Report on Suwanosejima (Japan) — August 2012

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 37, no. 8 (August 2012)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Suwanosejima (Japan) 2011-2012 eruptions with plumes rising up to 1 km above crater rim

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2012. Report on Suwanosejima (Japan). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 37:8. Smithsonian Institution.

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29.638°N, 129.714°E; summit elev. 796 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Our last report covered beharior at Suwanose-jima through July 2011 (BGVN 36:07). This report, compiling translated material from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), covers ongoing activity through June 2012, with minor magnitude venting at Otake crater and the tallest plume rising to 1 km over the crater rim. Throughout the reporting period, the volcano’s crater produced weak glow at night that was imaged by a high-sensitivity camera. The Alert Level remained at Level 2 (on a scale from 1-5, access to the crater area prohibited due to threat of eruption). As summarized in the text, numbers of A- and B-type events were in the ranges of 11-24 and 62-205, respectively. There were multiple cases of ashfall at Toshima village (“Toshimamura”), 4 km SSW from the summit crater.

The table below summarizes some other information reported by JMA, including a tally of small eruption heights. Tremor duration extended to over 50 hours during several months and to 132 hours in June 2012.

Monthly coverage. Volcanic earthquakes and tremor continued during July and August 2011 (table 10). In August, seismic activity decreased; A- and B-type events occurred 24 and 62 times, respectively. A-type earthquakes are generally considered to have shallow focal depths; B-type earthquakes, deeper focal depths.

Table 10. A compilation of data on Suwanose-jima during July 2011 through June 2012. ‘-’ indicates data not reported. Data courtesy of JMA.

[Skip text table]
                No. of       Tremor duration    Maximum plumeMonth & year    explosive    (hours:minutes)    height (m above    Other activity                eruptions                       the crater rim)Jul 2011           0               -                 400           Prolonged activityAug 2011           0             15:23               300           Prolonged activitySep 2011           2             64:00             300-1,300       Small eruptions on                                                                     8,9,11, and 12 SepOct 2011           0             18:51              1,000          Small eruption on 1 OctNov 2011           0             28:30               600           Small eruption on 15 NovDec 2011           0             None                400           Jan 2012           1             69:24               300Feb 2012           1             00:58               400Mar 2012           1             00:17              ~200Apr 2012           0              9:26               300May 2012           0             40:11               600           Very small eruptions on                                                                      25,26, and 28-30 MayJun 2012           0            132:24               300           Very small eruptions on                                                                     11 and 13-14 Jun

Explosive eruptions from Otake crater occurred on 9 and 12 September 2011. A temporal increase in seismicity, including intermittent tremor, was observed during 9-14 September, later dropping to background level. Ash fell at Toshimamura on 7, 9, 12, 15, and 18 September.

Small-scale eruptions were observed in October and November 2011. Ashfall was reported at Toshimamura on 15 November.

Aerial observations were conducted in cooperation with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) on 19 December 2011. They revealed a high temperature area at the center of Otake crater.

GPS measurements showed no remarkable crustal change between January and June 2012. GPS data from Tongama ceased starting in mid-May due to a technical failure.

No explosive eruptions occurred in April 2012. Instruments detected 21 A-type events and 85 B-type events.

During May, there were 11 A-type events and 205 B-type events. Noteable volcanic tremor occurred on 5 and 25-26 May. Toshima village registered ashfall on 25 and 28-30 May.

Toshima village again reported ashfall on 11 and 13-14 June 2012. During June instruments detected 21 A-type events and 116 B-type events. Volcanic tremor was registered during 2?22 June 2012 (table 10).

Geologic Background. The 8-km-long, spindle-shaped island of Suwanosejima in the northern Ryukyu Islands consists of an andesitic stratovolcano with two historically active summit craters. The summit of the volcano is truncated by a large breached crater extending to the sea on the east flank that was formed by edifice collapse. Suwanosejima, one of Japan's most frequently active volcanoes, was in a state of intermittent strombolian activity from Otake, the NE summit crater, that began in 1949 and lasted until 1996, after which periods of inactivity lengthened. The largest historical eruption took place in 1813-14, when thick scoria deposits blanketed residential areas, and the SW crater produced two lava flows that reached the western coast. At the end of the eruption the summit of Otake collapsed forming a large debris avalanche and creating the horseshoe-shaped Sakuchi caldera, which extends to the eastern coast. The island remained uninhabited for about 70 years after the 1813-1814 eruption. Lava flows reached the eastern coast of the island in 1884. Only about 50 people live on the island.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Otemachi, 1-3-4, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: