Report on Ambrym (Vanuatu) — February 1988

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 2 (February 1988)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Ambrym (Vanuatu) Ash cloud reported from aircraft

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1988. Report on Ambrym (Vanuatu). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 13:2. Smithsonian Institution.

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The crew of a Continental Airlines flight from Australia to Honolulu reported an eruption on 13 February at 0357, with ash clouds below 12 km altitude, moving SW. A NOTAM issued the next day at 2018 said that the eruption was from Benbow Crater, and forecast ash clouds to 10.5 km altitude, spreading ESE. A second NOTAM released 19 February at 0827 stated that volcanic activity had ceased. Geologists in Vanuatu reported that activity from Benbow was slightly stronger than usual for 2-3 days 12-14 February, but had since returned to normal. No damage was reported.

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: J. Latter, DSIR Geophysics, Wellington, New Zealand; C. Clark, Dept of Geology, Mines, and Rural Water Supplies, Port-Vila.