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Report on Tinakula (Solomon Islands) — July 2019

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 44, no. 7 (July 2019)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke. Report research and preparation by: Liz Crafford.

Tinakula (Solomon Islands) Thermal anomalies in satellite data December 2018-June 2019; ship visit January 2019

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2019. Report on Tinakula (Solomon Islands). In: Crafford, A.E., and Venzke, E. (eds.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 44:7. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Tinakula

Solomon Islands

10.386°S, 165.804°E; summit elev. 796 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Remote Tinakula lies 100 km NE of the Solomon Trench at the N end of the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the country of the Solomon Islands located 400 km to the W. It has been uninhabited since an eruption with lava flows and ash explosions in 1971 when the small population was evacuated (CSLP 87-71). The nearest communities live on Te Motu (Trevanion) Island (about 30 km S), Nupani (40 km N), and the Reef Islands (60 km E); residents occasionally report noises from explosions at Tinakula. Ashfall from larger explosions has historically reached these islands. The most recent eruptive episode was a large ash explosion and substantial SO2 plume during 21-26 October 2017; satellite imagery suggested that a flow of some type traveled down the scarp on the W flank. Renewed thermal activity that was recognized in satellite imagery beginning in December 2018 continued intermittently through June 2019 and is covered in this report. Satellite imagery and thermal data are the primary sources of information for this volcano. It is occasionally visited by members of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) of the Solomon Islands Government, tourists, and research vessels who are able to capture ground-based information.

Satellite images from December 2018 to February 2019 show thermal anomalies at the summit vent. Excellent ship-based photographs of the island on 24-25 January 2019 provided by a crewmember from the R/V Petrel identify numerous volcanic features and show a steam-and-gas plume at the vent. Satellite images from April and May 2019 show thermal anomalies at both the summit vent and along the W flank scarp suggesting flow activity during that time.

A stream of incandescence on the NW flank of Tinakula in a Sentinel 2 satellite image on 24 October 2017 confirmed that some type of high-temperature flow accompanied the explosions and eruptive activity of 21-25 October 2017 (BGVN 43:02). Satellite imagery during most of 2018 recorded steam plumes drifting in several directions from the summit, but no thermal activity (figure 24). There was no further evidence of activity in satellite visible or thermal data until almost exactly one year later when the MIROVA project recorded two thermal alerts in the third week of October 2018 (figure 25). Satellite images from that week were cloudy and did not confirm any surface activity.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 24. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery of Tinakula provides valuable information about activity at this remote volcano in the South Pacific. A large explosion with ash plumes and flows occurred during 21-26 October 2017. Top left: a strong E-W linear thermal anomaly suggesting a flow event from the summit was evident on the NW flank on 24 October 2017. Top right: a small steam plume rose from the summit vent on a cloudless 11 February 2018. Bottom left: a dense steam plume drifted SE from the summit vent on 4 September 2018. Bottom right: clouds and dense steam obscure the summit on 24 October 2018, about the same time that MIROVA reported a thermal anomaly. Top left image uses bands 12, 11, 8A, others use 12, 4, 2. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 25. The MIROVA project recorded the first thermal anomaly in a year from Tinakula during the third week of October 2018. Courtesy of MIROVA.

The first satellite imagery confirming renewed thermal activity appeared on 8 December 2018, around the same time as a small MIROVA anomaly. After that, several images during January and February 2019 confirmed moderately strong thermal activity at the summit (figure 26). Whether the anomalies were the result of active lava effusion or strong incandescent gases from the summit vent is uncertain.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 26. Thermal anomalies at the summit vent of Tinakula were recorded six times between early December 2018 and early February 2019 with Sentinel-2 satellite images. Top row: 8 December 2018 and 2 January 2019. Middle row: 12 (anomaly is just below date) and 27 January 2019. Bottom row: 1 and 6 February 2019. All images are bands 12, 4, 2. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Visual confirmation of activity at Tinakula is rare, but the research vessel R/V Petrel sailed past the volcano on 24 and 25 January 2019 and a crewmember provided detailed images of the W flank and vent area. The summit vent is located at the top of a W facing scarp, and steam is frequently observed rising from the vent (figures 27). Recent flows and volcaniclastic deposits were visible in the ravine on the W flank (figures 28 and 29). Fresh-looking lava was also visible near the summit vent on top of older deposits (figure 30). Eroded volcaniclastic deposits near the base of the scarp on the W flank were visible on top of older veined and layered volcanic rocks (figure 31). Crewmembers on the vessel R/V Petrel could clearly see an incandescent glow from the summit crater at night (figure 32).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 27. A view from the SW of the W flank of Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. The summit vent is at the top of a W facing scarp, the steam plume drifted E. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 28. The W flank of Tinakula as seen from the W on 24-25 January 2019. The steam plume drifted E. Recent flows and volcaniclastic deposits appeared dark in the steep ravine on the W face (left side). Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 29. Steam and gas rose from the summit vent at Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. Recent lava deposits are visible in front of the plume and in the ravine on the left (the W flank). Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 30. The edge of the summit vent of Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019 had recent lava on older deposits; steam and gas is rising from the vent in the background. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. The W flank of Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. Eroded volcaniclastic deposits overlie older veined and layered volcanic rocks. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 32. Incandescence was clearly visible from the summit vent at Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.

During April and May 2019, both the MIROVA project and MODVOLC measured a number of thermal anomalies (figure 33) using MODIS satellite data. MODVOLC alerts were issued on 4 and 20 April, and 11, 18, and 27 May. Sentinel-2 satellite images during the period confirmed that a flow on the W flank was a likely source of the thermal energy in addition to the summit vent (figure 34). Thermal anomalies appeared again at the end of June in MIROVA data, but no satellite images showed anomalies at that time.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 33. The number and intensity of MIROVA thermal anomalies increased at Tinakula during April and May 2019. After a short pause, they returned at the end of June. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 34. Sentinel-2 satellite images captured thermal anomalies at the summit and on the W flank of Tinakula during April and May 2019 suggesting the presence of an incandescent flow down the W scarp. Top row: 7 and 22 April 2019 (bands 12, 8, 4). Bottom row: 27 April and 12 May 2019 (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The small 3.5-km-wide island of Tinakula is the exposed summit of a massive stratovolcano at the NW end of the Santa Cruz islands. Similar to Stromboli, it has a breached summit crater that extends from the summit to below sea level. Landslides enlarged this scarp in 1965, creating an embayment on the NW coast. The satellitic cone of Mendana is located on the SE side. The dominantly andesitic volcano has frequently been observed in eruption since the era of Spanish exploration began in 1595. In about 1840, an explosive eruption apparently produced pyroclastic flows that swept all sides of the island, killing its inhabitants. Frequent historical eruptions have originated from a cone constructed within the large breached crater. These have left the upper flanks and the steep apron of lava flows and volcaniclastic debris within the breach unvegetated.

Information Contacts: MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Vulcan Inc. (URL: https://www.vulcan.com/), additional details about the R/V Petrel (URL: https://www.paulallen.com/).