an ash advisory on 29 October 2011. Satellite images could not detect ash, but a SIGMET was available. No other reports were issued by the VAAC through the end of this reporting period (December 2013).

Seismicity 2012-2013. Monthly reports from SERNAGEOMIN highlighted seismicity and visual observations from a network of local web-cameras. Each report also included links for additional information from OMI (http://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/pix/daily/0314/cchile_0314z.html) and MODVOLC (http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/).

2012. An approximate average of 400 earthquakes per month was detected in 2012, and roughly 75% of the events were VT while 25% were cataloged as LP events. The VT events were rarely larger than ML 3.0 and depths were in range of 4-10 km; these earthquakes were frequently clustered in groups that correlated with local faults. LP earthquakes were typically MD ≤2.0 and RD ≤2.9 cm2.

SERNAGEOMIN reported tremor in April, May, November, and December (table 4). One notable seismic swarm occurred on 5 April. Approximately 123 VT earthquakes were detected during 0230-0730; these events were located ~20 km NE of the crater with depthsL1.7.

Table 4. Tremor was detected during four months in 2012. RD is the value calculated from the reduced displacements of seismicity. Courtesy of SERNAGEOMIN.

Month RD in cm2
Apr 2012 1.1
May 2012 1.1
Nov 2012 0.6
Dec 2012 0.3

On 30 October 2012, the Oficina Nacional de Emergencia del Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Pública (OMENI) released a report highlighting several communities that would be included in the early warning system designed to report flood risks. The towns included Curicó, Romeral, and Teno, in the region Maule, which are especially vulnerable due to proximity to Planchón-Peteroa's major drainages (figure 9).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 9. This Google Earth image includes the location of Planchón-Peteroa (lower right-hand corner), major towns, and primary roads. The background image is a composite of Landsat images from 2014. Note that the yellow line crossing through the volcanic center is the international border for Chile and Argentina. The scale is approximate. Courtesy of Google Earth.

On 6 November 2012, the network of web-cameras captured images of a white plume rising from the crater. At 1620, the persistent plume rose to ~1.3 km and drifted NE. SERNAGEOMIN noted that this activity was related to fumarolic emissions.

2013. During 2013, an approximate average of 200 earthquakes was detected per month. Of these events, ~80% were VT and ~20% were LP. Magnitudes and depths of the VT earthquakes were comparable to the previous year, although ML values were sparsely reported. LP seismicity was reported in ML, instead of MD and values were in range of 0.3 to 2.0. The reduced displacements (RD) of LP events were frequently reported on a monthly basis with values in range 0.3-8.4.

Tremor was rarely detected in 2013. SERNAGEOMIN reported six episodes of tremor, but these only occurred in January and the calculated RD was 0.5 cm2.

Geologic Background. Planchón-Peteroa is an elongated complex volcano along the Chile-Argentina border with several overlapping calderas. Activity began in the Pleistocene with construction of the basaltic-andesite to dacitic Volcán Azufre, followed by formation of basaltic and basaltic-andesite Volcán Planchón, 6 km to the north. About 11,500 years ago, much of Azufre and part of Planchón collapsed, forming the massive Río Teno debris avalanche, which traveled 95 km to reach Chile's Central Valley. Subsequently, Volcán Planchón II was formed. The youngest volcano, andesitic and basaltic-andesite Volcán Peteroa, consists of scattered vents between Azufre and Planchón. Peteroa has been active into historical time and contains a small steaming crater lake. Historical eruptions from the complex have been dominantly explosive, although lava flows were erupted in 1837 and 1937.

Information Contacts: Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur-Servicio Nacional de Geologia y Mineria (OVDAS-SERNAGEOMIN), Avda Sta María No. 0104, Santiago, Chile (URL: http://www.sernageomin.cl/); Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) (URL: http://www.smn.gov.ar/vaac/buenosaires/productos.php); and Oficina Nacional de Emergencia del Ministerio del Interior y Seguridad Pública (OMENI) (URL: http://www.onemi.cl/index.html).

Soufriere Hills (United Kingdom) — November 2013 Citation iconCite this Report

Soufriere Hills

United Kingdom

16.72°N, 62.18°W; summit elev. 915 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

By March 2014, an over 50-month-long decline in extrusion (Pause 5)

A partial dome collapse took place at Soufrière Hills on 11 February 2010 (BGVN 35:03), an event followed by a lack of easily measured dome growth during an interval that continued into at least April 2014. Despite a lack of significant extrusion into the dome, pyroclastic flows continued, as did rockfalls and volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes. MVO describes intervals of this nature as extrusive pauses or more simply pauses. Pauses have been diagnosed as a prevalent behavior since they began following an extrusive phase starting in mid-1995. Our last issue (BGVN 36:08) covered part of the still-ongoing pause.

The various phases of activity at Soufrière Hills Volcano (SHV) during 1 January 1992 to 30 April 2013 are summarized in table 72. The table comes from a Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO) report providing a synthesis of activity during ~6 months ending in April 2013, and making authoritative and instructive comparisons to the overall eruption (table 72).

Table 72. Inventory of behavioral phases observed at SHV between 1 January 1992 and 30 April 2013. Pause 5 continued into at least April 2014. Taken from the MVO Scientific Report for Volcanic Activity between 13 October 2012 and 30 April 2013.

Figure (see Caption)

In brief, table 72 documents that an increase in seismicity occurred from 1992 to 1995, followed by a phreatic eruptive phase starting in mid-1995. That episode was followed by intervals of extrusion, transition, and pause. Extrusive phases included dome growth and frequent pyroclastic flows. During transition phases, dome growth slowed, but the risk to areas near the volcano continued.

As noted above, pauses are characterized by much slower dome growth (if at all), yet residual activity. The current pause is the longest yet recorded since the eruption began in 1995. Pause 5 began on 12 February 2010, and as of March 2014 was over 50 months long.

MVO established three criteria that indicate the potential for future activity. These criteria include low frequency seismic swarms and tremors, daily SO2 fluxes above 50 tons/day, and significant ground deformation. Most of the data reported in this Bulletin came from MVO Scientific Reports from 1 November 2011 to 30 April 2012, 1 May 2012 to 12 October 2012, and 13 October 2012 to 30 April 2013.

Short, intense swarms of VT earthquakes have occurred at Soufrière Hills since late 2007. The smaller swarms are often described by MVO as strings.

The most notable activity since September 2011 included intense Volcanic Tectonic (VT) earthquake swarms during 22-23 March 2012. Two small strings of VT events occurred in early August 2012, a brief VT string occurred on 24 December 2012, and a few VT strings of earthquakes took place during 4-6 February 2013.

The seismic events of 22-23 March 2012 and August 2012 were followed by ash venting. The venting in March resulted in the formation of two new craters. One developed inside the 11 February 2010 dome collapse scar; the other was outside the collapse scar to the (figure 91).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 91. The craters at Soufrière Hills that formed following the intense VT earthquake swarms during 22-23 March 2012 are labeled in the above aerial photographs, taken by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO). The upper photo looks S into the 11 February 2010 collapse scar, and the lower photo looks E from above Gage's Mountain. Courtesy of MVO.

On 20 November 2012, images of the S flank of the dome revealed a pervasively fractured area below the S rim of the explosion crater. That area was considered a potential source for large rockfalls or pyroclastic flows.

During the increased fumarole activity on 4-5 February 2013, a new crater was excavated around a gas vent on the floor of the 11 February 2010 collapse scar. This crater was 15 to 20 m across and 5 to 10 m deep.

The Hazard Level remained at 2, indicating daytime (0800 to 1600) access to Zone C and daytime-transit-only in maritime zone W (located W of the volcano; boats may sail through the zone but must not stop). A map of the zones on the island appeared in BGVN (22:05) and is found as figure 22 above.

Activity during 1 November 2011 to 30 April 2012. Throughout the entire reporting period, seismicity remained comparable to previous pauses in lava extrusion. Four strings of VT events, in this case referred to as "spasmodic bursts," occurred in the course of the interval 1 November 2011 to 30 April 2012. In early December 2011, 10 events were recorded in a 3 minute span; the largest in terms of local magnitude (ML, discussed further below) was 3.2. The 10 events were interpreted as a sequence of triggered events.

Two intense VT swarms occurred on 23 March 2012, with almost 50 VT earthquakes in each swarm. The largest VT earthquake ever recorded at Soufrière Hills, with ML of 3.9, was recorded during these swarms. The second more intense swarm was followed by mild ash venting, seven hybrid earthquakes, and three long-period (LP) earthquakes. Topics such as ML are discussed in a subsection below on seismicity.

On 30 March 2012, MVO detected unusually low-level VT seismicity sustained over several hours. This was atypical activity, as seismicity at Soufrière Hills is normally characterized by the occasional appearance of short bursts of VT strings.

November-December 2012. Seven lahars were seismically detected in the Belham Valley region during 1 November 2011 to 30 April 2012. Five took place during November-December 2011. They were associated with rainfall above 10 mm/hr.

A pyroclastic flow occurred in Gages Valley on 9 March 2012. The flow originated close to the summit of Chance's Peak and traveled 1.5 km down the W flank into Spring Ghaut. Although direct volume measurements couldn't be made, an empirical relationship between runout and flow volume suggested the pyroclastic flow deposit volume to be 104 m3.

A slight increase in rockfall activity occurred before the VT swarms of 23 March 2012. There were minor rockfalls on the steep N, E, SW and W sectors of the dome, averaging to less than one rockfall per day. The SW side of the dome above Gingoe's Ghaut was unstable with noticeable rockfall activity.

SO2 flux averaged 420 tons/day, a value below the multi-year eruption's average. Following the March VT swarms, a daily flux of 4,600 tons was observed, the third highest recorded by the optical spectrometer (DOAS) since its installation in 2002. After 2010, SO2 cycle fluctuations were dominated by variation with timescales on the order of weeks to months.

On 17 February 2012, a fumarole at the E base of the 2006-2007 dome was observed for the first time by MVO staff. An area with yellow and white sulfur deposits was also discovered on this cliff. Around January 2012, this site had temperatures near 60°C, but temperatures in February ranged from 90° to 275°C.

Ground deformation recorded by a GPS network continued to show a trend of ongoing inflation, a behavior similar to previous pauses.

Activity from 1 May 2012 to 12 October 2012. Among 21 bursts of small earthquakes, the most notable occurred on 11 September 2012. Over the course of 13 hours, a low amplitude VT swarm resulted in 17 events, with the maximum ML around 1.3. Eight rockfalls and two hybrid earthquakes were noted alongside typical seismic activity.

On 13 and 14 October 2012, tropical storm Rafael triggered eight seismically detected lahars in this region. The most noteworthy were those in the Belham Valley. Also, the SO2 flux was slightly decreased from the previous reporting period, with an average of 280 tons/day.

As of October 2012, the E and W flanks had been determined to be the most unstable areas of the edifice, based on the presence of fresh rockfall deposits and pyroclastic flows. A large pyroclastic flow from the W flank could travel into Plymouth, the former capital destroyed by previous pyroclastic flows.

On 29 August 2012, a large pyroclastic flow originated at the 2006-2007 dome. This has been the largest pyroclastic flow in Tar River since the end of Phase 5 extrusion. Another pyroclastic flow occurred on 19 September 2012 in Gage's Valley. It originated from the steep slope adjacent to Chance's Peak and traveled about 1 kilometer. The sources of these pyroclastic flows can be viewed in figure 92.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 92. Two photographs showing features at Soufrière Hills. The photograph on the left shows the source of the 19 September 2012 pyroclastic flow. The photograph on the right shows the source and flow direction of the 29 August pyroclastic flow. Courtesy of MVO.

A 10-minute exposure photo taken on 6 September 2012 determined no changes in location and number of incandescent areas on the N flank. However, the large fumarole in the floor of the 11 February 2010 collapse scar reached temperatures of ~300°C, and was the source of weak ash venting on 8 August 2012. Thermal IR camera imaging, showed the brightest point of incandescence, which reached temperatures over 400°C, originated from a hole in the rear of the collapse scar.

It should be noted that from August 2012 to November 2012, measurements at three local continuous GPS (cGPS) stations, AIRS, SPRI, and MVO1, had slight shortening of the radial distance between stations and vents, which may indicate short-term reversal of the long term inflation trend. Conclusions remain speculative without testing with more data.

Activity from 13 October 2012 to 30 April 2013. The largest of seven VT strings occurred on 30 November 2012. That swarm had a total of 23 earthquakes, with ML of 2.1 or less. As mentioned in the introduction, a brief VT swarm occurred on 24 December 2012, but the four swarms of main interest followed on 3-5 February 2013. The most intense, with a total of 36 events in 27 minutes, occurred on 4 February, with a maximum ML of 2.6. As a result, there was an increase in temperature of fumaroles residing on the 11 February 2010 collapse scar. This escalation continued until later in the evening, and at 1750 loud roaring sounds were heard, accompanied by minor ash venting. Activity and temperature returned to background levels the next day. This activity was noticeably similar to the events of 23 March 2012. Both were preceded by smaller VT strings, about 11 hours earlier, and the most intense phase had a 10-minute duration. There followed a VT string on 5 February associated with minor ash venting from the main gas vent in the floor of the 11 February 2010 collapse scar, as shown in figure 93.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 93. Two thermal images, viewed from MVO and Jack Boy Hill, show the source of the ash venting on 5 February 2013, as well as a newly observed incandescence. Courtesy of MVO.

The next prominent seismic activity occurred on 15 and 19 April 2013. The earthquakes had ML of 3.0 and 2.9, respectively, and neither were part of a VT string. The last time isolated VT earthquakes occurred was 28 June and 9 October 2011. Beside VT strings, 15 low-frequency earthquakes, which encompassed long-period and hybrid events, were observed during the October 2012 to April 2013 recording period. As of April 2013, 51 VT strings have occurred, and 13 have directly preceded surface activity.

Heavy rainfall on 28 and 30 March 2013 generated large lahars, lasting several hours, in various valleys around Soufrière Hills, including Belham Valley. The average daily SO2 flux, as of April 2013, was 511 metric tons/day, with a high of 2,381 tons on 6 February 2013. This was the highest value observed since the ash venting of 23 March 2012. The connection between SO2 flux and VT activity is still not thoroughly understood, but there seems to be an increase of SO2 a few days before seismic events at Soufrière Hills.

Pyroclastic flow activity had followed the trends of previous pauses. On 28 March 2013, a pyroclastic flow traveled 1.5 km E through Tar River Valley. This pyroclastic flow began at a peeled-away slab of lava on the near-vertical E face of the dome. This was one of the largest pyroclastic flows since the start of Pause 5, and it removed a large portion of the lava slab on the 2006-2007 dome. This flank became heavily fractured as a result of weather and erosion, continued cooling, and contraction of the E flank of the dome above Tar River. Consequently, the Tar River side of the dome will likely be the source of future pyroclastic flow activity. Rockfall activity has been at its lowest since 10 February 2010, consistent with the stabilization of the dome over the past three years.

After 5 February 2013, temperatures in the collapse scar were ~100°C higher than previously recorded. That increase may be due to MVO's use of a new more sensitive IR camera (a FLIR T650sc), replacing their old (Mikron) camera. The new camera records temperatures that are corrected for atmospheric conditions.

Figure 94 emphasizes the difference in sensitivity between the two cameras. However, the distance at which these images were captured, about 5.7 km from the dome, results in unreliable temperature readings. This is because infrared light is absorbed, scattered, and refracted by dust, air, and water (in solid, liquid, or gaseous states). Variables such as solar reflection, heat from direct sunlight, condensates, and high concentrations of SO2 in the atmosphere can also result in errors in image readings.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 94. For Soufrière Hills, a juxtaposition of thermal images to highlight the difference in resolution and displays between the old infrared-detecting (IR) camera (left) and the more sensitive and accurate new one (right). Although there are temperature scales to the right of each image (22.4-32.4 on the scale at right), they are not applicable in this instance owing to multiple factors (see text). Even at this distance, IR images give scientists greater clarity on dome behavior. Despite the loss of the temperature scale, the images serve as an important tool for monitoring the state of the dome. Both IR photos taken during early 2013. Courtesy of MVO.

According to Adam J. Stinton, a volcanologist at MVO, the new camera produces images twice the size of the older camera due to a larger internal sensor, and therefore the right-hand image was scaled down to a comparable size. Thermal imaging technology works by recording the intensity of radiation in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum and converting it to a radiometric image, with every pixel in the image conveying a temperature measurement.

Using the FLIR camera, a strong fumarole on the summit of the 2006-2007 dome was recorded on 15 March 2013, the first time this fumarole was ever imaged. Its temperature was between 250 and 260°C. No other new thermal features or incandescence had been recorded during this period.

As of April 2013, the trend of long-term edifice inflation continued. This suggested that the magmatic system is still actively deforming surficial areas. MVO observed similar deformation signals during previous pauses in extrusion.

Activity during April 2013 to March 2014. On 14 January 2014, a helicopter assessment of several groups of fumaroles revealed temperatures of 140-340°C within the summit crater. These fumaroles were observed for the first time since 2011. Aside from this detection, there has been a low level of activity at Soufrière Hills, including occasional rockfalls and seismic activity.

Background on seismicity. According to Druitt and Kokelaar (2002), hybrid earthquakes are long-period earthquakes located at (shallow) depths of less than 2 km. LP earthquakes, on the other hand, are widely interpreted as earthquakes associated with the movement of pressurized fluids (eg., BGVN 20:08).

According to MVO, using ML offers possible advantages when calculating cumulative VT energy. The Gutenberg-Richter magnitude-energy relationship portrays an earthquake's size based on the amplitude of the resulting waves recorded on a seismogram. The concept is that the wave amplitude portrays the earthquake's size once the amplitudes are corrected for the decrease in magnitude with distance owing to geometric spreading and attenuation (Stein and Wysession, 2003). Local magnitude (often also termed Richter magnitude or the Richter scale). MVO employs the following (base 10) logarithmic equation, which associates ML to cumulative VT energy, E, as follows:

Log E = 1.5 × ML + 11.8

MVO notes that this equation is a reliable calculation of cumulative energy, as opposed to amplitude measurements at a single station. Amplitude measurement data are easily affected by variables such as data gaps. As further background, magnitudes can be negative for very small displacements (eg. a small rockfall). Stein and Wysession (2003, p. 263) make the point that seismic magnitude scales are logarithmic, ". . . so an increase from magnitude "5" to "6," indicates a ten-fold increase in seismic wave amplitude. Measured displacements range more than 10 units because the displacements measured by seismometers span more than a factor of 1010." In practice, the amplitude is measured in microns of displacement after the effects of the seismometer are removed. Different magnitude scales (eg., ML, mb, Ms, Mw, etc.) yield different values (Stein and Wysession, 2003).

References: Cole, P., Bass, V., Christopher, T., Melander, S., Pascal, K., Smith, P., Stewart, R., Stinton, A., and Syers, R., undated, MVO Scientific Report for Volcanic Activity Between 1 May 2012 and 12 October 2012, Open File Report OFR 12-02; Montserrat Volcano Observatory, 47 pp. (URL: http://www.mvo.ms/pub/Open_File_Reports/MVO_OFR_12_02-MVO_Scientific_Report.pdf)

Cole, P., Bass, V., Christopher, Odhert, H., Smith, P., Stewart, R., Stinton, A., Syers, R., and Williams, P., undated, MVO Scientific Report for Volcanic Activity Between 1 November 2011 and 30 April 2012. Montserrat Volcano Observatory, (URL: http://www.mvo.ms/pub/Open_File_Reports/MVO_OFR_12_01-MVO_Scientific_Report.pdf)

Druitt, T. and Kokelaar, B., 2002, The Eruption of Soufriere Hills Volcano, Montserrat, form 1995 to 1999, Issue 21. Geological Society Memoir No. 21. UK: The Geological Society Publishing House, 2002.

Stein, S. and Wysession, M., 2003, An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes and Earth Structure, 2003, Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, 498 pp. [ISBN 0-86542- 078-5]

Stewart, R., Bass, V., Christopher, T., Cole, P., Dondin, F., Higgins, M., Joseph, E., Pascal, K., Smith, P., Stinton, A., Syers, R., and Williams, P., (27 May) 2013, MVO Scientific Report for Volcanic Activity Between 13 October 2012 and 30 April 2013, Open File Report, OFR 13-06. Montserrat Volcano Observatory. (URL: http://www.mvo.ms/pub/Open_File_Reports/MVO_OFR_13_06-Six_monthly_report.pdf )

Geologic Background. The complex, dominantly andesitic Soufrière Hills volcano occupies the southern half of the island of Montserrat. The summit area consists primarily of a series of lava domes emplaced along an ESE-trending zone. The volcano is flanked by Pleistocene complexes to the north and south. English's Crater, a 1-km-wide crater breached widely to the east by edifice collapse, was formed about 2000 years ago as a result of the youngest of several collapse events producing submarine debris-avalanche deposits. Block-and-ash flow and surge deposits associated with dome growth predominate in flank deposits, including those from an eruption that likely preceded the 1632 CE settlement of the island, allowing cultivation on recently devegetated land to near the summit. Non-eruptive seismic swarms occurred at 30-year intervals in the 20th century, but no historical eruptions were recorded until 1995. Long-term small-to-moderate ash eruptions beginning in that year were later accompanied by lava-dome growth and pyroclastic flows that forced evacuation of the southern half of the island and ultimately destroyed the capital city of Plymouth, causing major social and economic disruption.

Information Contacts: Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO), Fleming, Montserrat, West Indies (URL: http://www.mvo.ms/); Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC); and Adam Stinton, MVO.

Yasur (Vanuatu) — November 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



19.532°S, 169.447°E; summit elev. 361 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Explosive activity during May, August, and November 2013

Our previous report from May 2013 (BGVN 38:05) noted Strombolian activity, including volcanic bombs in July 2012 and ashfall and volcanic bombs in April and May 2013. The Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory (VGO) bulletin from 28 May 2013 noted that Yasur's explosive activity had increased slightly, compared to the recent past. The activity included Strombolian explosions (figure 44) and ash and steam plumes. This report discusses activity from June 2013 through February 2014, along with photographs taken in May 2013. A map of Vanuatu and nearby countries was provided in BGVN 35:06.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. Strombolian activity from Yasur recorded during May 2013. Courtesy of Volcano Discovery (Dietmar Berendes).

Observations and seismic data from early to mid-August 2013 suggested that explosive activity of the volcano had decreased slightly during that time. Explosions were weaker and less frequent. Therefore, on 29 August 2013, the VGO decreased the Alert Level from 2, where it had been since early April 2013, to 1. Level 1 (on a scale of 0-4) indicates "increased activity [but] danger near crater only". From 29 August 2013 until at least February 2014, the Alert Level has remained at 1.

Hazard zones at Yasur are indicated in figure 45. VGO has warned visitors that ejected volcanic bombs could hit the summit area, the tourist walk, and parking area.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 45. This danger map ('Denja Map') of Tanna Island containing Yasur volcano shows Red, Yellow, and Green zones to warn visitors and civilians of ashfall and other hazards. Yasur volcano is near the eastern end of the red, highest-risk zone. Map key and title are in a language with phonetic similarities to English that evolved with contact from traders (a lingua franca) but many other languages also remain in use in Vanuatu. Ash could likely fall well W of Yasur due to trade winds from the ESE. This image is of low to moderate resolution and some symbols are illegible. Courtesy of Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory.

Observations and seismic data from early to mid-August 2013 suggested that explosive activity of the volcano had decreased slightly during that time. Explosions were weaker and less frequent. Therefore, on 29 August 2013, the VGO decreased the Alert Level from 2, where it had been since early April 2013, to 1. Level 1 (on a scale of 0-4) indicates "increased activity [but] danger near crater only". From 29 August 2013 until at least February 2014, the Alert Level has remained at 1.

According to John Search, who has led tours of the volcano since 1998, activity increased beginning October 2013. A large ash emission caused widespread damage to vegetation on Tanna Island, and ashfall was reported on Erromango Island, 150 km N of Yasur. On the evening of 3 November 2013, Search witnessed large Strombolian explosions. These explosions ejected volcanic bombs, up to 4 m in diameter, 250 m from the vent, putting visitors at risk. According to Search, the explosions were some of the largest at Yasur since 1995.

On 19 November 2013, VGO reported that a new phase of ash emissions began on 3 November. The explosive intensity remained low.

Geologic Background. Yasur, the best-known and most frequently visited of the Vanuatu volcanoes, has been in more-or-less continuous Strombolian and Vulcanian activity since Captain Cook observed ash eruptions in 1774. This style of activity may have continued for the past 800 years. Located at the SE tip of Tanna Island, this mostly unvegetated pyroclastic cone has a nearly circular, 400-m-wide summit crater. The active cone is largely contained within the small Yenkahe caldera, and is the youngest of a group of Holocene volcanic centers constructed over the down-dropped NE flank of the Pleistocene Tukosmeru volcano. The Yenkahe horst is located within the Siwi ring fracture, a 4-km-wide, horseshoe-shaped caldera associated with eruption of the andesitic Siwi pyroclastic sequence. Active tectonism along the Yenkahe horst accompanying eruptions has raised Port Resolution harbor more than 20 m during the past century.

Information Contacts: Vanuatu Geohazards Observatory, Department of Geology, Mines and Water Resources of Vanuatu (URL: http://www.geohazards.gov.vu); John Seach, Volcanolive.com (URL: Volcanolive.com/Yasur.html); and Volcano Discovery (www.volcanodiscovery.com).

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 Atmospheric Effects

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

View Atmospheric Effects Reports

 Special Announcements

Special announcements of various kinds and obituaries.

View Special Announcements Reports

 Additional Reports

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

Kermadec Islands

Floating Pumice (Kermadec Islands)

1986 Submarine Explosion

Tonga Islands

Floating Pumice (Tonga)

Fiji Islands

Floating Pumice (Fiji)

Andaman Islands

False Report of Andaman Islands Eruptions

Sangihe Islands

1968 Northern Celebes Earthquake

Southeast Asia

Pumice Raft (South China Sea)

Land Subsidence near Ham Rong

Ryukyu Islands and Kyushu

Pumice Rafts (Ryukyu Islands)

Izu, Volcano, and Mariana Islands

Acoustic Signals in 1996 from Unknown Source

Acoustic Signals in 1999-2000 from Unknown Source

Kuril Islands

Possible 1988 Eruption Plume

Aleutian Islands

Possible 1986 Eruption Plume


False Report of New Volcano




La Lorenza Mud Volcano

Pacific Ocean (Chilean Islands)

False Report of Submarine Volcanism

Central Chile and Argentina

Estero de Parraguirre

West Indies

Mid-Cayman Spreading Center

Atlantic Ocean (northern)

Northern Reykjanes Ridge


Azores-Gibraltar Fracture Zone

Antarctica and South Sandwich Islands

Jun Jaegyu

East Scotia Ridge

 Additional Reports (database)

08/1997 (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/).