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Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) — 25 September-1 October 2019

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 September-1 October 2019
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2019. Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 25 September-1 October 2019. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (25 September-1 October 2019)


Papua New Guinea

5.05°S, 151.33°E; summit elev. 2334 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

RVO reported that small, discrete, volcano-tectonic earthquakes at Ulawun began occurring more regularly around 1000 on 30 September; by 1130 they were frequent and by 1220 they were characterized as a swarm. The magnitude of the events overall increased with time and some were felt by residents and accompanied by booming sounds. Events were less frequent and intense during 1730-1930. Sometime afterwards RSAM values erratically increased, reaching a high of 10,000 units between 0130 and 0200 on 1 October. The Alert Level was raised to Stage 2 (the second lowest level on a four-stage scale).

Periods of volcano-tectonic earthquakes slowly transformed into continuous tremor with distinct bursts of high-frequency signals marking discrete volcano-tectonic events during 0430-0500 on 1 October. During this time a new vent opened in a deep valley on the SSW flank at 700 m elevation. The eruption was described as a distinct incandescent glow formed from ejecting material rising less than 100 m above the vent. By dawn light-gray ash plumes were visible rising several hundred meters and drifting NW. Lava fountaining continued throughout the day, and gray ash plumes rose several kilometers above the vent and drifted W. RVO recommended that the Alert Level be raised to Stage 3. On 2 October lava fountains rose several hundred meters and ash-and-steam plumes rose to variable heights between 2 and 5 km, causing ashfall in Navo (W). A lava flow which emerged during the night traveled 1-2 km NW, though visibility was hindered due to weather conditions. Loud rumbling and roaring was noted. Seismicity remained high with RSAM values passing 12,000 units.

Geologic Background. The symmetrical basaltic-to-andesitic Ulawun stratovolcano is the highest volcano of the Bismarck arc, and one of Papua New Guinea's most frequently active. The volcano, also known as the Father, rises above the N coast of the island of New Britain across a low saddle NE of Bamus volcano, the South Son. The upper 1,000 m is unvegetated. A prominent E-W escarpment on the south may be the result of large-scale slumping. Satellitic cones occupy the NW and E flanks. A steep-walled valley cuts the NW side, and a flank lava-flow complex lies to the south of this valley. Historical eruptions date back to the beginning of the 18th century. Twentieth-century eruptions were mildly explosive until 1967, but after 1970 several larger eruptions produced lava flows and basaltic pyroclastic flows, greatly modifying the summit crater.

Source: Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO)