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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — July 1990


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 7 (July 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Continued CO2 discharge from pit crater; seismicity remains at background

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199007-252140


Papua New Guinea

4.2459°S, 152.1937°E; summit elev. 688 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Seismicity remained at a background level in July. The total number of caldera earthquakes recorded during the month was 213, compared to an average of 220/month since 1986. Daily earthquake totals ranged between 2 and 82 with the highest daily total recorded in a small swarm at the SW end of Matupit Island on the 31st (including one felt event of ML 3.5). Over the month, seismicity was distributed on the NW and NE parts of the annular caldera seismic zone. No significant changes were observed in levelling, tilt, and EDM measurements.

"CO2 was still being discharged throughout the month in a pit crater on the S flank of Tavurvur where six people suffocated on 24 and 25 June (15:06). The CO2 is being released from a small vent at the foot of the NW crater wall. The thickness of the CO2 layer at the bottom of the pit crater fluctuated between 0 and 4.8 m (<=60,000 m3) but was dissipated in the atmosphere on windy days (most days during the current trade wind season)."

Geological Summary. 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 asymmetrical 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 1,400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7,100 years ago is thought to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the N and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and W 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.

Information Contacts: H. Patia and C. McKee, RVO.