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Report on Asosan (Japan) — May 1990


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 5 (May 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Asosan (Japan) Strong block and ash ejection after 2 months of quiet, then continuous ash emissions

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Asosan (Japan) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199005-282110



32.8849°N, 131.085°E; summit elev. 1592 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A large eruption occurred on 20 April after 2 months of quiet. On 13 February, activity decreased to emission of white vapor and weak mud ejection from a water pool in [Vent 892]. Because of the decreased eruptive activity, the area within 1 km of the crater (closed since 9 August 1989) was reopened by the mayor of Aso town on 23 March.

At 1323 on 20 April, tremor amplitude suddenly increased by about five times. An "Extra Volcanic Information" was issued by the Aso town office and the tourist viewing area was closed by the mayor (both at 1415). Tremor amplitude abruptly decreased at 1644 and remained low until the eruption began, similar to several previous episodes. At the onset of the eruption at 1708, tremor amplitude again suddenly increased. Ash and block ejection was accompanied by a loud rumbling noise which was strongest at around 1730. Blocks 0.5 m across were ejected to 300 m above the crater rim throughout the eruption. The ash cloud rose more than 1 km, and three electrical discharges (lightning) were observed between 1808 and 1815. Tremor amplitude decreased at around 1815 and the eruption is believed to have ended shortly thereafter, although the exact timing is unknown.

Ash from the eruption, wet due to rain, fell mainly N of the volcano where it affected traffic and caused agricultural damage. The towns of Aso and Ichinomiya lost electricity at around 1800, presumably due to a short circuit or leak caused by the wet ash. Service was restored to most homes by midnight, although some had no power until noon the next day.

The eruption deposited 1 m of ash on the crater rim, 0.5 m of ash 1 km N of the crater, and 4 kg/m2 at 6 km N of the crater. Fine ashfall was observed to 35 km W (at Kumamoto) and 35 km E (at Takeda). Blocks, mostly dense and angular, and fresh scoria fell N of the volcano. Lithic clasts 20 cm in diameter were scattered to 1 km N. The total tephra mass from the 20 April activity was estimated to be 1 x 109 kg (the total accumulated tephra mass from July 1989 through 20 April 1990 was 6 x 109 kg; table 5).

Table 5. Number of days/month on which ash was emitted at Aso and monthly ash accumulation measured by JMA at AWS, 1 km W of the crater, July 1989-May 1990. The April 1990 value is low, despite the large emission on 20 April, because of wind direction.

Date Eruption days Ash accumulation (g/m2)
Jul 1989 2 36
Aug 1989 1 579
Sep 1989 5 2,740
Oct 1989 17 29,177
Nov 1989 11 1,509
Dec 1989 3 755
Jan 1990 1 30
Feb 1990 2 3,168
Mar 1990 0 0
Apr 1990 2 95
May 1990 9 12,837

Ash emission was almost continuous from the morning of 21 April through early June. Another vigorous eruptive episode occurred 27 April and such episodes became frequent at the end of May. Tremor remained at low amplitude for a few days following the 20 April eruption then gradually increased to high amplitudes in May.

Geological Summary. The 24-km-wide Asosan caldera was formed during four major explosive eruptions from 300,000 to 90,000 years ago. These produced voluminous pyroclastic flows that covered much of Kyushu. The last of these, the Aso-4 eruption, produced more than 600 km3 of airfall tephra and pyroclastic-flow deposits. A group of 17 central cones was constructed in the middle of the caldera, one of which, Nakadake, is one of Japan's most active volcanoes. It was the location of Japan's first documented historical eruption in 553 CE. The Nakadake complex has remained active throughout the Holocene. Several other cones have been active during the Holocene, including the Kometsuka scoria cone as recently as about 210 CE. Historical eruptions have largely consisted of basaltic to basaltic-andesite ash emission with periodic strombolian and phreatomagmatic activity. The summit crater of Nakadake is accessible by toll road and cable car, and is one of Kyushu's most popular tourist destinations.

Information Contacts: JMA.