Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) — March 2002

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 27, no. 3 (March 2002)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) Isolated tremor episodes and slow deflation through March 2002

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 27:3. Smithsonian Institution.

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Papua New Guinea

5.05°S, 151.33°E; summit elev. 2334 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

An eruption occurred at Ulawun during 25-30 April 2001 (BGVN 26:06). Limited evacuations occurred on 3 May due to the occurrence of relatively high seismic activity and the possibility of further volcanic activity. On 14 June the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory (RVO) recommended that the Alert Level be reduced from 2 to 1. At this stage of alert, people could move back to their homes with the approval of the local disaster committee.

Volcanic tremor began at 2200 on 24 September. It peaked at about 1000 on 27 September and generally declined afterward. By 30 September seismic activity was at moderate levels. During 27-30 September a very slow deflationary trend was detected. Volcanic tremor continued to occur at moderate-to-high levels until it dropped dramatically on 11 October. After 11 October seismicity only consisted of discrete low-frequency earthquakes. On 8 and 9 October loud roaring noises emanated from the volcano.

During October through March 2002 activity was generally low. The main crater produced weak-to-moderate volumes of white and white-gray vapor. The N valley vent occasionally released weak volumes of thin white vapor. RSAM data revealed conspicuous seismicity on 26 October; incandescence was observed that night. A rapid trend of deflation beneath the summit area during the previous two weeks stopped on 24 December.

During mid-February tremor increased to moderate levels for the first time since December 2001. On 21 February weak roaring noises were heard and weak incandescence was visible for a short time. After 22 February tremor returned to background levels. Seismic activity returned to background levels after volcanic tremor ceased on 18 March. Discrete low-frequency earthquakes continued to occur in small numbers. The electronic tiltmeter continued to show long-term deflation of the summit area. Based on recent observations, activity at Ulawun is expected to remain low.

General References. Johnson, R.W., Davies, R.A., and White, A.J.R., 1972, Ulawun volcano, New Britain: Australia Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, Bulletin 142, 42 p.

McKee, C.O., 1983, Volcanic hazards at Ulawun volcano: Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea Report 83/13, 21 p.

Geologic Background. The symmetrical basaltic-to-andesitic Ulawun stratovolcano is the highest volcano of the Bismarck arc, and one of Papua New Guinea's most frequently active. Ulawun volcano, also known as the Father, rises above the north coast of the island of New Britain across a low saddle NE of Bamus volcano, the South Son. The upper 1000 m of the 2334-m-high Ulawun volcano is unvegetated. A prominent E-W-trending escarpment on the south may be the result of large-scale slumping. Satellitic cones occupy the NW and eastern flanks. A steep-walled valley cuts the NW side of Ulawun volcano, and a flank lava-flow complex lies to the south of this valley. Historical eruptions date back to the beginning of the 18th century. Twentieth-century eruptions were mildly explosive until 1967, but after 1970 several larger eruptions produced lava flows and basaltic pyroclastic flows, greatly modifying the summit crater.

Information Contacts: Ima Itikarai, Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO), P.O. Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea (Email: