Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — 21 January-27 January 2009

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 21 January-27 January 2009
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2009. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 21 January-27 January 2009. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (21 January-27 January 2009)


Rabaul

Papua New Guinea

4.271°S, 152.203°E; summit elev. 688 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Based on analysis of satellite imagery and information from RVO, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 22-25 January ash plumes from Rabaul caldera's Tavurvur cone rose to an altitude of 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NW and W. On 27 January, an ash plume at an altitude of 4.3 km (14,000 ft) a.s.l. was visible on satellite imagery.

RVO reported that during 23-26 January gray ash plumes rose to an altitude of 1.7 km (5,600 ft) a.s.l. and drifted in multiple directions. White plumes were also emitted. Occasional low rumbling noises were heard throughout the period and weak incandescence was visible at night. Forceful emissions sometimes ejected incandescent lava fragments. Ashfall affected areas downwind, including Rapolo and Malaguna (NW), Kokopo (SE), and Tokua airport (SE).

Geologic Background. The low-lying Rabaul caldera on the tip of the Gazelle Peninsula at the NE end of New Britain forms a broad sheltered harbor utilized by what was the island's largest city prior to a major eruption in 1994. The outer flanks of the 688-m-high asymmetrical pyroclastic shield volcano are formed by thick pyroclastic-flow deposits. The 8 x 14 km caldera is widely breached on the east, where its floor is flooded by Blanche Bay and was formed about 1400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7100 years ago is now considered to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the northern and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and western caldera walls. Several of these, including Vulcan cone, which was formed during a large eruption in 1878, have produced major explosive activity during historical time. A powerful explosive eruption in 1994 occurred simultaneously from Vulcan and Tavurvur volcanoes and forced the temporary abandonment of Rabaul city.

Sources: Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO)