Logo link to homepage

Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — February 1991


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 16, no. 2 (February 1991)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Minor inflation but seismicity remains weak

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1991. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 16:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199102-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Seismicity . . . returned to a low level in February, but ground deformation measurements indicated some uplift.

"The total number of caldera earthquakes for the month was 141, and daily totals ranged between 0 and 17. All events were of small magnitude (ML <1.0). Only three events were large enough to be located; these occurred on the NE (2) and NW (1) parts of the caldera seismic zone.

"Tide gauge measurements indicated a mild progressive rise in the Matupit Island area throughout February. The total uplift was ~25 mm. Slight uplift had also been indicated in January; ~7 mm between 11 and 31 January. Levelling measurements from Rabaul Town to Matupit Island indicated uplift of 10 mm at the S end of the island 10 January-8 March. The difference in these measurements is explained by the fact that the Matupit tide gauge is much closer to the source of deformation. The tide gauge is ~0.8 km from the SE coast of Matupit Island, and within a few hundred meters of the apex of the caldera floor bulge (evident since the early 1970's)."

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: C. McKee, RVO.