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Report on Asosan (Japan) — October 2003

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 28, no. 10 (October 2003)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Asosan (Japan) Phreatic eruptions during 10-14 July cause ashfall 14 km away

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Asosan (Japan). In: Venzke, E. (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 28:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200310-282110.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Asosan

Japan

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Recent noteworthy activity at Aso consisted of elevated tremor in August 2002 and a phreatic eruption in July 2003. Seismicity recorded by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) between January 2000 and April 2003 (table 8) was generally constant, with continuous volcanic tremor every month in addition to isolated tremor events. The number of tremor events was high through October 2000, during April 2002, and from August 2002 through March 2003. Also during this extended period, white plumes were observed approximately once a month, with two or more plumes occurring in July, October, and December 2002, and February and March 2003. These plumes were usually less than 500 m high.

Table 8. Seismicity at Aso between January 2000 and April 2003. The seismograph station is located ~13 km W of the summit. Courtesy of JMA.

Month Number of volcanic earthquakes Number of volcanic tremors
Jan 2000 19 1,466
Feb 2000 16 926
Mar 2000 73 1,232
Apr 2000 -- --
May 2000 39 537
Jun 2000 30 802
Jul 2000 29 1,234
Aug 2000 21 2,104
Sep 2000 36 1,445
Oct 2000 38 1,448
Nov 2000 43 202
Dec 2000 33 129
Jan 2001 51 60
Feb 2001 161 739
Mar 2001 76 537
Apr 2001 40 81
May 2001 40 85
Jun 2001 99 188
Jul 2001 84 282
Aug 2001 60 471
Sep 2001 40 86
Oct 2001 91 32
Nov 2001 52 17
Dec 2001 45 5
Jan 2002 38 5
Feb 2002 59 20
Mar 2002 20 20
Apr 2002 114 1,138
May 2002 91 14
Jun 2002 191 36
Jul 2002 238 37
Aug 2002 153 4,413
Sep 2002 144 1,438
Oct 2002 103 1,440
Nov 2002 652 3,391
Dec 2002 154 8,496
Jan 2003 122 6,981
Feb 2003 178 4,183
Mar 2003 92 1,965
Apr 2003 70 474

Activity during August 2002. For the first time since 1992, isolated volcanic tremor events occurred at a rate of more than 300 events/day in Naka-dake Crater 1. These events were recorded between 5 and 21 August and totalled nearly 4,000 (table 9), with the highest number, 340 events, on 15 August. During this period, the water temperature of the pool in the crater remained between 57 and 60°C. On 14 August, infrared cameras measured the maximum temperature of the southern crater wall at 307°C; this increased to 314°C the following week.

Table 9. Daily number of isolated volcanic tremor events at Aso, August 2002. Courtesy of Japan Meteorological Agency.

Date Isolated tremor events
05 Aug 2002 129
06 Aug 2002 238
07 Aug 2002 241
08 Aug 2002 137
09 Aug 2002 244
10 Aug 2002 304
11 Aug 2002 315
12 Aug 2002 335
13 Aug 2002 299
14 Aug 2002 336
15 Aug 2002 340
16 Aug 2002 287
17 Aug 2002 257
18 Aug 2002 208
19 Aug 2002 162
20 Aug 2002 104
21 Aug 2002 37 as of 1100

Activity during July 2003. JMA reported on 11 July 2003 that tephra had fallen at Aso that morning. According to the report, a tremor event with an intermediate amplitude was recorded at 1718 on 10 July. Staff from the Aso Weather Station confirmed that small amounts of tephra had been newly deposited at Hakoishi-Toge (Hakoishi Pass), ~ 6 km ENE of the Nakadake crater. Kazunori Watanabe (Kumamoto University) and other geologists surveyed the deposit on 11 July and estimated the total mass of ejected material at roughly 130 tons. Ash was deposited as far as 14 km from the crater. A small amount of fresh vesicular glass particles were noted in the ejecta under the microscope. According to Yasuaki Sudo (Aso Volcanological Laboratory, Kyoto University), who inspected the crater area, the event was a small phreatic eruption of mud. The deposit consisted of wet ash aggregates and was ~ 1 mm thick, even at the crater rim. A spray of mud was blown off the crater rim by strong winds to 10 km from the crater.

Seismic signals implied a series of small phreatic eruptions between 12 and 14 July. Then on 27 July continuous volcanic tremor started around 1400. Observations that day noted that the water in Crater 1 was gray and boiling in the center; the temperature of the water was 76°C.

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

Information Contacts: Volcanological Division, 1-3-4 Ote-machi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/); Volcano Research Center, Earthquake Research Institute (ERI), University of Tokyo, Yayoi 1-1-1, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113, Japan (URL: http://www.eri.u-tokyo.ac.jp/VRC/index_E.html); Kazunori Watanabe, Kumamoto University, 40-1, Kurokami 2-chome, Kumamoto 860-8555, Japan; Hitoshi Yamasato and N. Uchida, Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, 1-2-36 Oohori, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052, Japan; Tomoki Tsutsui and Yasuaki Sudo, Aso Volcanological Laboratory, Kyoto University, Choyo, Aso, Kumamoto, 869-1404, Japan.