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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — September 2010


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 35, no. 9 (September 2010)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) After months of quiet, ash-bearing eruptions on 23-25 July 2010

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2010. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 35:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN201009-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Eruptions at Rabaul's Tavurvur cone resumed on 23 July 2010 after nearly seven months without ash emissions. As previously noted, Tavurvur was quiet between 1 January to 8 April 2010 (BGVN 35:02).

On 9 April 2010, the Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) reported that deformation measurements at Rabaul caldera during the previous 3-4 months had showed an inflationary trend with a total of 4 cm of uplift. During 2-8 April seismicity was low and variable amounts of white vapor rose from Tavurvur cone.

According to RVO, Tavurvur cone erupted on 23 July 2010 after increased seismicity, likely beneath Tavurvur cone, was detected the previous day. The series began with a few small hybrid earthquakes, followed by small low-frequency earthquakes, then continuous volcanic tremor starting at 1034 on 22 July; the eruption followed at 1300 on 23 July.

The eruption began with discharge of diffuse white plumes, followed by pink-gray fumes with low ash content. A strong odor of hydrogen sulfide was noted, and a diffuse cloud rose 1 km and drifted NW. A few hours later, observers saw billowing gray clouds, accompanied by roaring and rumbling noises. Ashfall was reported in areas to the cone's NW and NNW.

RVO reported that, during 23-25 July, seismicity was variable. Ash emissions and ashfall continued in areas to the NW. Visibility remained poor in Rabaul town (3-5 km NW of Tavurvur) due to ash made airborne by the passage of moving vehicles. Ash emissions ceased on 25 July. Later that day and into 26 July only diffuse brown-tinted vapor plumes were emitted and seismicity was very low.

After the eruption of 23-25 July, GPS data showed deflation of Tavurvur cone. Seismicity was very low, and diffuse white plumes were emitted during 26-30 July.

A video (by BlinkyBill55) showed the ash-bearing eruption of 24 July and the associated caption described it as a "short but explosive event." The eruption scene depicted on the 9-second-long video showed various eruptive phases that were sometimes dominated by steam and at other times by dark ash. No clear MODVOLC thermal alerts occurred in the year ending 21 November 2010.

Reference. Johnson, RW, Itikarai, I, Patia, H, and McKee, C, 2010, Rabaul Volcano Workshop Report; Volcanic systems of the Northeastern Gazelle Peninsula, Papua New Guinea: synopsis, evaluation, and a model for Rabaul volcano, Rabaul Observatory Twinning Program, Dept. Of Mineral Policy and Geohazards Management (DMPGM), Government. of Papua New Guinea and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), Australian Government, 84 p., ISBN 978-1-921672-89-7.

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: Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO), PO Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea; BlinkyBill55 (URL: http://www.youtube.com/user/BlinkyBill55).