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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — January 1991


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 1 (January 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Brief earthquake swarm

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199101-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"A moderate swarm of earthquakes, on 24 January, momentarily interrupted the otherwise monotonous, low level of activity . . . . A swarm of 125 recorded events - the largest [ML = 2.0] (and only three other events of ML >= 1) - occurred between 0500 and 0800 on 24 January. The events large enough to be located originated 0.5-3 km under Blanche Bay, in the eastern part of the annular caldera seismic zone. By the next day the seismicity had dropped back to normal - within the range of 0-20 events/day. The total number of caldera earthquakes for the month was 300.

"No measurable ground deformation seems to have occurred in connection with this swarm and trends throughout the month were flat."

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 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.

Information Contacts: P. de Saint-Ours and C. McKee, RVO.