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Report on Krakatau (Indonesia) — May 2009

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 34, no. 5 (May 2009)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Krakatau (Indonesia) Variable eruptive activity from late 2007 to mid-2009; plumes to 3 km altitude

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2009. Report on Krakatau (Indonesia). In: Wunderman, R. (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 34:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200905-262000.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin



6.102°S, 105.423°E; summit elev. 813 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Renewed eruptive activity from Anak Krakatau began in October 2007 (BGVN 32:09), with minor eruptions through that November (BGVN 33:01). This small but growing post-caldera cone first gained attention with a 1927 eruption (Simkin and Fiske, 1983). During October-November 2007 several eruptions were Vulcanian in nature (BGVN 33:01). The detailed chronology of behavior during October 2007 to 3 July 2009 is sometimes sketchy, but activity was apparently quite variable. Although one or more lulls may have occurred, eruptions clearly continued into 2009.

Many of these eruptions were minor, but some were large enough to cause the Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM) to raise the Alert Level to 3 (on a scale with 4 as the highest). The Alert Level was lowered and raised again throughout 2008 and into 2009 as activity warranted. People were advised not to go within 1.5 km of the summit.

During April 2009 some residents in neighboring Sumatra allegedly evacuated when they saw more intense activity (including plumes up to ~ 1 km above the crater). Some of the taller plumes during the reporting interval rose to ~ 3 km.

Activity through August 2008. According to a news article, by 22 November 2007, seismicity had declined in frequency. Based on an Antara News article, this decline in seismic activity was interrupted by incandescent rock ejections on 20 January 2008 accompanied by plumes that rose to altitudes of 2.8-3.3 km. Eruptions reportedly had a "deafening sound" and could be seen from Sertung and Rakata islands. Seismicity again declined in early February 2008, and eruption plumes and ejected incandescent material were not seen during 4 February to mid-April 2008.

Seismicity increased during 14-21 April 2008, with the number of events per day peaking on 20 April. Ash plumes accompanied by ejected incandescent rocks were noted during CVGHM field observations on 16, 17, and 18 April. The eruption affected the summit and the E and S flanks. Booming noises were reported and occasionally heard at an observation post 42 km away.

Based on observations of satellite imagery and pilot reports, the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reported that a low-level ash plume on 20 June 2008 rose to an altitude of 3 km and drifted NW.

During 22 June-1 July 2008, the number of seismic events decreased significantly and booming noises were less frequently heard. On 1-3 July ash emissions declined, although on 1 and 2 July low level ash plumes rose to an altitude less than 3 km and drifted NW.

Based on observations of satellite imagery, the Darwin VAAC reported that ash plumes from Anak Krakatau rose to an altitude of 3 km on 27 July 2008 and drifted NW.

According to an article in Antara News, eruptions increased in frequency during 10-11 August 2008. On 12 August, monitoring personnel reported that active lava flows and dense emissions of "smoke" continued, but that the frequency of earthquakes and eruptions had declined. Another news article indicated that explosions and earthquakes averaged ~ 120 per day during 11-17 August 2008. Monitoring personnel during that period observed plumes, active lava flows, and rock ejections.

Activity during March-May 2009. No additional reports by CVGHM were available during September 2008 through February 2009. Alerts based on thermal anomalies (see MODVOLC section, below) were not present during 31 August 2008 to 30 March 2009.

Seismicity increased significantly during 19-25 March 2009 and remained high through 5 May. During periods of clear weather on 25 March, white-to-gray plumes rose 400 m above the volcano. During 27-30 March and 1 April 2009 clear weather revealed ash plumes rising 200-800 m. On 2 April an ash eruption was seen on satellite imagery and reported by a pilot. A resultant ash plume drifted more than 60 km S.

During March through 25 April 2009, an episode of heightened seismicity produced thousands of eruptive signals (table 6); however, the seismic station shut down overnight during 1-26 April, and completely shut down during 27-29 April. CVGHM believed that this shutdown was the result of either blockage of sunlight from reaching the solar panels by tephra collecting there or because of impact-induced damage to the panels. On 29 April CVGHM installed a seismometer on Anak Krakatau at a location thought to be reasonably safe.

Table 6. Type and number of earthquakes and tremor recorded at Krakatau during 27 March-6 May 2009. Values shown are daily averages except the following: 1) 01-24 and 25-26 April: during 12-hour period (daylight); 2) 30 April: starting at 0830 local time from a new, safer location; 3) 06 May: during 0000 to 1200 local time. No data was recorded during 27-29 April. Courtesy of CVGHM.

Date Eruptive Air-blast Deep volcanic Shallow volcanic Tremor Harmonic tremor
27-30 Mar 2009 175 102 3 68 -- --
31 Mar 2009 152 72 5 32 -- --
01-24 Apr 2009 168 109 12 62 -- --
25-26 Apr 2009 116 -- 2 51 -- --
27-29 Apr 2009 -- -- -- -- -- --
30 Apr 2009 229 142 -- 12 44 1
01 May 2009 324 248 -- 98 80 4
02 May 2009 318 270 -- 131 126 24
03 May 2009 250 273 -- 71 114 23
04 May 2009 403 230 -- 36 183 38
05 May 2009 371 339 -- 58 127 41
06 May 2009 132 127 -- 44 82 23

During April 2009 observers reported grayish-white to black plumes that rose to 50-1,000 m above the crater. They heard many loud booms. CVGHM observations carried out on 24-25 and 29 April found the eruption venting from a crater near the volcano's peak on its SW slope. Eruptions generally sent incandescent blocks and ash ~ 500 m from the center in all directions. Some of the lofted ash blew E to SE and caused fallout up to 5 km away.

According to a news article on 29 April 2009, some residents in southern Sumatra near Krakatau evacuated because they had observed increased volcanism during the previous week. For example, observers reported loud blasts, lava flows, and ash plumes. In clear weather on 5 May "smoke" rose 500 m above the crater.

An Antara News article published on 18 June 2009 indicated that in the previous several days the number of small eruptions increased tremendously. It said that, according to Anto Prambudi, head of the monitoring post in Pasauran village, at least 828 small eruptions were recorded during 11-17 June 2009.

MODVOLC. MODVOLC thermal alerts were triggered through 9 December 2007 (BGVN 33:01). In later 2007, comparatively few alerts occurred, but became more prevalent again during mid-January 2008. After that, they were few or absent until mid-April; alerts were common and strong during the week ending 4 May. Consistent alerts were the pattern until the week ending 7 June, which had no alerts, but some continued in the next few weeks.

A seven-month gap in MODVOLC thermal alerts occurred during the interval 31 August 2008 to 30 March 2009. After that, alerts again became common again, particularly abundant during April 2009 (an episode of eruptions and heightened seismicity) and continued regularly through at least 3 July 2008.

The gap in alerts may have been influenced by downward biasing from poor weather conditions. On the other hand, for the cases with high numbers of alerts, false positives (due to fires for example) were unlikely on the desolate landscape of Anak Krakatau.

Reference. Simkin, T., and Fiske, R.S., 1983, Krakatau 1883-the volcanic eruption and its effects: Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC, 464 p. [ISBN 0-87474-841-0]

Geologic Background. The renowned volcano Krakatau (frequently misstated as Krakatoa) lies in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. Collapse of the ancestral Krakatau edifice, perhaps in 416 or 535 CE, formed a 7-km-wide caldera. Remnants of this ancestral volcano are preserved in Verlaten and Lang Islands; subsequently Rakata, Danan, and Perbuwatan volcanoes were formed, coalescing to create the pre-1883 Krakatau Island. Caldera collapse during the catastrophic 1883 eruption destroyed Danan and Perbuwatan, and left only a remnant of Rakata. This eruption, the 2nd largest in Indonesia during historical time, caused more than 36,000 fatalities, most as a result of devastating tsunamis that swept the adjacent coastlines of Sumatra and Java. Pyroclastic surges traveled 40 km across the Sunda Strait and reached the Sumatra coast. After a quiescence of less than a half century, the post-collapse cone of Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) was constructed within the 1883 caldera at a point between the former cones of Danan and Perbuwatan. Anak Krakatau has been the site of frequent eruptions since 1927.

Information Contacts: Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://vsi.esdm.go.id/); Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory Regional Office, PO Box 40050, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia (URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/); Antara News (URL: http://www.antara.co.id/en/); Jakarta Post (URL: http://www.thejakartapost.com/).