Report on Kuchinoerabujima (Japan) — January 2013

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 38, no. 1 (January 2013)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Kuchinoerabujima (Japan) Increased seismicity, 11 December 2011-5 January 2012

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2013. Report on Kuchinoerabujima (Japan). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 38:1. Smithsonian Institution.

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30.443°N, 130.217°E; summit elev. 657 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Since a small eruption in 1980, Kuchinoerabu-jima experienced numerous periods of elevated seismicity, with volcanic earthquakes and tremor detected at least through December 2009 (BGVN 35:11). The volcano is located in the Ryukyu Island arc, off Japan’s SW coast (figure 4).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. A map of the major volcanoes of Japan. Kuchinoerabu-jima is at the lower left. Courtesy of USGS/CVO.

Recent monthly reports of volcanic activity from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) translated into English resumed in October 2010. The only recent English-translated JMA report on Kuchinoerabu-jima available online through December 2012 was in January 2012. We know of no other recent report on this volcano’s seismic activity; therefore, this report summarizes seismicity between December 2011 and January 2012.

According to JMA, seismicity increased to a relatively high level immediately after 11 December 2011, but then decreased on 5 January 2012. On 20 January 2012, the Alert Level was lowered from 2 to 1; JMA noted that the possibility of an eruption was minimal.

During the December 2011-January 2012 period, no significant change in plume activity was observed, and plume heights remained below 100 m above the crater. According to a field survey on 11 January, infrared images (compared to images obtained in December 2011) showed no significant change in temperature distribution either at the summit or on the W slope of Shin-dake (also refered to as Shin-take), the youngest and most active cone.

Field surveys found that sulfur dioxide levels were 50 and 100 metric tons/day on 12 and 13 January 2012, respectively, which were lower than those recorded in December 2011 (200 metric tons/day on 9 December 2011).

According to JMA, continuous GPS measurements have established a baseline across Shin-dake, collecting data since September 2010. Shin-dake’s rate of change in surface deformation at the stations has been slowing since September 2011.

Geologic Background. A group of young stratovolcanoes forms the eastern end of the irregularly shaped island of Kuchinoerabujima in the northern Ryukyus, 15 km west of Yakushima. Furutake, Shintake, and Noike were erupted from south to north, respectively, to form a composite cone that is parallel to the trend of the Ryukyu Islands. The highest peak, Furutake, reaches only 657 m above sea level. The youngest cone, 640-m-high Shintake, was formed after the NW side of Furutake was breached by an explosion. All historical eruptions have occurred from Shintake, although a lava flow from the S flank of Furutake that reached the coast has a very fresh morphology. Frequent explosive eruptions have taken place from Shintake since 1840; the largest of these was in December 1933. Several villages on the 4 x 12 km island are located within a few kilometers of the active crater and have suffered damage from eruptions.

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