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Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea) — March 1992

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 3 (March 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Manam (Papua New Guinea) Vigorous Strombolian activity, strongest since 1987; small debris flows

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199203-251020.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"A build-up of activity at Southern Crater led to a series of brief phases of moderate-strong Strombolian activity starting on 23 March. Weak Strombolian eruptive activity started at Southern Crater on the evening of 29 February. Incandescent lava ejections were weak to moderate (up to 200 m above the crater), and intermittent (every few minutes or up to 6/minute) throughout the first 20 days of March. During the day, incandescence was not seen, but each burst produced a "puff" of brown ash-laden vapour that rose to between 500 and 1,000 m above the crater and produced fine ashfalls in coastal areas downwind. The ash consisted of ~45% black lithic material, 35% oxidized fragments, apparently from older rocks, and ~20% fresh-looking glass shards and crystals.

"The seismicity was at a moderate level, with 400-1,100 small, low-frequency events per day. Starting on 21 March, a definite build-up in seismicity (1,200-1,400 events/day of larger amplitude) was recorded in association with more forceful ash-laden ejections. Incandescent lava fragments rose to 500 m above the crater. The seismicity became sub-continuous in the afternoon of 23 March, moderately strong explosion sounds started to rattle the walls of Tabele Observatory . . . , and dark grey-brown ash clouds rose forcefully to 900-1,000 m above the crater. From 1615 to 2000 this crater produced sub-continuous emissions of incandescent scoriae to ~1,100 m above the crater rim, with flashing arcs a few seconds apart accompanying each explosion. Scoria avalanches descended into the upper SE and SW valleys, and ash and lapilli fell into coastal areas. The lapilli were as large as 3 cm in size and consisted of light, highly vesiculated, grey glassy pumices with ~5% crystals. The maximum thickness of the lapilli-ash deposit was ~0.5 cm. At the end of this eruptive phase, the seismicity dropped dramatically, but resumed six hours later when another similar phase of activity (of lesser intensity) started and continued for ~30 minutes.

"During the following week, a new pattern of activity was observed. Periods of sub-continuous Strombolian eruptions, with low frequency events in such close succession as to look like monochromatic tremor of fluctuating amplitude (lasting about an hour each) were separated by periods of irregular duration (0.5-22.75 hours) during which no emissions or night glow were seen over the crater and virtually no seismicity was recorded. Altogether there were 24 periods of sub-continuous Strombolian activity (counted from the periods of seismicity that characteristically accompanied them) between 23 and 30 March. Some of these active phases were followed by periods of intermittent, mild Strombolian activity lasting a few hours. After 30 March, the more usual pattern of regular Strombolian activity and seismicity (1,300-1,400 small events/day) resumed."

The crew of Qantas flight 59 reported a moderately dense black plume rising . . . to ~2.5 km altitude on 1 April at 1417. A NOTAM was issued several hours later. The observer at Manam reported sub-continuous ejection of thick gray-brown ash clouds to 400-500 m above the summit on 1 April, consistent with the aircraft report. Seismograms that day showed an even distribution of small volcanic earthquakes, not indicative of strong Strombolian activity.

"Aerial and ground inspections were conducted between 28 and 30 March. Southern Crater, which since at least 1975 has had an open funnel shape with a diameter of ~50 m, was bowl-shaped, clogged with agglutinated scoriae, and the active vent was only ~15 m wide and 8 m deep. There was no emission from the crater area between eruptions. The summit area was mantled with scoriae, but these deposits did not extend in any significant thickness lower than about the 1,000-m level, and no lava flows were produced. Only one small debris flow deposit was recognized in the SE valley; the flow descended a gully along its southern margin. Although the nose of the flow stopped at 950 m elev, a lighter hot cloud overriding it apparently continued to ~900 m elev, scorching vegetation. Other small debris flows may have contributed to the apron of pyroclastic debris on the upper part of the SE valley. A few small debris flows would have, similarly, cascaded down the steep rock face at the head of the SW valley and come to a stop in its amphitheatre, at ~900 m elev.

"Throughout March (and since April 1991), Main Crater was totally inactive, and its floor covered with debris eroded from the crater walls. Tilt recordings showed no significant change throughout the month, although 3 µrad of radial inflation were recorded at Tabele in the 3.5 months preceding the onset of the eruption. In late March, two short leveling lines (~500 m long) were laid out radially to the volcano on the lower E and NW flanks for further ground deformation monitoring in the upcoming months.

"The previous most significant activity from Manam occurred in June 1987. On 30 June, after a period of ~1.5 months of mild Strombolian activity, an intense Strombolian eruptive phase (of similar character to the latest activity) produced numerous scoria flows into the SE and SW valleys down to ~300 m elev. This phase also produced a short viscous basaltic lava flow, lapilli, and ashfalls that caused some damage to subsistence gardening areas near the coast (between 4 and 5 km radial distance from the crater). In comparison, the latest eruption was of lesser magnitude. It produced less than half the amount of material (<2-5 x 106 m3) and no significant damage to gardens or inhabited areas."

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

Information Contacts: I. Itikarai, P. de Saint-Ours, and C. McKee, RVO; ICAO.