Report on Ambrym (Vanuatu) — March 1979

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 4, no. 3 (March 1979)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Ambrym (Vanuatu) Destructive acid rain caused by eruption

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1979. Report on Ambrym (Vanuatu). In: Squires, D (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 4:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN197903-257040.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Ambrym

Vanuatu

16.25°S, 168.12°E; summit elev. 1334 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


According to press reports, an eruption from Benbow Crater occurred on 10 February. Gases from the eruption caused acid rainfall on the SW portion of Ambrym Island, destroying most vegetation within 24 hours, contaminating water supplies, and burning some inhabitants. Jean-Luc Saos, Director of Mineral Resources for the New Hebrides government, reported a high concentration of HCl and sulfur compounds in the volcanic gases. Although heavy ashfalls have occurred in the area in the past, this is the first report of acid rains.

Geologic Background. Ambrym, a large basaltic volcano with a 12-km-wide caldera, is one of the most active volcanoes of the New Hebrides arc. A thick, almost exclusively pyroclastic sequence, initially dacitic, then basaltic, overlies lava flows of a pre-caldera shield volcano. The caldera was formed during a major plinian eruption with dacitic pyroclastic flows about 1900 years ago. Post-caldera eruptions, primarily from Marum and Benbow cones, have partially filled the caldera floor and produced lava flows that ponded on the caldera floor or overflowed through gaps in the caldera rim. Post-caldera eruptions have also formed a series of scoria cones and maars along a fissure system oriented ENE-WSW. Eruptions have apparently occurred almost yearly during historical time from cones within the caldera or from flank vents. However, from 1850 to 1950, reporting was mostly limited to extra-caldera eruptions that would have affected local populations.

Information Contacts: A.L. Dahl, S Pacific Commission, Noumea; Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes, Noumea.