Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) — March 2003

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 28, no. 3 (March 2003)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke

Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) Variable seismicity and minor deflation; debris flows in February

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea). In: Venzke, E (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 28:3. 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)

The main summit crater continued to release variable amounts of thin-to-thick white vapor during January-March 2003, and no activity was observed from the N valley vent that formed in May 2001. Heavy rains during February and especially on the 19th, 21st, 22nd, and 24th, caused debris flows on the NW side of Ulawun. The debris channeled into Namo creek and later swept down to the coast. Along its course it overflowed into Ubili village. Muddy water flowed into six houses built on concrete floors and left a thin sheet of dried mud a few centimeters thick.

The long-term deformation trend based on measurements from an electronic tiltmeter is slow deflation of the summit area. No significant changes were noted in January. In February there was 2 µrad of deflation, and measurements showed a very small amount (~2-3 µrad) of deflation between the beginning of March through the 25th. After that the trend became steady.

Seismic activity had been low through January-February, but an increase was evident starting on 2 March. This was shown by an increase in RSAM values on the same day. The increased activity remained at low to moderate levels between 2 and 12 March. After that, it declined gradually, reaching low levels on the 20th. Due to technical problems with the only seismograph to monitor Ulawun, no analogue waveforms were recorded, making it difficult to ascertain the type of seismicity associated with the increased RSAM values. However, it is assumed that another of the sporadic volcanic tremor episodes recorded since the September 2000 and April 2001 eruptions was the cause.

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: