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Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea) — April 1992


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 4 (April 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Manam (Papua New Guinea) Strong explosions; scoria flows; first lava flow from Main Crater since 1960

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199204-251020


Papua New Guinea

4.08°S, 145.037°E; summit elev. 1807 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"The eruption continued strongly in April with new paroxysmal phases of activity at Southern Crater and activation of Main Crater, which emitted a lava flow for the first time since 1960. The intensity of the eruption was declining in late March and early April, and activity at this time was restricted to Southern Crater. The moderate Strombolian activity there consisted of ash emissions that were rising to ~1 km over the crater at the beginning of April, but by 8 April were only rising a few hundred meters. On 8 April, Strombolian activity began at Main Crater, which became active for the first time in the eruption. The ash content of emissions was low. Ejections of incandescent lava fragments were visible at night, rising 100-200 m above the crater.

"Seismicity began to increase on 9 April as sub-continuous, irregular tremor became progressively stronger. This coincided with stronger explosive activity at both craters as ash clouds rose ~1 km and sound effects were more prominent. This buildup culminated in a paroxysmal phase of activity at Southern Crater starting about 0300 on 11 April. For about 2 hours, there were nearly continuous strong explosions at Southern Crater, projecting incandescent lava fragments to ~1 km above the rim. Ash clouds rose considerably higher. This activity seems to have been significantly stronger than the previous paroxysmal phase on 23 March. Scoria flows were directed into both the SE and SW valleys, although the SE valley was the main pathway. The flow deposits extended ~3.5 km down the SE valley to a point ~270 m asl. The volume of the flow deposits is estimated to be ~100,000 m3.

Coarse tephra were confined to a stream channel on the S side of the valley but the overriding ash clouds left thin deposits of fine ash in relatively narrow zones (up to 100 m wide) bordering the coarse flow deposits. Vegetation damage ranged from scorching to complete destruction. Scorching was evident to the top of the SE Valley's S wall (100-200 m above the floor). The bulk of scoria-flow deposits in the SW valley are within ~500 m of the base of its near-vertical headwall. A more surprising product of this phase of activity was a lava flow in the SW valley, which is detached from its source at Southern Crater. The lava flow disintegrated as it descended the steep headwall of the SW valley. A prominent channel near the center of the headwall was scoured out by the cascade of lava. On reaching the base of the headwall, the lava flow was reconstituted. The ribbon-like body of lava that now fills the main drainage channel in the upper part of the SW Valley is ~900 m long. Its width ranges from ~20 to 40 m, and its thickness is ~10 m. From these dimensions, the volume of the lava flow is estimated to be ~300,000 m3.

"There was a decline in Southern Crater activity after the paroxysmal phase, although ash emissions were reported to have risen ~2 km over the vent during 11 and 12 April. Southern Crater activity ceased sometime overnight on 12-13 April, and the focus of activity shifted to Main Crater, where bright fluctuating glow was reported the same night. On 13 April, the first reports of a lava flow from Main Crater were received. Lava was flowing into the NE valley for the first time since 1960, following a stream channel on the valley's N side. On 16 April, the terminus of the flow was ~2 km from the source, at ~600 m above sea level. The source of the flow was a breach in the flank of an ejecta cone that infilled a large portion of the previously deep, funnel-shaped Main Crater. Daylight incandescence was visible in the lava flow for ~800 m from the source and at several points farther downslope. With the advent of lava effusion from Main Crater, seismicity rose to its highest level of the eruption. Seismicity remained high until 30 April when lava effusion ceased temporarily. Throughout this period (13-30 April) explosive activity at Main Crater was mild. Frequent ejections lofted incandescent lava fragments 100-200 m, and ash clouds ascended to 500-1,000 m above the crater. The content of ash in the emissions was low. The explosive activity at Main Crater was continuing at the end of April, while Southern Crater remained inactive."

Geological Summary. The 10-km-wide island of Manam, lying 13 km off the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, is one of the country's most active volcanoes. Four large radial valleys extend from the unvegetated summit of the conical basaltic-andesitic stratovolcano to its lower flanks. These valleys channel lava flows and pyroclastic avalanches that have sometimes reached the coast. Five small satellitic centers are located near the island's shoreline on the northern, southern, and western sides. Two summit craters are present; both are active, although most observed eruptions have originated from the southern crater, concentrating eruptive products during much of the past century into the SE valley. Frequent eruptions, typically of mild-to-moderate scale, have been recorded since 1616. Occasional larger eruptions have produced pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached flat-lying coastal areas and entered the sea, sometimes impacting populated areas.

Information Contacts: C. McKee, RVO.