Report on Aira (Japan) — May 1976
Natural Science Event Bulletin, vol. 1, no. 8 (May 1976)
Managing Editor: David Squires.
Aira (Japan) Two notable explosions eject tephra, damaging automobiles and crops
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 1976. Report on Aira (Japan). In: Squires, D. (ed.), Natural Science Event Bulletin, 1:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.NSEB197605-282080.
31.593°N, 130.657°E; summit elev. 1117 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
Two notable explosions occurred during May. Volcanic activity had been increasing during 1976 and dark smoke had been frequently observed since an explosion on 7 April. On 13 May at 0738, an explosion sent a cloud to 2,000 m height. This moderate explosion was the 29th of 1976 at the Minami-dake summit crater.
Large amounts of pumice and lapilli fell onto the E slope of the crater. At Sakura-jima-guchi, 5.5 km ESE of the crater, up to 3 cm of pumice was deposited (as measured on a road), and maximum ejecta size was 25 x 25 x 4 cm. Automobiles and crops in the area were damaged by the ashfall.
On 17 May at 1342, an eruption cloud reached 2700 m height (not 16 miles as reported by UPI in the press) following the 31st and largest explosion recorded in 1976. Tiba reported blocks up to l m across falling 2.5 km from the vent. Shimozuru reported cinders 2-6 cm in size at Arimura, 3 km SSE of the crater. At Furusato, 3 km S of the crater, and at a school 7 km SE of the crater, window glass was broken by the strong airshock which measured 0.34 millibars on a microbarograph 10 km W of the crater. Volcanic tremor occurred 32-36 hours before this major eruption, then volcanic earthquakes continued up to 22 hours before its onset.
Both explosions took place at the newly-opened (since 10 December 1975) 40-m-diameter crater SE of crater A at Minami-dake. An estimated 170,000 tons of molten lava filled the bottom of crater A from 90 to 50 m depth.
Geologic Background. The Aira caldera in the northern half of Kagoshima Bay contains the post-caldera Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan's most active. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow accompanied formation of the 17 x 23 km caldera about 22,000 years ago. The smaller Wakamiko caldera was formed during the early Holocene in the NE corner of the Aira caldera, along with several post-caldera cones. The construction of Sakurajima began about 13,000 years ago on the southern rim of Aira caldera and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kitadake summit cone ended about 4850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minamidake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.
Information Contacts: JMA, Tokyo; D. Shimozuru, ERI, Tokyo; T. Tiba, National Science Museum, Tokyo.