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Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network

All reports of volcanic activity published by the Smithsonian since 1968 are available through a monthly table of contents or by searching for a specific volcano. Until 1975, reports were issued for individual volcanoes as information became available; these have been organized by month for convenience. Later publications were done in a monthly newsletter format. Links go to the profile page for each volcano with the Bulletin tab open.

Information is preliminary at time of publication and subject to change.


Recently Published Bulletin Reports

Tinakula (Solomon Islands) Thermal anomalies in satellite data December 2018-June 2019; ship visit January 2019

Piton de la Fournaise (France) Eruptive episodes in February-March and June 2019; multiple fissures and lava flows

Semeru (Indonesia) Decreased activity after October 2018

Heard (Australia) Thermal hotspots continue during October 2018-March 2019 at the summit and on the upper flanks

Dukono (Indonesia) Numerous ash explosions from October 2018 through March 2019

Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) Occasional weak phreatic explosions continue through February 2019

Turrialba (Costa Rica) Frequent passive ash emissions continue through February 2019

San Cristobal (Nicaragua) Weak ash explosions in January and March 2019

Semisopochnoi (United States) Minor ash explosions during September and October 2018

Asosan (Japan) Multiple brief ash emission events during April and May 2019; minor ashfall in adjacent villages

Nyamuragira (DR Congo) Lava lake reappears in central crater in April 2018; activity tapers off during April 2019

Tengger Caldera (Indonesia) New explosions with ash plumes from Bromo Cone mid-February-April 2019



Tinakula (Solomon Islands) — July 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Tinakula

Solomon Islands

10.386°S, 165.804°E; summit elev. 796 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Thermal anomalies in satellite data December 2018-June 2019; ship visit January 2019

Remote Tinakula lies 100 km NE of the Solomon Trench at the N end of the Santa Cruz Islands, which are part of the country of the Solomon Islands located 400 km to the W. It has been uninhabited since an eruption with lava flows and ash explosions in 1971 when the small population was evacuated (CSLP 87-71). The nearest communities live on Te Motu (Trevanion) Island (about 30 km S), Nupani (40 km N), and the Reef Islands (60 km E); residents occasionally report noises from explosions at Tinakula. Ashfall from larger explosions has historically reached these islands. The most recent eruptive episode was a large ash explosion and substantial SO2 plume during 21-26 October 2017; satellite imagery suggested that a flow of some type traveled down the scarp on the W flank. Renewed thermal activity that was recognized in satellite imagery beginning in December 2018 continued intermittently through June 2019 and is covered in this report. Satellite imagery and thermal data are the primary sources of information for this volcano. It is occasionally visited by members of the National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) of the Solomon Islands Government, tourists, and research vessels who are able to capture ground-based information.

Satellite images from December 2018 to February 2019 show thermal anomalies at the summit vent. Excellent ship-based photographs of the island on 24-25 January 2019 provided by a crewmember from the R/V Petrel identify numerous volcanic features and show a steam-and-gas plume at the vent. Satellite images from April and May 2019 show thermal anomalies at both the summit vent and along the W flank scarp suggesting flow activity during that time.

A stream of incandescence on the NW flank of Tinakula in a Sentinel 2 satellite image on 24 October 2017 confirmed that some type of high-temperature flow accompanied the explosions and eruptive activity of 21-25 October 2017 (BGVN 43:02). Satellite imagery during most of 2018 recorded steam plumes drifting in several directions from the summit, but no thermal activity (figure 24). There was no further evidence of activity in satellite visible or thermal data until almost exactly one year later when the MIROVA project recorded two thermal alerts in the third week of October 2018 (figure 25). Satellite images from that week were cloudy and did not confirm any surface activity.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 24. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery of Tinakula provides valuable information about activity at this remote volcano in the South Pacific. A large explosion with ash plumes and flows occurred during 21-26 October 2017. Top left: a strong E-W linear thermal anomaly suggesting a flow event from the summit was evident on the NW flank on 24 October 2017. Top right: a small steam plume rose from the summit vent on a cloudless 11 February 2018. Bottom left: a dense steam plume drifted SE from the summit vent on 4 September 2018. Bottom right: clouds and dense steam obscure the summit on 24 October 2018, about the same time that MIROVA reported a thermal anomaly. Top left image uses bands 12, 11, 8A, others use 12, 4, 2. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 25. The MIROVA project recorded the first thermal anomaly in a year from Tinakula during the third week of October 2018. Courtesy of MIROVA.

The first satellite imagery confirming renewed thermal activity appeared on 8 December 2018, around the same time as a small MIROVA anomaly. After that, several images during January and February 2019 confirmed moderately strong thermal activity at the summit (figure 26). Whether the anomalies were the result of active lava effusion or strong incandescent gases from the summit vent is uncertain.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 26. Thermal anomalies at the summit vent of Tinakula were recorded six times between early December 2018 and early February 2019 with Sentinel-2 satellite images. Top row: 8 December 2018 and 2 January 2019. Middle row: 12 (anomaly is just below date) and 27 January 2019. Bottom row: 1 and 6 February 2019. All images are bands 12, 4, 2. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Visual confirmation of activity at Tinakula is rare, but the research vessel R/V Petrel sailed past the volcano on 24 and 25 January 2019 and a crewmember provided detailed images of the W flank and vent area. The summit vent is located at the top of a W facing scarp, and steam is frequently observed rising from the vent (figures 27). Recent flows and volcaniclastic deposits were visible in the ravine on the W flank (figures 28 and 29). Fresh-looking lava was also visible near the summit vent on top of older deposits (figure 30). Eroded volcaniclastic deposits near the base of the scarp on the W flank were visible on top of older veined and layered volcanic rocks (figure 31). Crewmembers on the vessel R/V Petrel could clearly see an incandescent glow from the summit crater at night (figure 32).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 27. A view from the SW of the W flank of Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. The summit vent is at the top of a W facing scarp, the steam plume drifted E. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 28. The W flank of Tinakula as seen from the W on 24-25 January 2019. The steam plume drifted E. Recent flows and volcaniclastic deposits appeared dark in the steep ravine on the W face (left side). Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 29. Steam and gas rose from the summit vent at Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. Recent lava deposits are visible in front of the plume and in the ravine on the left (the W flank). Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 30. The edge of the summit vent of Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019 had recent lava on older deposits; steam and gas is rising from the vent in the background. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. The W flank of Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. Eroded volcaniclastic deposits overlie older veined and layered volcanic rocks. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 32. Incandescence was clearly visible from the summit vent at Tinakula on 24-25 January 2019. Used with permission from Paul G Allen's Vulcan Inc.

During April and May 2019, both the MIROVA project and MODVOLC measured a number of thermal anomalies (figure 33) using MODIS satellite data. MODVOLC alerts were issued on 4 and 20 April, and 11, 18, and 27 May. Sentinel-2 satellite images during the period confirmed that a flow on the W flank was a likely source of the thermal energy in addition to the summit vent (figure 34). Thermal anomalies appeared again at the end of June in MIROVA data, but no satellite images showed anomalies at that time.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 33. The number and intensity of MIROVA thermal anomalies increased at Tinakula during April and May 2019. After a short pause, they returned at the end of June. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 34. Sentinel-2 satellite images captured thermal anomalies at the summit and on the W flank of Tinakula during April and May 2019 suggesting the presence of an incandescent flow down the W scarp. Top row: 7 and 22 April 2019 (bands 12, 8, 4). Bottom row: 27 April and 12 May 2019 (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The small 3.5-km-wide island of Tinakula is the exposed summit of a massive stratovolcano at the NW end of the Santa Cruz islands. Similar to Stromboli, it has a breached summit crater that extends from the summit to below sea level. Landslides enlarged this scarp in 1965, creating an embayment on the NW coast. The satellitic cone of Mendana is located on the SE side. The dominantly andesitic volcano has frequently been observed in eruption since the era of Spanish exploration began in 1595. In about 1840, an explosive eruption apparently produced pyroclastic flows that swept all sides of the island, killing its inhabitants. Frequent historical eruptions have originated from a cone constructed within the large breached crater. These have left the upper flanks and the steep apron of lava flows and volcaniclastic debris within the breach unvegetated.

Information Contacts: MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Vulcan Inc. (URL: https://www.vulcan.com/), additional details about the R/V Petrel (URL: https://www.paulallen.com/).


Piton de la Fournaise (France) — July 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Piton de la Fournaise

France

21.244°S, 55.708°E; summit elev. 2632 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Eruptive episodes in February-March and June 2019; multiple fissures and lava flows

Short pulses of intermittent eruptive activity have characterized Piton de la Fournaise, the large basaltic shield volcano on La Réunion Island in the western Indian Ocean, for several thousand years. For the last 20 years, frequent effusive basaltic eruptions have occurred on average twice per year. The activity is characterized by lava fountains and lava flows, and occasional explosive eruptions that shower blocks over the summit area and produce ash plumes. Almost all of the recent activity has occurred within the Enclos Fouqué caldera, although past eruptions in 1977, 1986, and 1998 have occurred at vents outside of the caldera. Four separate eruptive episodes were reported during 2018; from 3-4 April, 27 April-1 June, 13 July, and 15 September-1 November (BGVN 43:12, 43:09). Two episodes from 2019 during February-March and June are covered in this report, with information provided primarily by the Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise (OVPF) as well as satellite instruments.

Piton de la Fournaise experienced two eruptions during November 2018-June 2019. The first lasted from 18 February to 10 March 2019, and the second episode was 11-13 June. The episode in February-March started consisted of multiple fissures opening on the E flank of the Dolomieu crater on 18 February with lava flows that traveled several hundred meters. After a brief pause, one new fissure opened nearby on 19 February and produced up to 3 million m3 of lava in a little over four days. Although the flow rate then declined, the eruption continued until 10 March. During the last three days, 7-10 March, two new fissures opened nearby and produced large volumes of lava, bringing the total eruptive volume to about 14.5 million m3. After little activity during April and May, a small eruption occurred on the SSE outer slope of Dolomieu crater that lasted for about 48 hours on 11-13 June; multiple small flows traveled about 1,000 m down the steep flank before ceasing. The MIROVA thermal anomaly graph of log radiative power clearly showed the abruptness of the beginning and ends of the last three eruptive episodes at Piton de la Fournaise from August 2018 through June 2019 (figure 165).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 165. The MIROVA graph of thermal energy from Piton de la Fournaise from 30 July 2018 through June 2019 shows the last three eruptive episodes at the volcano. From 15 September through 1 November 2018 fissures and flows were active on the SW flank of Dolomieu crater near Rivals crater (BGVN 43:12). Fissures opened on the E flank of the crater on 18 February 2019, and after a brief pause resumed on 19 February at the foot of Piton Madoré. Lava flows remained active until 10 March 2019. A short episode of lava effusion occurred on 11-12 June 2019 on the SSE outer slope of Dolomieu crater. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Activity during November 2018-March 2019. Following the end of the 15 September-1 November 2018 eruption, seismic activity immediately below the summit remained low (with only 20 shallow and two deep earthquakes during November). The inflationary signal recorded since the beginning of September stopped, and the OVPF deformation networks did not record any significant deformation. There were 35 shallow earthquakes (0-2 km depth) below the summit crater during December, and one deep earthquake. Only 12 shallow earthquakes and one deep earthquake (greater than 2 km below the surface) were reported in January.

OVPF reported an increase in CO2 concentrations beginning in December 2018, and noted the beginning of inflation on 13 February 2019. A seismic swarm of 379 earthquakes accompanied by minor but rapid deformation (less than 1 cm) was reported on 16 February 2019. A new seismic swarm of 208 earthquakes began early on 18 February with a much larger ground deformation (10 cm of elongation of the summit zone). A volcanic tremor indicative of the arrival of magma near the surface began at 0948 that morning. Webcams indicated that eruptive fissures had opened in the NE part of the Enclos Fouqué caldera. The onset of the eruption was marked by a sudden drop in CO2 flux which then stabilized. The eruptive sites were confirmed visually around 1130. Three fissures with actively flowing lava opened on the E flank of Dolomieu Crater; the fountains of lava were less than 30 m high. The front of the longest flow had reached 1,900 m elevation after one hour. The eruption lasted a little over 12 hours and was over by 2200 that evening; it covered about 150-200 m of the hiking trail to the summit.

Seismicity remained high after the event ended, and at 1500 on 19 February 2019 another seismic swarm of 511 deep earthquakes located under the E flank at about 2.5 km depth occurred. It was not accompanied by a significant amount of deformation. At 1710 tremor signals appeared on the observatory seismographs and the first gas plumes and lava ejection were observed at 1750 and 1912, respectively. During an overflight the next day (20 February), OVPF team members observed the new eruptive site at an elevation of 1,800 m at the foot of Piton Madoré. One fissure and one fountain were active at 0620 on 20 February and the flow front was at 1,300 m elevation (figure 166). During the night of 20-21 February the flow front crossed over the "Grandes Pentes" area in the eastern half of the Enclos Fouque (figure 167).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 166. The eruption which began on 19 February 2019 on the E flank of Dolomieu crater at Piton de la Fournaise produced a lava fountain and flow which traveled down at least 500 m of elevation by the next morning when this photo was taken at 0620 local time. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du mercredi 20 février 2019 à 11h00, Heure locale).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 167. The active fissure at Piton de la Fournaise was producing lava fountains and an active flow during the evening of 20 February 2019. Overnight the flow crossed over the "Grandes Pentes" area of the caldera. Photo courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du jeudi 21 février 2019 à 14H00, Heure locale).

OVPF reported on 22 February 2019 that 22 shallow earthquakes had been reported since the eruption began on 19 February. Surface flow rates estimated from satellite data, via the HOTVOLC system (OPGC - University of Auvergne), were between 2.5 and 15 m3/s. The quantity of lava emitted between 19 and 22 February was between 1 and 3 million m3. OVPF observed the growth of an eruptive cone that was filled with a small lava lake producing ejecta during a morning overflight on 22 February. A channelized flow moved downstream from the cone and split into two lobes about 1 km from (and 200 m below) the cone (figure 168). The split in the flow occurred near the Guyanin crater. The N flowing lobe, about 50 m wide, had an actively flowing front located at 1,320 m elevation; the incandescent flow was travelling over a recent flow (likely from the previous night). The S-flowing lobe spread to 200 m wide and split into two tongues 300 m SE of Guyanin crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 168. During an overflight on the morning of 22 February 2019 scientists from OVPF observed a growing spatter cone with a small lava lake at Piton de la Fournaise. A channelized flow moved downstream from the fissure and split into two flows. Photo courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du vendredi 22 février 2019 à 13h30, Heure locale).

Incandescent ejecta from the cone was captured in a webcam image overnight on 22-23 February 2019 (figure 169). The rate of advance of the flow slowed significantly by 24 February, but the intensity of the eruptive tremor remained relatively constant. Mapping of the lava flow on 28 February carried out by the OI2 platform (OPGC - University Clermont Auvergne) from satellite data confirmed the slow progress of the flow after 24 February (300 m in 5 days) (figure 170). The flow front was located at 1,200 m elevation, and only the N arm was active; the lava had traveled about 2.2 km from the vent by 28 February.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 169. Incandescent ejecta from the eruptive cone at Piton de la Fournaise was captured in the webcam in the early hours of 23 February 2019. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du samedi 23 février 2019 à 13h30, Heure locale).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 170. Contours of the lava flows at Piton de la Fournaise from 18-28 February 2019 were determined from satellite data by the OI2 platform (Université Clermont Auvergne), dated 18 (red) and 19 (blue) February (top image); 20 (green), 21 (red), 22 (blue), 27 (turquoise), and 28 (pink) February (bottom image). Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP. Top: Bulletin d'activité du vendredi 22 février 2019 à 13h30 (Heure locale); bottom: Bulletin d'activité du jeudi 28 février 2019 à 16h30 (Heure locale).

Between 28 February and 1 March 2019 a third lobe of lava appeared flowing NE from the vent on the N side of the new flow area; it split into two lobes sometime on 1 March. Very little new lava was recorded on the other lobes. By 4 March the flow rate estimated by satellite data was about 7.5 m3/s. During a site visit on the morning of 5 March OVPF scientists sampled the N lobe of the flow and bombs and tephra near the cone, and acquired infrared and visible images. They noted the continued growth of the cone which still had an open vent at the summit and a base 100 m in diameter. It was 25 m high with a 50-m-wide eruptive vent at the top (figure 171). High-temperature gas emissions and strong Strombolian activity issued from the vent. Steam emissions were present around the base of the cone, suggesting the presence of lava tunnels. A single lobe of lava flowed N from the cone.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 171. The eruptive cone at Piton de la Fournaise on 5 March 2019 had a 100-m-diameter base, 25 m of vertical height, and 50-m-wide vent at the summit. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP, (Bulletin d'activité du mardi 5 mars 2019 à 17h30, Heure locale).

A new fissure that opened about 150 m from the main vent on the NW flank of Piton Madoré was first observed on the morning of 6 March (figure 172); OVPF concluded that it had opened late on 5 March. A small cone was forming and a new flow traveled N from the main eruptive site. At least six new emission points were noted the following morning (7 March) around the Piton Madoré. Poor weather prevented confirmation by aerial reconnaissance that day, but in a site visit on 8 March OVPF scientists determined that the new fissure from 5 March remained active; a small cone about 10 m high had two flow lobes on the W and N sides (figure 173). A fissure that opened on 7 March was located 300 m S of the 19 February vent and oriented E-W. It was very active on the morning of 8 March with two 50-m-high lava fountains (figure 174). Samples collected by OVPF indicated that the vents of 5 and 7 March produced lava of different compositions.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 172. A new fissure that opened about 150 m from the main vent on the NW flank of Piton Madoré at Piton de la Fournaise was first observed on the morning of 6 March 2019; OVPF concluded that it had opened late on 5 March. A small cone was forming on the flank of an old one and a new flow traveled N from the main eruptive site. Courtesy of OVPF/IPGP, copyright by Helicopter Coral (Bulletin d'activité du jeudi 7 mars 2019 à 15h00 Heure locale).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 173. The 5 March 2019 fissure at Piton de la Fournaise on the NW flank of Piton Madoré still had two active flow lobes emerging from it and heading N and W on 8 March 2019. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP (Monthly bulletin of the Piton de la Fournaise Volcanological Observatory, March 2019).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 174. A fissure that opened on 7 March 2019 at Piton de la Fournaise was located 300 m S of the 19 February vent and oriented E-W. It was very active on the morning of 8 March 2019 with two 50-m-high lava fountains. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP (Monthly bulletin of the Piton de la Fournaise Volcanological Observatory, March 2019).

There was a strong increase in the eruptive tremor intensity on 7 March, related to the opening of the two new fissures on 5 and 7 March (figure 175). As a result, the surface flow estimates made from satellite data increased significantly to high values greater than 50 m3/s, with the average values on 7-8 March of around 20-25 m3/s. The increased flow rates resulted in the flows traveling much greater distances. By the morning of 9 March the active flow had reached 650-700 m above sea level. The flow front had traveled about 1 km in 24 hours. Strong seismicity had been increasing under the summit zone for the previous 48 hours. After a phase of very strong surface activity observed overnight on 9-10 March that included lava fountains 50-100 m high (figure 176), surface activity ceased around 0630 on 10 March, and seismic activity decreased significantly. OVPF noted that sudden increases in seismicity and flow rates near the end of an eruption have occurred at about half of the eruptions at Piton de la Fournaise in recent years. Lava volumes emitted on the surface between 18 February and 10 March 2019 were estimated at about 14.5 million m3 (figure 177).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 175. An infrared view of the eruptive site on the E flank of Dolomieu crater at Piton de la Fournaise on 8 March 2019 clearly showed the original fissure from 19 February (bottom right of center), the fissure on Piton Madore that opened on 5 March (right) and the fissures that opened on 7 March (upper, right of center). The combined activity produced significant thermal and seismic activity at the volcano. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF/IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du vendredi 8 mars 2019 à 17h00, Heure locale).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 176. Lava fountains 50-100 m high were the result of very strong surface activity observed overnight on 9-10 March 2019 at Piton de la Fournaise. Surface activity ceased around 0630 on 10 March, and seismic activity decreased significantly. Photo taken on 9 March 2019 around midnight from the RN2. Courtesy of OVPF/IPGP, copyright by A. Finizola LGSR/IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du dimanche 10 mars 2019 à 19h30 Heure locale).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 177. A sudden increase in the flow rate at the end of the 18 February-10 March 2019 eruption at Piton de la Fournaise was recorded by researchers at the Université Clermont Auvergne. OVPF noted this was typical of about half of the eruptions at Piton de la Fournaise. Courtesy of OVPF/IPGP, copyright by HOTVOLC, Université Clermont Auvergne (OVPF Monthly bulletin of the Piton de la Fournaise Volcanological Observatory, March 2019).

Significant SO2 plumes were captured by the TROPOMI instrument on the Sentinel 5-P satellite throughout the 18 February-10 March eruption (figure 178). After the surface eruption ceased, shallow seismicity continued at a lower rate of about 12 earthquakes per day. The end of the eruption (7-10 March) was accompanied by a marked deflation, interpreted by OVPF as the rapid emptying of the magma reservoir. Following the end of the eruption, inflation resumed for the rest of March but then ceased. Seismicity continued at a lower level during April with an average of six shallow earthquakes per day.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 178. Multiple days of high DU value SO2 plumes were recorded by the TROPOMI instrument on the Sentinel 5-P satellite during the 18 February-10 March 2019 eruption at Piton de la Fournaise. Top row: during 18, 21, and 22 February SO2 plumes drifted SE. Middle row: during 23, 24, and 25 February the wind direction changed from SE through S to SW and left a curling trail of SO2. Bottom row: 5, 7, and 8 March showed an increase in SO2 emissions that corresponded with increased seismicity and lava flow output before the eruption ceased.

Activity during May-June 2019. OVPF reported slight inflation near the summit beginning in early May, and an increase in CO2 concentration in the soil near Plaine des Cafres and Plaine des Palmistes. Strong shallow seismicity reappeared on 27 May 2019 and recurred on 30 and 31 May. Two small seismic swarms were measured on 31 May in the early morning. A new seismic swarm beginning at 0603 on 11 June accompanied by rapid deformation suggested a new eruption was imminent. A tremor near the summit area was first noted at 0635 local time; the webcams indicated a plume of gas, but poor visibility prevented evidence of fresh lava. Around 0930 that morning OVPF confirmed that five fissures had opened on the outer SSE slope of Dolomieu crater at elevations ranging from 2480 to 2025 m (figure 179). The flow fronts were not visible due to weather. Lava fountains under 30 m in height and lava flows were present in the three lowest fissures. The flows traveled rapidly down the steep flank of the crater (figure 180).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 179. Around 0930 on the morning of 11 June 2019 OVPF confirmed that five fissures had opened on the outer SSE slope of Dolomieu crater at Piton de la Fournaise at elevations ranging from 2480 to 2025 m. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF-IPGP and Imazpress (Bulletin d'activité du mardi 11 juin 2019 à 11h00).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 180. Thermal imaging of the 11-12 June 2019 eruptive site at Piton de la Fournaise showed multiple streams of lava traveling rapidly down the steep flank from several fissures on 11 June 2019. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF-IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du mardi 11 juin 2019 à 11h00).

The intensity of the eruptive tremor decreased throughout the day, and by 1530 only the lowest elevation fissure was still active (figure 181). The next afternoon (12 June) images in the OVPF webcam located in Piton des Cascades indicated the flow front was at about 1,200-1,300 m elevation. Seismographs indicated that the eruption stopped around 1200 on 13 June. Poor weather obscured visibility of the flow activity. Seismic activity decreased following the eruption, but appeared to increase again beginning on 21 June, with 10 events detected on 30 June. SO2 plumes were recorded in satellite data on 11 and 12 June 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 181. The intensity of the eruptive activity at Piton de la Fournaise on 11 June 2019 decreased throughout the day, and by 1530 only the lowest elevation fissure was still active. Courtesy of and copyright by OVPF-IPGP (Bulletin d'activité du mardi 11 juin 2019 à 17h45 Heure locale).

Geologic Background. The massive Piton de la Fournaise basaltic shield volcano on the French island of Réunion in the western Indian Ocean is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Much of its more than 530,000-year history overlapped with eruptions of the deeply dissected Piton des Neiges shield volcano to the NW. Three calderas formed at about 250,000, 65,000, and less than 5000 years ago by progressive eastward slumping of the volcano. Numerous pyroclastic cones dot the floor of the calderas and their outer flanks. Most historical eruptions have originated from the summit and flanks of Dolomieu, a 400-m-high lava shield that has grown within the youngest caldera, which is 8 km wide and breached to below sea level on the eastern side. More than 150 eruptions, most of which have produced fluid basaltic lava flows, have occurred since the 17th century. Only six eruptions, in 1708, 1774, 1776, 1800, 1977, and 1986, have originated from fissures on the outer flanks of the caldera. The Piton de la Fournaise Volcano Observatory, one of several operated by the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, monitors this very active volcano.

Information Contacts: Observatoire Volcanologique du Piton de la Fournaise, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, 14 route nationale 3, 27 ème km, 97418 La Plaine des Cafres, La Réunion, France (URL: http://www.ipgp.fr/fr); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/).


Semeru (Indonesia) — April 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Semeru

Indonesia

8.108°S, 112.922°E; summit elev. 3657 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Decreased activity after October 2018

The ongoing eruption at Semeru has been characterized by numerous ash explosions and thermal anomalies, but activity apparently diminished in 2018 (BGVN 43:01 and 43:09); this decreased activity continued through at least February 2019. The current report summarizes activity from 24 August 2018 to 28 February 2019.

The Indonesian volcano monitoring agency, Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), reported ongoing daily seismicity, dominated by explosion earthquakes and emission-related events from late November through February (figure 35). Ash plumes resulting in aviation advisories by the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) were reported on 4, 6-7, and 19 September, and 12 October 2018. The next significant ash plume reported by the VAAC wasn't until 24 February 2019 (table 23).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 35. Seismicity recorded at Semeru during 28 November 2018-26 February 2019. Plot shows explosion earthquakes ('Letusan'), emission-related events ('Hembusan'), felt earthquakes ('Gempa Terasa'), local tectonic events ('Tektonic Lokal'), and distant tectonic events ('Tektonic Jauh'). Courtesy of PVMBG and MAGMA Indonesia.

Table 23. Summary of ash plumes at Semeru during 25 August 2018 through February 2019. The summit is at 3,657 m elevation. Data courtesy of Darwin VAAC.

Date Plume altitude (km) Plume drift Remarks
04 Sep 2018 4.3 W --
06-07 Sep 2018 4.3 SW --
19 Sep 2018 4 SSW Possible ash-and-steam plume.
12 Oct 2018 4.5 W Discrete eruption.
24 Feb 2019 4.3 W Discrete volcanic ash eruption.

Thermal anomalies using MODIS satellite instruments processed by the MODVOLC algorithm were only recorded on 26, 28, and 30 August 2018, and 22 and 31 October 2018. The MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) system detected numerous hotspots within 5 km of the volcano during August and early September, with a significant decrease in frequency through October (figure 36); only a few scattered hotspots were recorded from November 2018 through February 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 36. MIROVA plot of thermal anomalies (Log Radiative Power) at Semeru during July 2018-February 2019. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. Semeru, the highest volcano on Java, and one of its most active, lies at the southern end of a volcanic massif extending north to the Tengger caldera. The steep-sided volcano, also referred to as Mahameru (Great Mountain), rises above coastal plains to the south. Gunung Semeru was constructed south of the overlapping Ajek-ajek and Jambangan calderas. A line of lake-filled maars was constructed along a N-S trend cutting through the summit, and cinder cones and lava domes occupy the eastern and NE flanks. Summit topography is complicated by the shifting of craters from NW to SE. Frequent 19th and 20th century eruptions were dominated by small-to-moderate explosions from the summit crater, with occasional lava flows and larger explosive eruptions accompanied by pyroclastic flows that have reached the lower flanks of the volcano.

Information Contacts: Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); MAGMA Indonesia, Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral (URL: https://magma.vsi.esdm.go.id/); Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory Regional Office, PO Box 40050, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia (URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/).


Heard (Australia) — April 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Heard

Australia

53.106°S, 73.513°E; summit elev. 2745 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Thermal hotspots continue during October 2018-March 2019 at the summit and on the upper flanks

Heard Island, in the Southern Indian Ocean, includes the large Big Ben stratovolcano and the smaller, apparently inactive, Mt. Dixon. Because of the island's remoteness, satellites are the primary monitoring tool. Big Ben has been active intermittently since 1910, and was active during October 2017-September 2018 (BGVN 43:10). Activity continued during October 2018-March 2019.

Satellite photos using Sentinel Hub showed hotspots every month between October 2018 and March 2019. Because the area was frequently covered by a heavy cloud layer, most of the hotspot signals were partially obscured. Though thermal anomalies are usually seen at summit vents, on 18 October 2018 an anomaly was present about 300 m down the E flank. Similarly, on 1 January 2019, a weak anomaly beginning about 200 m down the NW flank was about 300 m long (figure 40).

The MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) system detected three hotspots, two in October and one in early November 2018, all of low radiative power. There were no MODVOLC alert pixels during this period.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Sentinel-2 L1C image of Heard Island's Big Ben volcano on 1 January 2019 one summit hotspot and an elongated thermal anomaly to the NW. Scale bar (bottom right) is 200 m. The photo was taken in atmospheric penetration view (bands 12, 11, and 8A), courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. Heard Island on the Kerguelen Plateau in the southern Indian Ocean consists primarily of the emergent portion of two volcanic structures. The large glacier-covered composite basaltic-to-trachytic cone of Big Ben comprises most of the island, and the smaller Mt. Dixon volcano lies at the NW tip of the island across a narrow isthmus. Little is known about the structure of Big Ben volcano because of its extensive ice cover. The historically active Mawson Peak forms the island's 2745-m high point and lies within a 5-6 km wide caldera breached to the SW side of Big Ben. Small satellitic scoria cones are mostly located on the northern coast. Several subglacial eruptions have been reported in historical time at this isolated volcano, but observations are infrequent and additional activity may have occurred.

Information Contacts: Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/).


Dukono (Indonesia) — April 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Dukono

Indonesia

1.693°N, 127.894°E; summit elev. 1229 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Numerous ash explosions from October 2018 through March 2019

The eruption at Dukono that began in 1933 has showered the area with ash from frequent explosions (BGVN 43:04, 43:12). The Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG), also known as the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM), is responsible for monitoring this volcano.

This long-term pattern of intermittent ash explosions continued during October 2018-March 2019, with ash plumes rising to between 1.5 and 2.7 km altitude, or about 300-1,500 m above the summit (table 19). Although meteorological clouds often obscured views, satellite imagery captured typical ash plumes on 28 September 2018 (figure 10) and 5 February 2019 (figure 11). Instruments aboard NASA satellites (TROPOMI and OMPS) detected high levels of sulfur dioxide near or directly above the volcano on multiple days during January-March 2019. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4), and visitors were warned to remain outside of the 2-km exclusion zone.

Table 19. Monthly summary of reported ash plumes from Dukono for October 2018-March 2019. The direction of drift for the ash plume through each month was highly variable. Data courtesy of the Darwin VAAC and PVMBG.

Month Plume Altitude (km) Notable Plume Drift
Oct 2018 1.5-2.1 --
Nov 2018 1.5-2.1 --
Dec 2018 1.5-2.4 --
Jan 2019 1.8-2.1 --
Feb 2019 1.8-2.7 --
Mar 2019 1.5-2.4 --
Figure (see Caption) Figure 10. Satellite image from Sentinel-2 (LC1 natural color) of an ash plume at Dukono on 28 September 2018 with the plume blowing towards the NE. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 11. Satellite image from Sentinel-2 (LC1 natural color) of an ash plume at Dukono on 5 February 2019, with the plume blowing SW. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. Reports from this remote volcano in northernmost Halmahera are rare, but Dukono has been one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. More-or-less continuous explosive eruptions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows, occurred from 1933 until at least the mid-1990s, when routine observations were curtailed. During a major eruption in 1550, a lava flow filled in the strait between Halmahera and the north-flank cone of Gunung Mamuya. This complex volcano presents a broad, low profile with multiple summit peaks and overlapping craters. Malupang Wariang, 1 km SW of the summit crater complex, contains a 700 x 570 m crater that has also been active during historical time.

Information Contacts: Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory Regional Office, PO Box 40050, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia (URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/); Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).


Rincon de la Vieja (Costa Rica) — April 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Rincon de la Vieja

Costa Rica

10.83°N, 85.324°W; summit elev. 1916 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Occasional weak phreatic explosions continue through February 2019

Intermittent small phreatic explosions from the acid lake of Rincón de la Vieja's active crater has most recently occurred since 2011 (BGVN 42:08, 43:03, and 43:09). This activity continued through at least February 2019. The volcano is monitored by the Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), and the information below comes from its weekly bulletins between 18 August 2018 and 28 February 2019. Weather conditions often prevented webcam views and estimates of plume heights. The volcano was in Activity Level 3 throughout the reporting period (volcano erupting, steady state).

According to OVSICORI-UNA, two distinct, 2-minute-long explosions occurred on 31 August 2018 beginning at 0434 and 1305. Several hours after the eruption tremor became continuous but low-frequency long-period (LP) earthquakes ceased. OVSICORI-UNA reported a gas emission late on 7 September. An unconfirmed small phreatic explosion occurred on 11 September at 0634, and another on 17 September at 1014. The seismic record showed continuous background tremor and very sporadic LP earthquakes.

Intermittent background tremor was recorded during the first half of October, along with a few emissions and phreatic explosions. Deformation measurements during October showed a contraction between the N and S of the volcano, with subsidence. On 17 October there was another phreatic explosion, and thereafter tremor disappeared and seismicity decreased. On 23 and 27 October seismic stations signaled additional possible phreatic explosions.

OVSICORI-UNA reported that a series of explosions began at 1945 on 4 November and consisted of at least three 2-minute-long episodes. The next day at 1511 a plume of water vapor and diffuse gas, recorded by a webcam and visible to residents to the N, rose about 100 m above the crater rim and drifted W. On 9 November a 2-minute-long explosion began at 1703. Another explosion on 27 November at 0237 produced a plume of water vapor and gas that rose 600 m above the crater rim and drifted SW. A short 1-minute explosion began at 1054 on 3 December.

Based on OVSICORI-UNA weekly bulletins, activity remained stable in January 2019 with small-amplitude phreatic explosions on 11, 12, and 14 January. More energetic phreatomagmatic explosions on 17 and 20 January produced lahars. Several small-amplitude explosions were detected at the end of the month. During January, a few LPs, no VTs, and intermittent tremor were recorded.

OVSICORI-UNA reported that two small-scale explosions occurred on 1 February, along with possible events at 1906 and 1950 on 5 February and at 0120 on 6 February. An event at 0000 on 6 February was also recorded; the report noted that poor weather conditions prevented visual observations of the crater. On 16 and 17 February strong degassing was observed. No LPs were recorded, but two significant VTs were detected on 17 and 22 February near or under the crater.

Geologic Background. Rincón de la Vieja, the largest volcano in NW Costa Rica, is a remote volcanic complex in the Guanacaste Range. The volcano consists of an elongated, arcuate NW-SE-trending ridge that was constructed within the 15-km-wide early Pleistocene Guachipelín caldera, whose rim is exposed on the south side. Sometimes known as the "Colossus of Guanacaste," it has an estimated volume of 130 km3 and contains at least nine major eruptive centers. Activity has migrated to the SE, where the youngest-looking craters are located. The twin cone of 1916-m-high Santa María volcano, the highest peak of the complex, is located at the eastern end of a smaller, 5-km-wide caldera and has a 500-m-wide crater. A plinian eruption producing the 0.25 km3 Río Blanca tephra about 3500 years ago was the last major magmatic eruption. All subsequent eruptions, including numerous historical eruptions possibly dating back to the 16th century, have been from the prominent active crater containing a 500-m-wide acid lake located ENE of Von Seebach crater.

Information Contacts: Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica (URL: http://www.ovsicori.una.ac.cr/).


Turrialba (Costa Rica) — April 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Turrialba

Costa Rica

10.025°N, 83.767°W; summit elev. 3340 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Frequent passive ash emissions continue through February 2019

This report summarizes activity at Turrialba during September 2018-February 2019. During this period there was similar activity as described earlier in 2018 (BGVN 43:09), with occasional ash explosions and numerous, sometimes continuous, periods of gas-and-ash emissions (table 8). Data were provided by the Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA).

Table 8. Ash emissions at Turrialba, September 2018-February 2019. Cloudy weather sometimes obscured observations. Maximum plume height is above the crater rim. Information courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA.

Date Time Max plume height Plume drift Remarks
27 Aug-05 Sep 2018 -- 100 m SW, W Continuous gas-and-ash emissions.
06 Sep 2018 -- -- -- Mostly gas, punctuated by small sporadic ash plumes.
10 Sep 2018 1210 300 m NW --
01-13 Sep 2018 -- -- -- Continuous gas-and-ash emissions.
17-18 Sep 2018 -- 300 m SW, NW --
27 Sep 2018 0915 200 m NW --
30 Sep-01 Oct 2018 -- 500 m NW, NE --
03 Oct 2018 -- -- -- Incandescence.
08 Oct 2018 0800 500 m N --
10-16 Oct 2018 -- 1,000 m Various Intermittent emissions; some explosions, including an energetic one on 14 Oct at 1712. Clouds prevented estimate of plume height.
17-23 Oct 2018 -- 200-500 m E, NW, SW Periodic gas-and-ash emissions. Frequent Strombolian events since 5 Oct.
25-30 Oct 2018 -- -- -- Periodic ash emissions when weather conditions allowed observations.
26 Oct 2018 0134 500 m NE Ashfall in neighborhoods of Coronado (San José, 35 km WSW) and San Isidro de Heredia (Heredia, 38 km W).
29 Oct 2018 0231 500 m NW --
30 Oct 2018 1406 500 m W --
24 Oct-01 Nov 2018 -- 500 m -- Continuous emissions.
01-06 Nov 2018 0530-0640 500 m SW --
02 Nov 2018 1523, 1703 500 m -- --
03 Nov 2018 0109 500 m -- Short (2-3 minutes) duration events. Ashfall reported in Coronado.
05 Nov 2018 0620 600 m NW --
06-11 Nov 2018 -- 500 m -- Low-level, continuous gas-and-ash emissions occasionally punctuated by energetic explosions that sent plumes as high as 500 m and caused ashfall in several areas downwind, including Cascajal de Coronado, Desamparados (35 km WSW), San Antonio, Guadalupe (32 km WSW), Sabanilla, San Pedro Montes de Oca, Moravia (31 km WSW), Heredia, and Coronado (San José, 35 km WSW). Weather prevented observations on 12 Nov.
13-19 Nov 2018 -- -- -- Periodic, passive ash emissions visible in webcam images or during cloudy conditions inferred from the seismic data.
22 Nov 2018 0710 100 m W --
23 Nov 2018 -- -- -- Frequent pulses of ash.
23-25 Nov 2018 -- 500 m -- Occasional Strombolian explosions ejected lava bombs deposited near the crater; residents of Cascajal de Coronado reported hearing several booming sounds.
26-27 Nov 2018 -- -- -- Passive emissions with small quantities of ash visible. Minor ashfall in San Jose (Cascajal de Coronado and Dulce Nombre), San Pedro Montes de Oca, and neighborhoods of Heredia.
28 Nov-03 Dec 2018 -- 500 m N, NW, SW Ashfall in Santo Domingo (36 km WSW) on 2 Dec.
05 Dec 2018 -- -- -- Minor emission.
06 Dec 2018 -- -- S Emission.
08 Dec 2018 0749 500 m NW --
09 Dec 2018 -- 1,000 m -- Ashfall in areas of Valle Central.
10 Dec 2018 -- -- -- Emissions periodically observed during periods of clear viewing. Ashfall in Moravia (31 km WSW) and Santa Ana, and residents of Heredia noted a sulfur odor.
11-12 Dec 2018 -- 500 m NW, SW The Tico Times stated some flights were delayed at San Jose airport, 67 km away.
13 Dec 2018 -- -- -- Pulsing ash emissions; ashfall in Guadalupe (32 km WSW) and Valle Central.
14-16 Dec 2018 -- -- W, SW Emissions with diffuse amounts of ash.
05-06 Jan 2019 0815 -- -- Increased after midnight on 6 Jan.
28 Jan-04 Feb 2019 -- -- -- Minor, sporadic ash emissions rose to low heights during most days.
01 Feb 2019 0640 1,500 m NW --
08 Feb 2019 0540 200 m -- Sporadic ash emissions for more than one hour.
11 Feb 2019 -- -- -- Very small ash emission.
13-15 Feb 2019 200-300 m NW, W, SW Almost continuous gas emissions with minor ash content.
15 Feb 2019 1330 1,000 m W --
18 Feb 2019 1310 500 m W --
21 Feb 2019 -- 300 m NW Frequent ash pulses.
22-24 Feb 2019 -- 300 m NW, SW Frequent ash emissions of variable intensity and duration. On 22 Feb ash fell in Santa Cruz (31 km WSW) and Santa Ana, and a sulfur odor was evident in Moravia.
28 Feb 2019 1050 500 m SW Ash pulses.

According to OVSICORI-UNA's annual summary for 2018, a slow decline in activity occurred after the volcano reached its highest emission rate during 2016. Activity during 2018 was consistent with an open system, generating frequent passive ash emissions. The volcano emitted ash on 58% of the days during the year. Some explosions were large enough to eject ballistics more than 400 m around the crater. Typical activity can be seen in a photo from 11 September 2018 (figure 50) and satellite imagery on 7 November 2018 (figure 51).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 50. Photo of an ash explosion at Turrialba taken on 11 September 2018. Courtesy of Red Sismologica Nacional (RSN: UCR-ICE), Universidad de Costa Rica.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 51. Sentinel-2 satellite image of an ash emission from Turrialba on 7 November 2018, taken in natural color (gamma adjusted). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

During January into early February 2019, passive ash emissions continued irregularly and with less intensity and duration. Emissions sometimes lacked ash. In their report of 4 February 2019, OVSICORI-UNA indicated that passive ash emissions were weak and slow. For the rest of February, they characterized ash emissions as frequent, but of low intensity.

Seismic activity. On 1 November 2018 OVSICORI-UNA reported that seismicity remained high, and involved low-amplitude banded volcanic tremor along with long-period (LP) and volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes. In late January-early February 2019, OVSICORI-UNA reported that seismicity remained relatively stable, although a small increase was associated with the hydrothermal system. VT earthquakes were absent, and tremors had decreased in both energy and duration. The number of low-frequency LP volcanic earthquakes remained stable, although they had decreasing amplitudes. No explosions were documented, and emissions were weak and had short durations and very dilute ash content.

Thermal anomalies. No thermal anomalies were recorded during the reporting period using MODIS satellite instruments processed by MODVOLC algorithm. The MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) system detected five scattered hotspots during September-October 2018, none during November-December 2018, and two during January-February 2019. All were within 2 km of the volcano and of low radiative power.

Gas measurements. Significant sulfur dioxide levels near the volcano were recorded by NASA's satellite-borne ozone instruments only on 29 September 2018 (both NPP/OMPS and Aura/OMI instruments) and on 11 February 2019 (Sentinel 5P/TROPOMI instrument). OVSICORI-UNA's gas measuring instruments were compromised in September 2018 through January 2019 due to vandalism. In early February, however, they detected hydrogen sulfide for the first time since 2016.

Geologic Background. Turrialba, the easternmost of Costa Rica's Holocene volcanoes, is a large vegetated basaltic-to-dacitic stratovolcano located across a broad saddle NE of Irazú volcano overlooking the city of Cartago. The massive edifice covers an area of 500 km2. Three well-defined craters occur at the upper SW end of a broad 800 x 2200 m summit depression that is breached to the NE. Most activity originated from the summit vent complex, but two pyroclastic cones are located on the SW flank. Five major explosive eruptions have occurred during the past 3500 years. A series of explosive eruptions during the 19th century were sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows. Fumarolic activity continues at the central and SW summit craters.

Information Contacts: Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA), Apartado 86-3000, Heredia, Costa Rica (URL: http://www.ovsicori.una.ac.cr/); Red Sismologica Nacional (RSN) a collaboration between a) the Sección de Sismología, Vulcanología y Exploración Geofísica de la Escuela Centroamericana de Geología de la Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR), and b) the Área de Amenazas y Auscultación Sismológica y Volcánica del Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE), Costa Rica (URL: https://rsn.ucr.ac.cr/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://hotspot.higp.hawaii.edu/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/); Costa Rica Star (URL: https://news.co.cr); The Tico Times (URL: https://ticotimes.net).


San Cristobal (Nicaragua) — April 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

San Cristobal

Nicaragua

12.702°N, 87.004°W; summit elev. 1745 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Weak ash explosions in January and March 2019

San Cristóbal has produced occasional weak explosions since 1999, with intermittent gas-and-ash emissions. The only reported explosion during the first half of 2018 was on 22 April, the first since November 2017 (BGVN 43:03). The current report covers activity between 1 August 2018 and 1 May 2019. The volcano is monitored by the Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER).

According to INETER, a series of explosions occurred on 9 January 2019 that lasted several hours. INETER stated that one explosion occurred at 1643; the Washington VAAC's first advisory stated that an explosion occurred at 1145 (local time). The weak explosions, which occurred after a period of heightened seismic activity, generated an ash plume that reached 200 m above the edge of the crater and drifted W. The Washington VAAC reported volcanic ash plumes on 10-11 January extending about 92 km SW, and on 24-25 January extending about 185 km WSW. A low-energy explosion was detected by the seismic network at 1550 on 4 March 2019. The event produced a gas-and-ash plume that rose 400 m above the crater rim and drifted SW.

Monitoring data reported by INETER (table 6) showed elevated levels of seismicity during October 2018 through January 2019. Sulfur dioxide was also measured at higher levels in January 2019.

Table 6. Monthly sulfur dioxide measurements and seismicity reported at San Cristóbal during August 2018-March 2019. "Most" indicates that type of seismicity was dominant that month. Data courtesy of INETER.

Month Average SO2 Total earthquakes Degassing-type earthquakes Volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes
Aug 2018 461 t/d 6,464 6,147 251
Sep 2018 893 t/d 9,659 9,586 73
Oct 2018 269 t/d 11,698 3,509 8,189
Nov 2018 -- 19,593 19,586 7
Dec 2018 -- 30,901 -- Most
Jan 2019 1,286 t/d 11,504 Most Very few
Feb 2019 695 t/d 3,470 Most Very few
Mar 2019 -- 3,882 Most Very few

Geologic Background. The San Cristóbal volcanic complex, consisting of five principal volcanic edifices, forms the NW end of the Marrabios Range. The symmetrical 1745-m-high youngest cone, named San Cristóbal (also known as El Viejo), is Nicaragua's highest volcano and is capped by a 500 x 600 m wide crater. El Chonco, with several flank lava domes, is located 4 km W of San Cristóbal; it and the eroded Moyotepe volcano, 4 km NE of San Cristóbal, are of Pleistocene age. Volcán Casita, containing an elongated summit crater, lies immediately east of San Cristóbal and was the site of a catastrophic landslide and lahar in 1998. The Plio-Pleistocene La Pelona caldera is located at the eastern end of the complex. Historical eruptions from San Cristóbal, consisting of small-to-moderate explosive activity, have been reported since the 16th century. Some other 16th-century eruptions attributed to Casita volcano are uncertain and may pertain to other Marrabios Range volcanoes.

Information Contacts: Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Apartado Postal 2110, Managua, Nicaragua (URL: http://webserver2.ineter.gob.ni/vol/dep-vol.html); Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB), NOAA/NESDIS OSPO, NOAA Science Center Room 401, 5200 Auth Rd, Camp Springs, MD 20746, USA (URL: www.ospo.noaa.gov/Products/atmosphere/vaac, archive at: http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/VAAC/archive.html).


Semisopochnoi (United States) — February 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Semisopochnoi

United States

51.93°N, 179.58°E; summit elev. 1221 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Minor ash explosions during September and October 2018

The remote Semisopochnoi comprises the uninhabited volcanic island of the same name, ~20 km in diameter, in the Rat Islands group of the western Aleutians (figure 1). Plumes had been reported several times in the 18th and 19th centuries, and most recently observed in April 1987 from Sugarloaf Peak (SEAN 12:04). The volcano is dominated by an 8-km diameter caldera that contains a small lake (Fenner Lake) and a number of post-caldera cones and craters. Monitoring is done by the Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) using an on-island seismic network along with satellite observations and lightning sensors. An infrasound array on Adak Island, about 200 km E, may detect explosive emissions with a 13 minute delay if atmospheric conditions permit.

On 16 September 2018 increased seismicity was detected at 0831, prompting AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code (ACC) to Yellow and Volcano Alert Level (VAL) to Advisory. Retrospective analysis of satellite data acquired on 10 September revealed small ash deposits on the N flank of Mount Cerberus, possibly associated with two bursts of tremor recorded on 8 September (figure 5). This new information, coupled with intensifying seismicity and a strong tremor signal recorded at 1249 on 17 September, resulted in AVO raising the ACC to Orange and the VAL to Watch. Seismicity remained elevated on 18 September with nearly constant tremor recorded by local sensors. At the same time, no ash emissions were observed in cloudy satellite images and no eruptive activity was recorded on regional pressure sensors at Adak.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Minor ash deposits can be seen on the south and west flanks of the N cone of Mount Cerberus, Semisopochnoi Island, in this ESA Sentinel-2 image from 1200 on 10 September 2018. Also note probable minor steam emissions obscuring the crater of the N cone. Image courtesy of AVO.

During 19-25 September 2018 seismicity remained elevated, alternating between periods of continuous and intermittent bursts of tremor. Tremor bursts at 1319 on 21 September and at 1034 on 22 September produced airwaves detected on a regional infrasound array on Adak Island; no ash emissions were identified above the low cloud deck in satellite data, and the infrasound detections likely reflected an atmospheric change instead of volcanic activity.

Seismicity remained elevated during 3-9 October 2018, with intermittent bursts of tremor. No volcanic activity was detected in infrasound or satellite data. On 11 October satellite data indicated partial erosion of a tephra cone in the crater of Cerberus's N cone. A crater lake about 90 m in diameter filled the vent. The data also suggested that the vent had not erupted since 1 October. Seismicity remained elevated and above background levels. The next day AVO lowered the Aviation Color Code to Yellow and the Volcano Alert Level to Advisory, noting the recent satellite data results and lack of tremor recorded during the previous week. AVO reported that unrest continued during 11-24 October.

An eruptive event began at 2047 on 25 October 2018, identified based on seismic data; strong volcanic tremor lasted about 20 minutes and was followed by 40 minutes of weak tremor pulses. A weak infrasound signal was detected by instruments on Adak Island. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Orange (the second highest level on a four-color scale) and Volcano Alert Level was raised to Watch (the second highest level on a four-level scale). A dense meteorological cloud deck prevented observations below 3 km, but a diffuse cloud was observed in satellite data rising briefly above the cloud deck, though it was unclear if it was related to eruptive activity. Tremor ended after the event, and seismicity returned to low levels.

Small explosions were detected by the seismic network at 2110 and 2246 on 26 October 2018, and 0057 and 0603 on 27 October. No ash clouds were identified in satellite data, but the volcano was obscured by high meteorological clouds. Additional small explosions were detected in seismic and infrasound data during 28-29 October; no ash clouds were observed in partly-cloudy-to-cloudy satellite images.

AVO reported on 31 October 2018 that unrest continued. Two small explosions were detected, one just before 0400 and the other around 1000. Satellite views were obscured by clouds at the time, and no ash clouds were observed. Unrest continued through 1 November, at which time the satellite link and the seismic line failed. On 21 November the ACC was lowered to Yellow and the VAL was lowered to Advisory.

Geologic Background. Semisopochnoi, the largest subaerial volcano of the western Aleutians, is 20 km wide at sea level and contains an 8-km-wide caldera. It formed as a result of collapse of a low-angle, dominantly basaltic volcano following the eruption of a large volume of dacitic pumice. The high point of the island is 1221-m-high Anvil Peak, a double-peaked late-Pleistocene cone that forms much of the island's northern part. The three-peaked 774-m-high Mount Cerberus volcano was constructed during the Holocene within the caldera. Each of the peaks contains a summit crater; lava flows on the northern flank of Cerberus appear younger than those on the southern side. Other post-caldera volcanoes include the symmetrical 855-m-high Sugarloaf Peak SSE of the caldera and Lakeshore Cone, a small cinder cone at the edge of Fenner Lake in the NE part of the caldera. Most documented historical eruptions have originated from Cerberus, although Coats (1950) considered that both Sugarloaf and Lakeshore Cone within the caldera could have been active during historical time.

Information Contacts: Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), a cooperative program of a) U.S. Geological Survey, 4200 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508-4667 USA (URL: https://avo.alaska.edu/), b) Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, PO Box 757320, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320, USA, and c) Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, 794 University Ave., Suite 200, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA (URL: http://dggs.alaska.gov/).


Asosan (Japan) — July 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Asosan

Japan

32.884°N, 131.104°E; summit elev. 1592 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Multiple brief ash emission events during April and May 2019; minor ashfall in adjacent villages

Japan's 24-km-wide Asosan caldera on the island of Kyushu has been active throughout the Holocene. Nakadake has been the most active of 17 central cones within the caldera for 2,000 years. Historical eruptions have been primarily basaltic to basaltic-andesitic ash eruptions, with periodic Strombolian activity, all from Nakadake Crater 1. The most recent major eruptive episode began in late November 2014 and continued through 1 May 2016. Another eruption, with the largest ash plume in 20 years, occurred on 8 October 2016. Asosan remained quiet until renewed activity from Crater 1 began in mid-April 2019; it is covered in this report, through the end of June 2019. The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) provides monthly reports of activity; the Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) issues aviation alerts reporting on possible ash plumes.

Asosan remained quiet during 2017 and 2018 with steam plumes rising a few hundred meters from Crater 1 and low levels of SO2 emissions; a warm acidic lake was present within the crater. Fumarolic activity from two areas on the S and SW wall of the crater rim generated occasional thermal anomalies in satellite data and incandescence at night. A brief period of increased seismicity was reported in mid-March 2019. An increase in seismic amplitude on 14 April 2019 preceded a small explosion on 16 April; it produced an ash plume which rose 200 m above the crater rim and drifted NW. It was followed by additional small explosions on 19 April. A new explosion on 3 May produced minor ashfall in adjacent communities; ash emissions were reported multiple times during May with plumes reaching 1,400 m above the crater rim. No additional ash emissions were reported in June.

Activity during 2017 and 2018. JMA reported that no eruptions occurred during 2017. Amplitudes of volcanic tremor increased somewhat during March but were generally low for the rest of the year. The earthquake hypocenters were mostly located near the active crater at around sea level. SO2 emissions were slightly less than 1,000 tons per day (t/d) from January through April; for the rest of the year they ranged from 600 to 2,500 t/d. The Alert Level had been lowered from 2 to 1 on 7 February 2017 where it remained throughout the year. Steam plumes generally rose no more than 600 m above the active crater rim (figure 42). JMA noted that from January to June they often observed crater incandescence at night with a high-sensitivity surveillance camera; Sentinel-2 satellite images also captured thermal anomalies a few times (figure 43). The green lake inside the crater persisted throughout the year with water temperatures of 50-60°C. Two fumaroles were present with high-temperature gas emissions on the SW and S crater walls. Temperatures at the S crater wall were over 600°C from February to May; they decreased to 320-560°C during the rest of the year (figure 44). Sulfur deposits were visible around the SW crater wall fumarole during July.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Steam plumes that rose around 600 m above Nakadake Crater 1 at Asosan were typical activity throughout 2017. Images taken with JMA webcam on 9 June (top left), 22 August (top right), 12 November (bottom left), and 20 December (bottom right) 2017. Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Sentinel-2 images captured thermal anomalies at the S rim of the green lake at Asosan's Nakadake Crater 1 on 16 February (left) and 27 May 2017 (right). JMA reported that incandescence was occasionally visible during the night from January-June from the same area. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. High-temperature gas and steam from fumaroles on the S wall of the Nakadake Crater 1 at Asosan on 24 August (top) and 17 November 2017 (bottom) were persistent all year, with temperatures ranging from 300 to over 600°C. The green lake inside the crater persisted throughout the year as well with water temperatures of 50-60°C. Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).

The Alert Level did not change at Asosan during 2018, and no eruptions were reported. Sulfur dioxide emissions fluctuated between 400 and 1,800 t/d throughout the year. Steam plumes generally rose less than 500 m above the active crater (figure 45); incandescence was observed at night during May-October and sometimes observed in satellite imagery as thermal anomalies (figure 46). The temperature of the green lake inside the crater ranged from 58 to 75°C throughout the year. The thermal anomaly on the S wall of the crater was consistently in the 300-500°C range, and had a high temperature in April of 580°C; in December the high temperature had risen to 738°C (figure 47). A brief increase in the number of isolated tremors occurred during March, with 1,044 reported on 4 March, exceeding the previous maximum of 1,000 on 27 October 2014. Seismicity also increased briefly during June, with more than 400 events reported each day on 8, 18, and 20 June. The Minami Aso village Yoshioka fumarole zone, located about 5 km W of Nakadake Crater 1, continued to produce modest steam plumes throughout 2017 and 2018 (figure 48).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 45. Typical steam plumes at Asosan during 2018 rose around 500 m above the Nakadake Crater 1. Images are from 4 March (top left), 22 July (top right), 17 August (lower left), and 13 September 2018 (lower right). Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 46. Nighttime incandescence was reported by JMA during May-October 2018 from the S rim of Nakadake Crater 1 at Asosan; Sentinel-2 satellite images (bands 12, 4, 2) captured thermal anomalies from the same area numerous times during 2018 including on 16 June (top left), 26 July and 19 September (middle row), and 18 and 23 November (bottom row). JMA photographed incandescence at night on 17 July 2018 at the S fumarole area (top right). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground and JMA (Aso volcano Monthly Report for July 2018).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 47. The "Green Tea Pond" inside Nakadake Crater 1 at Asosan had temperatures that ranged from 58 to 75°C during 2018 (top row, 26 March 2018); the thermal anomaly on the S wall of the crater consistently had temperatures measured in the 300-500°C range and the SW fumarole area had somewhat lower temperatures (bottom row, 22 June 2018). Courtesy of JMA (monthly Asosan reports for March, May, and June 2018).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 48. The Minami Aso village Yoshioka fumarole zone, located about 5 km W of Nakadake Crater 1 at Asosan, continued to produce modest steam plumes throughout 2017 and 2018. It is shown here on 20 December 2017 (top) and 12 March 2018 (bottom). Courtesy of JMA (December 2017 and March 2018 monthly volcano reports).

Activity during 2019. Steam plumes rose to 800 m above the crater rim during January 2019. Overall activity increased slightly during February; SO2 emissions peaked at 2,200 t/d early in the month; they ranged from 800 to 1,800 t/d for most of the month. The amplitude of volcanic tremor also increased slightly during February. A further increase in tremor amplitude on 11 March 2019 prompted JMA to raise the Alert Level from 1 to 2 the following morning. Volcanic tremor amplitude decreased on 15 March; JMA determined that activity had decreased, and the Alert Level was lowered back to 1 on 29 March 2019. The amount of water in the crater decreased significantly between 27 February and 20 March, exposing part of the crater floor.

The surface temperature of the lake rose during the first part of 2019; it was 78°C in February and 84°C in March. Steam plumes rose to 1,200 m above the crater rim during March and April. SO2 emissions rose to 4,500 t/d on 12 March but dropped to a lower range of 1,300-2,400 for the rest of the month. Another surge in SO2 emissions on 12 April 2019 to 3,600 t/d prompted a special report from JMA the following day. SO2 emissions varied from about 1,700 to 4,100 t/d during the month; values remained high during the second half of the month. JMA noted that the color of the water in the lake inside Nakadake Crater 1 changed from green to gray after 4 April. Fountains of muddy water were periodically observed; they reached 15 m high on 9 April. The temperatures of both the lake (82°C) and around the two fumarole areas (S area about 530°C, SW area about 310°C) remained constant during April and similar to March.

A large increase in the amplitude of volcanic tremor early on 14 April 2019 prompted JMA to raise the Alert Level from 1 to 2 later in the day. The epicenters of the earthquakes were very shallow, located within 1 km beneath the crater. A small eruption occurred at 1828 on 16 April at Nakadake Crater 1; it produced a gray and white plume that rose 200 m above the crater rim and was the first eruption since 8 October 2016 (figure 49). Incandescence was observed inside the crater on 3 and 17 April. The amplitude of seismic tremors decreased on 18 April. Three very small eruptions on 19 April produced ash and steam plumes that rose 500 m above the crater rim. During a site visit that day JMA measured a high-temperature area that produced incandescence from the bottom of the crater at night (figure 50).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 49. The first eruption since October 2016 at Nakadake Crater 1 at Asosan on 16 April 2019 sent an ash plume 200 m above the crater rim (top). Incandescent gas appeared on the crater floor the next day (bottom). Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, April 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 50. Three small explosions on 19 April 2019 at Asosan's Nakadake Crater 1 produced small ash emissions that rose 500 m above the crater rim (top). A strong thermal signal also appeared from the bottom of the crater. Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, April 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).

A new eruption began at 1540 on 3 May that lasted until 0620 on 5 May (figure 51). Initially the ash plume rose 600 m above the crater rim, but a few hours later the volume of ash increased, and the plume reached 2 km above the crater rim for a brief period. Incandescence was visible from the webcam. The Tokyo VAAC reported the ash plume at 3 km altitude drifting SE on 3 May. Later in the day it rose to 3.7 km altitude and drifted SW. During a field survey the following day (4 May) JMA reported a steam and ash plume rising from the center of the active crater. The infrared thermal imaging camera recorded the temperature of the plume at about 500°C (figure 52).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 51. An explosion at Asosan's Nakadake Crater 1 on 3 May 2019 produced an ash plume that reached 2 km above the crater rim (top) and incandescence visible from the webcam (bottom). Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, April 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 52. During a site visit on 4 May 2019, staff from JMA witnessed an ash and steam plume rising from the bottom of Nakadake Crater 1 at Asosan (top). The infrared thermal imaging camera recorded the temperature of the plume at about 500°C (bottom). Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, May 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).

Ash fell on the S flank, and a small amount of ashfall on 4 May was confirmed by evidence on a car windshield in Takamori Town (6 km S), Kumamoto Prefecture (figure 53). Ashfall was also reported in Takamori-machi, Minami Aso village (9 km SW), and part of Yamato-cho (25 km SW), also in the Kumamoto Prefecture. SO2 emissions were measured as high as 4,000 t/d on 4 May. Additional explosions with ash plumes were reported from Asosan on 9, 12-16, 29, and 31 May; the plumes rose from 200 to 1,400 m above the crater rim but were not visible in satellite imagery. The TROPOMI instrument on the Sentinel-5 satellite captured SO2 plumes on 3 and 26 May 2019 (figure 54).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 53. Ashfall was reported on 4 May 2019 in Takamori Town, Kumamoto Prefecture, from the eruption at Asosan's Nakadake Crater 1 on 3 May 2019. Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, May 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 54. Plumes of SO2 from Asosan were recorded by the TROPOMI instrument on the Sentinel-5P satellite on 3 (left) and 26 (right) May 2019. Courtesy of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

Steam plumes rose to 1,700 m above the crater rim during June 2019 (figure 55). During field visits on 6 and 25 June diffuse ash emissions were observed rising from the center of the active crater, but they did not extend significantly above the crater rim (figure 56). The maximum temperature of the plume was measured at about 340°C with a thermal imaging camera. Almost all of the water in the crater bottom had evaporated since early May; incandescence continued to be observed within the crater at night with the high-resolution webcam (figure 57).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 55. Steam plumes rose to 1,700 m above the crater rim at Asosan's Nakadake Crater 1 on 10 June 2019. Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, June 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 56. Plumes of gas and minor ash were visible at Asosan's Nakadake Crater 1 during site visits by JMA on 6 (left) and 25 (right) June 2019. Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, June 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 57. Incandescent gas was visible from the vent at Asosan's Nakadake Crater 1 on 18 (left) and 25 (right) June 2019. Courtesy of JMA (Aso volcano monthly activity reports, June 2019, Fukuoka District Meteorological Observatory, Regional volcano monitoring and warning center).

Geologic Background. The 24-km-wide Asosan caldera was formed during four major explosive eruptions from 300,000 to 90,000 years ago. These produced voluminous pyroclastic flows that covered much of Kyushu. The last of these, the Aso-4 eruption, produced more than 600 km3 of airfall tephra and pyroclastic-flow deposits. A group of 17 central cones was constructed in the middle of the caldera, one of which, Nakadake, is one of Japan's most active volcanoes. It was the location of Japan's first documented historical eruption in 553 CE. The Nakadake complex has remained active throughout the Holocene. Several other cones have been active during the Holocene, including the Kometsuka scoria cone as recently as about 210 CE. Historical eruptions have largely consisted of basaltic to basaltic-andesite ash emission with periodic strombolian and phreatomagmatic activity. The summit crater of Nakadake is accessible by toll road and cable car, and is one of Kyushu's most popular tourist destinations.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Otemachi, 1-3-4, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan (URL: http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/svd/vaac/data/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/).


Nyamuragira (DR Congo) — May 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Nyamuragira

DR Congo

1.408°S, 29.2°E; summit elev. 3058 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Lava lake reappears in central crater in April 2018; activity tapers off during April 2019

The Virunga Volcanic Province (VVP) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is part of the western branch of the East African Rift System. Nyamuragira (or Nyamulagira), a high-potassium basaltic shield volcano on the W edge of VVP, includes a lava field that covers over 1,100 km2 and contains more than 100 flank cones in addition to a large central crater (see figure 63, BGVN 42:06). A lava lake that had been active for many years emptied from the central crater in 1938. Numerous flank eruptions were observed after that time, the most recent during November 2011-March 2012 on the NE flank. This was followed by a period of degassing with unusually SO2-rich plumes from April 2012 through April 2014 (BGVN 42:06). The lava lake reappeared during July 2014-April 2016 and November 2016-May 2017, producing a strong thermal signature. After a year of quiet, a new lava lake appeared in April 2018, reported below (through May 2019) with information provided by the Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma (OVG), MONUSCO (the United Nations Organization working in the area), and satellite data and imagery from multiple sources.

Fresh lava reappeared inside the summit crater in mid-April 2018 from a lava lake and adjacent spatter cone. Satellite imagery and very limited ground-based observations suggested that intermittent pulses of activity from both sources produced significant lava flows within the summit crater through April 2019 when the strength of the thermal signal declined significantly. Images from May 2019 showed a smaller but persistent thermal anomaly within the crater.

Activity from October 2017-May 2019. Indications of thermal activity tapered off in May 2017 (BGVN 42:11). On 20 October 2017 OVG released a communication stating that a brief episode of unspecified activity occurred on 17 and 18 October, but the volcano returned to lower activity levels on 20 October. There was no evidence of thermal activity during the month. The volcano remained quiet with no reports of thermal activity until April 2018 (figure 73).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 73. Sentinel-2 satellite images (bands 12, 4, 2) indicated no thermal activity at Nyamuragira on 19 November (top left), 14 December 2017 (top right) and 18 January 2018 (bottom). However, Nyiragongo (about 13 km SE) had an active lava lake with a gas plume drifting SW on 18 January 2018 (bottom right). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

OVG reported the new lava emissions beginning on 14 April 2018 as appearing from both the lava lake and a small adjacent spatter cone (figure 74). The first satellite image showing thermal activity at the summit appeared on 18 April 2018 (figure 75) and coincided with the abrupt beginning of strong MIROVA thermal signals (figure 76). MODVOLC thermal alerts also first appeared on 18 April 2018. An image of the active crater taken on 9 May 2018 showed the lake filled with fresh lava and two adjacent incandescent spatter cones (figure 77).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 74. Fresh lava reappeared at Nyamuragira's crater during April 2018 from the lava lake (left) and the adjacent small spatter cone (right). Courtesy of OVG (Republique Democratique du Congo, Ministere de la Recherche Scientifique, Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, Direction Generale Goma, Rapport Avril 2018).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 75. The first satellite image (bands 12, 4, 2) indicating renewed thermal activity at the Nyamuragira crater appeared on 18 April 2018; the signal remained strong a few weeks later on 3 May 2018. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 76. A strong thermal signal appeared in the MIROVA graph of Log Radiative Power on 18 April 2018 for Nyamuragira, indicating a return of the lava lake at the summit crater. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 77. Fresh lava filled the lake inside the crater at Nyamuragira on 9 May 2018. Two spatter cones were incandescent with gas emissions. Courtesy of OVG (Republique Democratique du Congo, Ministere de la Recherche Scientifique, Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, Direction Generale Goma, Rapport Mai 2018).

Satellite images confirmed that ongoing activity from the lava lake remained strong during June -September 2018 (figure 78). A mission to Nyamuragira was carried out by helicopter provided by MONUSCO on 20 July 2018; lava lake activity was observed along with gas emissions from the small spatter cone (figure 79). OVG reported increased volcanic seismicity during 1-3 and 10-17 September 2018, and also during October, located in the crater area, mostly at depths of 0-5 km.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 78. Sentinel-2 satellite images (bands 12, 4, 2) confirmed that ongoing activity from the lava lake at Nyamuragira remained strong during June-September 2018, likely covering the crater floor with a significant amount of fresh lava. Image are from 12 June (top left), 7 July (top right), 17 July (middle left), 22 July (middle right), 11 August (bottom left), and 20 September (bottom right). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 79. The crater at Nyamuragira on 20 July 2018 had an active lava lake and adjacent incandescent spatter cone with gas emissions. Courtesy of OVG (Republique Democratique du Congo, Ministere de la Recherche Scientifique, Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, Direction Generale Goma, Rapport Juillet 2018).

Personnel from OVG and MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DR Congo) made site visits on 11 October and 2 November 2018 and concluded that the level of the active lava lake had increased during that time (figure 80). On 2 November OVG measured the height from the base of the active cone to the W rim of the crater as 58 m (figure 81).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 80. OVG scientists reported a rise in the lake level between site visits to the Nyamuragira crater on 11 October (top) and 2 November 2018 (bottom). Top image courtesy of MONUSCO and Culture Vulcan, bottom image courtesy of OVG (Republique Democratique du Congo, Ministere de la Recherche Scientifique, Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, Direction Generale Goma, Rapport Octobre 2018).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 81. On 2 November 2018 scientists from OVG measured the height from the base of the active cone to the W rim of the crater as 58 m. Courtesy of OVG (Republique Democratique du Congo, Ministere de la Recherche Scientifique, Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma, Direction Generale Goma, Rapport Octobre 2018).

Seismicity remained high during November 2018 but decreased significantly during December. Instrument and access issues in January 2019 prevented accurate assessment of seismicity for the month. The lava lake remained active with periodic surges of thermal activity during November 2018-March 2019 (figure 82). Multiple images show incandescence in multiple places within the crater, suggesting significant fresh overflowing lava.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 82. The active lava lake at Nyamuragira produced strong thermal signals from November 2018 through March 2019 that were recorded in Sentinel-2 satellite images (bands 12, 4, 2). Several images suggest fresh lava cooling around the rim of the crater in addition to the active lake. A relatively cloud-free day on 19 November 2018 (top left) revealed no clear thermal signal, but a strong signal was recorded on 29 November (top right) despite significant cloud cover. Images from 13 and 28 January 2019 (second row) both showed evidence of incandescent lava in multiple places within the crater. The thermal signal was smaller and focused on the center of the crater on 12 and 27 February 2019 (third row). Images taken on 9 and 19 March 2019 clearly showed incandescent material at the center of the crater and around the rim (bottom row). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

On 12 April 2019 a Ukrainian Aviation Unit supported by MONUSCO provided support for scientists visiting the crater for observations and seismic analysis. Satellite data confirmed ongoing thermal activity into May, although the strength of the signal appeared to decrease (figure 83). MODVOLC thermal alerts ceased after 8 April, and the MIROVA thermal data also confirmed a decrease in the strength of the thermal signal during April 2019 (figure 84).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 83. Sentinel-2 satellite data (bands 12, 4, 2) confirmed ongoing thermal activity at Nyamuragira into May 2019. The thermal anomalies on 18 April (left) and 3 May (right) 2019 were smaller than those recorded during previous months. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 84. The MIROVA graph of thermal activity (log radiative power) at Nyamuragira from 16 July 2018 through April 2019 showed near-constant levels of high activity through April 2019 when it declined. This corresponded well with satellite and ground-based observations. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. Africa's most active volcano, Nyamuragira, is a massive high-potassium basaltic shield about 25 km N of Lake Kivu. Also known as Nyamulagira, it has generated extensive lava flows that cover 1500 km2 of the western branch of the East African Rift. The broad low-angle shield volcano contrasts dramatically with the adjacent steep-sided Nyiragongo to the SW. The summit is truncated by a small 2 x 2.3 km caldera that has walls up to about 100 m high. Historical eruptions have occurred within the summit caldera, as well as from the numerous fissures and cinder cones on the flanks. A lava lake in the summit crater, active since at least 1921, drained in 1938, at the time of a major flank eruption. Historical lava flows extend down the flanks more than 30 km from the summit, reaching as far as Lake Kivu.

Information Contacts: Observatoire Volcanologique de Goma (OVG), Departement de Geophysique, Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Lwiro, D.S. Bukavu, DR Congo; Katcho Karume, Director; Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); MONUSCO, United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DR Congo (URL: https://monusco.unmissions.org/en/, Twitter: @MONUSCO); Cultur Volcan, Journal d'un volcanophile (URL: https://laculturevolcan.blogspot.com), Twitter: @CultureVolcan).


Tengger Caldera (Indonesia) — May 2019 Citation iconCite this Report

Tengger Caldera

Indonesia

7.942°S, 112.95°E; summit elev. 2329 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


New explosions with ash plumes from Bromo Cone mid-February-April 2019

The 16-km-wide Tengger Caldera in East Java, Indonesia is a massive volcanic complex with numerous overlapping stratovolcanos (figure 11). Mount Bromo is a pyroclastic cone that lies within the large Sandsea Caldera at the northern end of the complex (figure 12) and has erupted more than 20 times during each of the last two centuries. It is part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park (also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) and is frequently visited by tourists. The last eruption from November 2015 to November 2016 produced hundreds of ash plumes that rose as high as 4 km altitude; some of them drifted for hundreds of kilometers before dissipating and briefly disrupted air traffic. Only steam and gas plumes were observed at Mount Bromo from December 2016 to February 2018 when a new series of explosions with ash plumes began; they are covered in this report with information provided by the Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as CVGHM) and the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC). Copyrighted ground and drone-based images from Øystein Lund Andersen have been used with permission of the photographer.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 11. The Tengger Caldera viewed from the north Mount Bromo issuing steam in the foreground and Semeru volcano in the background on 30 September 2018. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 12. Aerial view of the Bromo Cone in Tengger Caldera seen from the west on 30 September 2018. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen, used with permission.

PVMBG lowered the Alert Level at Bromo on 21 October 2016 from III to II near the end of an eruptive episode lasting nearly a year. The last VAAC report was issued on 12 November 2016 (BGVN 41:12) noting that the last ash emission had been observed the previous day drifting NW at 3 km altitude. Throughout 2017 and 2018 Bromo remained at Alert Level II, with no unusual activity described by PVMBG. During 1-2 September 2018, a wildfire in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park burned 65 hectares of savannah (figure 13); the fire produced 12 MODVOLC thermal alerts around the Tengger Caldera rim. No reports of increased volcanic activity were issued by PVMBG during the period.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. A wall of fire in the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park savanna during 1-2 September 2018 produced thermal alerts that were not related to volcanic activity at the Bromo Cone in Tengger Caldera. Image courtesy of the park authority, reported by Mongabay. MODVOLC thermal alerts courtesy of Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP).

After slightly more than two years of little activity other than gas and steam plumes, ash emissions resumed from the Bromo Cone on 18 February 2019. After a brief pause, a new explosion on 10 March marked the beginning of a series of near-daily ash emissions that lasted for the rest of March, producing ash plumes that rose to altitudes ranging from 3.0 to 5.2 km and drifted in many different directions. A new series of ash emissions began on 6 April, rising to 3 km and also drifting in multiple directions. Ash emission density decreased during the month; plumes were only rising a few hundred meters above the summit by the end of April and consisted of mostly steam and moderate amounts of ash.

Activity during February-April 2019. PVMBG reported that at 0600 on 18 February 2019 an eruption at Tengger Caldera's Bromo Cone generated a dense white-and-brown ash plume that rose 600 m and drifted WSW. The plume was not visible in satellite imagery, according to the Darwin VAAC. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4). After a few weeks of quiet a new explosion on 10 March (local time) produced a white, brown, and gray ash plume that rose 600 m above the summit; the plume was visible in satellite imagery extending SW. Increased tremor amplitude was also reported on 10 March. A new emission the next morning produced similar ash plumes that drifted S, SW, and W at 3 km altitude. On the morning of 12 March (local time) a continuous ash plume was observed in satellite imagery at 3.4 km altitude drifting SW. The plume drifted counterclockwise towards the S, E, and NE throughout the day and continued to drift NE and SE on 13 March. The altitude of the plume was reported at 4.3 km later that day based on a pilot report.

Continuous brown, gray, and black ash emissions were reported by PVMBG during 14-19 March at altitudes ranging from 3 to 3.9 km; they drifted generally NE to NW. Ashfall was noted around the crater and downwind a short distance. The Darwin VAAC reported continuous ash emissions to 5.2 km altitude drifting SE on 20 March. It was initially reported by a pilot and partially discernable in satellite imagery before dissipating. Ongoing ash emissions of variable densities and colors ranging from white to black were intermittently visible in satellite imagery and confirmed in webcam and ground reports at around 3.0 km altitude during 21-25 March (figures 14-17). Ashfall impacted the closest villages to Bromo, including Cemara Lawang (30 km NW), which was covered by a thin layer of ash. A few trees in the area were toppled over by the weight of the ash. The plume altitude increased slightly on 26 March to 3.7-3.9 km, drifting N and NE. The higher altitude plume dissipated early on 28 March, but ash emissions continued at 3.0 km for the rest of the day.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 14. Ash drifted NNE from the Bromo Cone in Tengger Caldera on 23 March 2019. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen (drone image), used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 15. Ash drifted N from the Bromo Cone in Tengger Caldera on 23 March 2019. The Batok Cone is on the right, Segera Wedi is behind Bromo, and Semeru is in the far background. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 16. A few trees toppled from ashfall in the vicinity of the Bromo Cone in Tengger Caldera on 24 March 2019. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 17. Ash plumes from the Bromo Cone in Tengger Caldera on 24 March 2019 caused ashfall in communities as far as 30 km away. View is from the floor of the Sandsea Caldera. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen, used with permission.

After just a few days of quiet, new ash emissions rising to 3.0 km altitude and drifting SE were reported by both PVMBG (from the webcam) and the Darwin VAAC on 6 April 2019. By the next day the continuous ash emissions were drifting N, then E during 8-10 April, and S during 11 and 12 April. A new emission seen in the webcam was reported by the Darwin VAAC on 15 April (UTC) that rose to 3.0 km and drifted W. Ash plumes were intermittently visible in either webcam or satellite imagery until 17 April rising 500-1,000 m above the crater; from 19-25 April only steam plumes were reported rising 300-500 m above the summit. A minor ash emission was reported from the webcam on 26 April that rose to 3.0 km altitude and drifted NE for a few hours before dissipating. PVMBG reported medium density white to gray ash plumes that rose 400-600 m above the crater for the remainder of the month.

Geologic Background. The 16-km-wide Tengger caldera is located at the northern end of a volcanic massif extending from Semeru volcano. The massive volcanic complex dates back to about 820,000 years ago and consists of five overlapping stratovolcanoes, each truncated by a caldera. Lava domes, pyroclastic cones, and a maar occupy the flanks of the massif. The Ngadisari caldera at the NE end of the complex formed about 150,000 years ago and is now drained through the Sapikerep valley. The most recent of the calderas is the 9 x 10 km wide Sandsea caldera at the SW end of the complex, which formed incrementally during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene. An overlapping cluster of post-caldera cones was constructed on the floor of the Sandsea caldera within the past several thousand years. The youngest of these is Bromo, one of Java's most active and most frequently visited volcanoes.

Information Contacts: Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory Regional Office, PO Box 40050, Casuarina, NT 0811, Australia (URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/); Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) - MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); Øystein Lund Andersen (Twitter: @OysteinLAnderse, https://twitter.com/OysteinLAnderse, URL: http://www.oysteinlundandersen.com); Mongabay, URL: https://news.mongabay.com/2018/09/fires-tear-through-east-java-park-threatening-leopard-habitat/.

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Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network - Volume 27, Number 03 (March 2002)

Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Etna (Italy)

Overview of Etna's much-photographed July-August 2001 flank eruption

Fuego (Guatemala)

Costly 1999 aircraft-ash encounters due to ash plumes

Karymsky (Russia)

Elevated seismicity; possible explosions and avalanches in March 2002

Kilauea (United States)

Lava stops entering sea during January, tilting in late March-April 2002

Manam (Papua New Guinea)

Mild eruptions during January-February 2002

Miyakejima (Japan)

Eruptive activity decreases; high SO2 flux through April 2002

Nyiragongo (DR Congo)

Report of field work; MODIS imagery from January 2002 eruption

Pacaya (Guatemala)

Costly 1999 aircraft-ash encounters due to ash plumes

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea)

M 5.6 earthquakes during March 2002 not related to volcanism

Sheveluch (Russia)

Growing dome, greater seismicity, and plumes to 10 km in early 2002

Ulawun (Papua New Guinea)

Isolated tremor episodes and slow deflation through March 2002



Etna (Italy) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Etna

Italy

37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3295 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Overview of Etna's much-photographed July-August 2001 flank eruption

The last flank eruption at Etna occurred in 1993, but eruptive activity has been nearly continuous in the summit area since late July 1995. Unusually vigorous eruptions in early June 2001 (BGVN 26:08) were followed by still more energetic behavior. An earthquake swarm took place in mid-July, and large SSE-flank eruptions vented lavas in late July and early August on a scale not seen since 1983 (BGVN 26:09). Though this activity has been reported in previous Bulletin reports, what follows is a more detailed description of the summer 2001 activity.

Precursory phases. During the first half of 2001 most activity occurred at the Southeast Crater (SEC), starting with very slow lava extrusion from a vent on the NNE flank of its cone in late January. During the next three months the lava emission rate progressively increased and, in late April, weak ejections of lava fragments began to build small spatter cones (also known as hornitos) in the vent area. Strombolian activity resumed at the SEC's summit vent on 7 May, followed by an episode of vigorous Strombolian activity and lava fountaining two days later.

The activity then returned to lower levels, but for the next two months the SEC was the site of very picturesque continuous and persistent activity, with mild, discontinuous Strombolian explosions from the summit vent and vigorous lava emission (at times accompanied by lava spattering) from vent(s) on the NNE flank. At this spot, a large, steep-sided cone consisting of overlapping lava flows and spatter began to grow, and it was informally named "Levantino." From Levantino (figure 93, upper part), lava flowed NE (toward the Valle del Leone), E, and SE (toward the Valle del Bove), forming a composite lava field with numerous overlapping flow lobes. The longest flows extended up to 2 km from the vent(s). From late May to early June the continuous and relatively harmless activity attracted many visitors.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 93. Inset map (upper left) and sketch map showing Etna's July-August 2001 lava flows, fissures, and related features. The 1983 lava flow-field on the S flank (lighter shading) is shown for comparison. The legend is also linked to numbers near the vents and fissures, as a way to indicate the sequence of activity. The pattern of activity lacked a simple spatial progression. For the time citations, note that the eruption occurred during daylight saving time (UTC + 2 hours). The sketch map is preliminary; it is a composite based on both fieldwork by Behnke and others, and already available maps appearing on the web, including those on the site of INGV-Sezione di Catania. Courtesy of Boris Behnke and Marco Neri, INGV.

The prelude to the main eruption began in early June, with the first strong phase on 7 June, which was mostly confined to lava fountaining at the Levantino, whereas only mild Strombolian activity occurred at the SEC summit vent. During the following six weeks the vigor of the eruptive episodes gradually increased and at times culminated in true lava fountaining from the summit vent. Fourteen such episodes occurred between 7 June and 13 July (7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24, 27-28 and 30 June; 4, 7 and 13 July), ending with the most violent outburst of the series. Immediately after its cessation, vigorous seismicity began, including shocks that were felt as far as the cities of Acireale and Catania (figure 93 index map).

Between the early mornings of 13 and 17 July, about 2,600 tremors, mostly unfelt, were recorded instrumentally. During this same time interval, severe ground cracking and faulting occurred in various places on the W rim of the Valle del Bove and near the "Cisternazza" pit crater on the Piano del Lago ("PDL," figure 3), a flat area at ~2,500 m elevation to the N of the Montagnola. Press sources cited local volcanologists saying that magma was rising through a dike and stagnating about 1 km below the surface. Steaming was observed at some of the new fractures, but as of the late evening of 16 July no magma had reached the surface. Seismicity continued at a slightly decreased rate.

Shortly after midnight on 17 July, yet another paroxysmal episode occurred at the SEC. This was similar to its 13 July predecessor, with vigorous lava fountaining from the summit vent and the Levantino. It was the last event that could be considered part of the prelude to the main eruption. Figure 93 shows a sketch map of the lava flows that ultimately resulted from the July-August 2001 eruption. The inset at upper left shows the 2001 lavas and locations of various towns on Etna's S, SE, and E flanks.

Eruption of 17 July-9 August 2001. As defined here, the main eruption lasted nearly 24 days, from early 17 July to late 9 August 2001. It began a few hours after the last paroxysmal eruptive episode at the SEC.

An eruptive fissure opened at about 0700 on 17 July at the SSE base of the SEC at ~ 2,950 m elevation (point 1 on figure 93). Vigorous lava spattering occurred at a number of vents, while lava flows advanced toward SE, in the direction of the Valle del Bove rim. Several hours later, at 2200, another fissure opened at an elevation of ~ 2,700 m (point 2 on figure 93), a bit to the W of a panoramic point on the W rim of the Valle del Bove known as "Belvedere," and lava began to extend S from there, across the Piano del Lago, and in the direction of the cable car and ski lifts (shown by the vertical dotted line just beneath PDL on figure 93).

At 0120 on 18 July, a third eruptive fissure became active on the S flank of the Montagnola at ~ 2,100 m elevation, slightly uphill of the Monti Calcarazzi (point 3 on figure 93). Activity at this fissure was initially weak, and a sluggish lava flow began to move from the lower end of the fissure toward the Monte Silvestri superiore, a large complex cinder cone formed in 1892. During the day, the activity gradually increased; lava flowed around the W side of the Monte Silvestri, crossed the road (which connected the Rifugio Sapienza-cable car area with the town of Zafferana) and passed close to buildings. By late evening on 18 July the flow front was at 1,800 m elevation. On 19 July, the lava flow fed by the vents at 2,100 m elevation continued to pass between numerous older cinder cones along the E margin of the 1983 lava flow-field. At the same time eruptive activity continued unabated at all eruptive fissures.

On the evening of 19 July at about 1900, a new vent opened on the Piano del Lago at ~2,570 m elevation, ~ 500 m N of the Montagnola (point 4 on figure 93; "Montagnola 2", "Monte del Lago" or "Cono del Laghetto", unfortunately, all three names are in common usage). The activity was characterized by violent phreatomagmatic explosions that produced a black, ash-laden column and ejected large blocks of older volcanic rocks. This phreatomagmatic activity might have been the result of magma-water interactions with shallow ground water. (The name, Piano del Lago, the "plain of the lake," derives from the fact that frequently during the spring snow-melt a small meltwater lake had formed in that area.) To observers familiar with footage of the 1963 Surtsey (Iceland) eruption, the steam-and-ash columns rising from the new vent appeared strikingly similar. After nightfall spectacular lightning flashed through the plume and ash fell over inhabited areas including the NE, E, SE, and S flanks. Close observation of the vent at 2,570 m elevation revealed a simple, though constantly eroding, pit. Rumors spread that the pit would eventually "make the Montagnola cave in;" however, it remained intact.

The front of the lava flow emitted at 2,100 m elevation (point 3 on figure 93) was at 1,350 m late on the evening of 19 July. It still advanced vigorously, though at reduced speed (~45 m/hour). Soon after, authorities declared a state of emergency.

By the evening of 20 July the front of the lava flow had reached 1,220 m elevation, but it had slowed in a gently sloping area. Nonetheless, the threat to Nicolosi had become international news. The main risk now came from forest and bush fires. Helicopters began to drop large quantities of water onto the burning forest (not onto the lava flow, as was widely reported). Fortunately, no fires broke out. By late 21 July the lava flow's front had reached 1,050 m elevation.

During the night of 19-20 July, the SEC reactivated, and lava began to issue from the NNE side of the Levantino, forming a small flow that advanced in the direction of the Valle del Bove.

At about 1100 on 21 July, yet another eruptive fissure formed (point 5 on figure 93). It emerged on the NE flank, far away from the earlier fissures (below the Pizzi Deneri on the floor of the Valle del Leone). Figure 93 portrays the impressive arcuate fracture system that developed. The lava first issued from the fissure's uppermost portion at ~ 2,700 m elevation, then from its eastern extension ~50 m further downslope. A fracture system formed between this northeasternmost fissure and the E side of the summit crater area, and fissures up to 1 m wide opened on the slope between the Bocca Nuova and the SEC, and began emitting dense vapor plumes.

The large pit crater on the Piano del Lago at 2,570 m elevation continued to produce dense, ash-laden plumes. In late July ash fell over the area between Zafferana and Acireale (inset, figure 93).

On 21 July, the eruption continued with unabated vigor at all eruptive fissures. Late that day, the lava from the vents at 2,700 m had not further advanced on the steep slope above the tourist complex of the Rifugio Sapienza area (shown as Rif. Sapienza, figure 93).

The next day, 22 July, a shift in the wind direction drove the dense ash plume produced by the phreatomagmatic vent at 2,570 m elevation directly over the Catania area, paralyzing the city's Fontanarossa International Airport, and dropping large amounts of fine, black, sand-sized tephra over streets and buildings. Eruptive activity continued without significant variations at all fissures, although the main lava flow directed toward Nicolosi had slowed significantly and advanced only a few meters per hour, still 4 km from the outskirts of the town. That evening, minor, though fast-moving lava tongues fed by the vents at 2,700 m elevation spilled down the steep slope above the tourist complex, destroying part of the ski lifts and threatening to overwhelm some of the poles of the cable car. However, none of these flows made it further than about halfway down that slope. Vigorous Strombolian activity continued at the fissure at 2,100 m elevation, and a cone about 20-30 m high had formed around the largest of its vents, while minor lava spattering from four vents in the lower part of the fissure was building a low-spatter rampart. The lava flow from this fissure moved as a single, broad unit (point 6 on figure 93). Throughout 23 July the activity showed little variation.

On 24 July it became clear that something was changing at the Piano del Lago crater, which until then had displayed only phreatomagmatic activity. Loud detonations came from the Piano del Lago vent on the morning of 25 July, as the activity there had now become purely magmatic.

A new cone was growing on the former Piano del Lago on 26 July produced near-continuous explosions accompanied by loud detonations that could be heard ten's of kilometers away. The cone received bombs ejected from at least three vents within it. Lava began flowing from vents on its S and N sides, spilling around the N and NW sides of the Montagnola and down the steep slope on the W side of that cone toward the Rifugio Sapienza. The new lava flow passed E of the lower cable car station, covered another portion of the road and advanced a few hundred meters further. Vigorous eruptive activity continued on 26 July at the eruptive fissure at 2,950 m elevation, while the fissure at 2,700 m elevation continued to emit lava but pyroclastic activity there had ended. Weak activity continued at the Valle del Leone fissure, with lava flowing toward Monte Simone (in the N part of the Valle del Bove), and the fissure at 2,100 m elevation showed no significant changes in its activity with respect to the previous days.

During 27-30 July the eruption produced some outstanding displays (figures 94 and 95) and caused the greatest impact on human structures. While the fissure in the Valle del Leone showed ever-lower levels of activity and the fissures at 2,900, 2,700, and 2,100 m elevation continued to erupt in a manner almost identical to the previous days, the Montagnola 2 cone and several nearby vents not only provided a show, but vents on its N and S flanks delivered vigorous lava flows that spilled down the steep slope to the W of the Montagnola in surges, presenting a continuous threat to the Rifugio Sapienza area.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 94. At Etna, a night view taken from high on the S flanks near Torre del Filosofo documenting the erupting vents at 2,700 m elevation (left) and a lava fountain at the Piano del Lago cone (right), probably taken on 30 July 2001. The camera was aimed SE. Lights of towns between Acireale and Giarre are visible in the background. Photo was published in the 1 August 2001 issue of the "La Sicilia" newspaper.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 95. Spectacular aerial view of the largest cone formed in Etna's eruption during July-August 2001, built on what used to be the "Piano del Lago" at ~ 2,500 m elevation on the S flank. View is to the SW. Most of the cone grew in a few days in late July; this photo shows the waning phase around 2 August when only ash was emitted. After the end of the activity the summit of the cone stood nearly 100 m higher than its base, but then partially collapsed leaving the cone ~ 80 m higher. To the left of the cone is the 1763 Montagnola crater. Between the two lies a fuming vent; it emitted one of the latest lava flows in the area (black ribbon extending to the left margin of the photo). Other lava flows that were emitted from vents at ~ 2,700 m elevation (out of the photo to the right) can be seen in the right foreground. Yet another lava lobe extends toward the lower left corner of the photo; it emerged at the E base of the Piano del Lago cone. Photograph by volcanologists of the INGV (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology); published on 6 August 2001 in the "La Sicilia" newspaper.

A lava flow from the southern base of the Piana del Lago cone on 27 July remained active for about 2 days (point 7 of figure 93). This cone produced three distinct lava flow units from three different vents on its SW, S, and NW sides; those from the SW vent were the most damaging. On the evening of 30 July, the eruption claimed the upper cable car station, which burst into flames as a tongue of lava invaded its interior. Behind it, the rapidly growing cone of the Piano del Lago sent its lava fountains hundreds of meters into the sky, producing ground-shaking detonations.

During late July, the rate of lava emission in the direction of the Rifugio Sapienza area diminished as a new vent opened on the S side of the Piano del Lago cone, from which a lava flow spilled over the crest of the Valle del Bove and flowed to the bottom of the Valle, covering a portion of lava erupted in 1991-1993. The Valle del Leone fissure ceased emitting lava. The Montagnola 2 had become a large cone. It again shifted from magmatic to phreatomagmatic activity. Although the level of activity at this cone was decreasing, ash columns developed, and the wind carried the ash again in the direction of Catania, again closing the Fontanarossa airport. Vigorous eruptive activity continued during the first days of August at the fissure at 2,100 m elevation, but the lava effusion rate had dropped, and only the central portion of the original flow remained active, feeding a flow that advanced on top of the larger earlier flow from the same fissure. Strong phreatomagmatic explosions occurred from time to time at the upper vents on this fissure. Lava also continued to pour from the fissure at 2,700 m elevation, and numerous active flow lobes extended SE toward Monte Nero.

Beginning on 3 August the activity at the fissure at 2,100 m elevation showed a marked decrease. During the last week of the eruption (4-10 August) lava continued to flow from that fissure at a rapidly diminishing rate, explosive activity ended, and the fissures at 2,950 and 2,700 m elevation ceased erupting. Ash emission from the Piano del Lago cone ended around 6 August. Lava was last seen flowing from the fissure at 2,100 m elevation on late 9 or early 10 August. The eruption ended after almost 24 days, much earlier than its vigorous onset had suggested.

Products of the eruption and morphological changes. The July-August 2001 eruption emitted at least eight distinct lava flows which mostly affected the S and SSW flanks of Etna. The most damaging flows came from vents near the Piano del Lago cone at 2,570 m elevation. This cone produced most of the pyroclastic material, of which the most fine-grained portion (ash) caused widespread distress.

Petrographically, the lavas fall into two main groups, one of which is essentially similar to the historical products of Etna (porphyric hawaiites with phenocrysts of plagioclase, clinopyroxene and olivine), while the other shows characteristics not seen in any Etnean lavas during the past millennia (alkalic basalts).

Several major pyroclastic edifices grew during the eruption. The largest, the Piano del Lago cone at ~2,570 m elevation, is a nearly symmetrical cone, ~80 m high, which grew mostly between 25 and 31 July. It is crowned by a large crater ~150 m across and 50-60 m deep with near-vertical walls. During a visit on 30 August a few fumaroles located on the SEC walls emitted vapor and gas without forming a visible plume. A spectacular dike was exposed at the base of the E crater wall, and a less conspicuous dike was visible at the base of the WNW crater wall. Several faults or groups of faults were visible in the E and NE crater walls; a narrow graben developed on top of the E crater wall dike. The second-largest pyroclastic edifice lies in the upper part of the fissure at 2,100 m elevation.

Extensive (non-eruptive) fracture systems formed between the various eruptive fissures. Some of them began to form before the eruption, others developed during its first week. Many of these fractures are arranged in an en echelon pattern, which is especially notable in the Valle del Leone, between the northeastern (2,600 m) vents and the SEC. Other spectacular fractures opened between the Piano del Lago cone and the eruptive fissure at 2,100 m elevation. However, the most impressive fractures developed on the E side of the former Central Crater (now occupied by the Voragine and the Bocca Nuova), where they attained widths of more than 1 m. These fractures were vigorously steaming when visited in late-August and mid-September 2001. Fracturing also affected the southern face of the SEC cone.

About 5.5 km2 of Etna's upper and middle slopes were covered with new lava (compared to 7.6 km2 in the 1991-1993 flank eruption). The total volume of lavas and pyroclastics emitted during the eruption is ~ 30-35 x 106 m3 (25 x 106 m3 of lava and 5-10 x 106 m3 of pyroclastics, all calculated as dense rock equivalent), which makes this eruption a relatively modest-sized one for Etna (the 1991-1993 eruption had produced ~ 235 x 106 m3 of lava). Yet the fairly high proportion of pyroclastic material distinguishes this eruption from most other recent Etnean flank eruptions.

The most productive vents were those at 2,100 m elevation, which produced the longest (~ 7 km) and most voluminous (slightly less than 14 x 106 m3) single lava flow. The average combined effusion rate at all eruptive fissures throughout the eruption was ~11 m3/s, with peak rates of 14-16 m3/s. It is assumed that much of the magma that accumulated in one or more reservoirs below the base of the volcano in the years preceding the eruption was not erupted and remains available for future eruptions.

Geologic Background. Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily's second largest city, has one of the world's longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 BCE. Historical lava flows of basaltic composition cover much of the surface of this massive volcano, whose edifice is the highest and most voluminous in Italy. The Mongibello stratovolcano, truncated by several small calderas, was constructed during the late Pleistocene and Holocene over an older shield volcano. The most prominent morphological feature of Etna is the Valle del Bove, a 5 x 10 km horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the east. Two styles of eruptive activity typically occur, sometimes simultaneously. Persistent explosive eruptions, sometimes with minor lava emissions, take place from one or more summit craters. Flank vents, typically with higher effusion rates, are less frequently active and originate from fissures that open progressively downward from near the summit (usually accompanied by Strombolian eruptions at the upper end). Cinder cones are commonly constructed over the vents of lower-flank lava flows. Lava flows extend to the foot of the volcano on all sides and have reached the sea over a broad area on the SE flank.

Information Contacts: Boris Behncke, Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche (Sezione di Geologia e Geofisica), Palazzo delle Scienze, Corso Italia 55, 95129 Catania, Italy.


Fuego (Guatemala) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Fuego

Guatemala

14.473°N, 90.88°W; summit elev. 3763 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Costly 1999 aircraft-ash encounters due to ash plumes

At least two commercial aircraft flew through airborne ash near the Guatemala City airport on 21 May 1999. An eruption from Fuego that day was the first at that volcano since 1987 (BGVN 24:04). Although the aviator's reports attributed the ash from this encounter to Fuego, their aircraft intersected multiple ash plumes in widely different locations, and thus they may also have crossed plumes from Pacaya. The most likely plume near the southern approach to the airport (La Aurora, ~23 km N of Pacaya; ~40 km NE of Fuego) is from the almost constantly active Pacaya. In contrast, Fuego lies 32 km W of Pacaya and was the likely source of a plume intersected later during the flight, at higher altitude, and for much longer duration.

During the encounters the ~100 or more people on board the two aircraft, and many more on the ground, were at risk. Both encounters seriously damaged the aircraft but ended in safe landings without reported injuries. Volcanic ash can cause jet-engine failure, which creates a hazard not only to passengers, but to people on the ground as well. The risk in this situation was amplified by the airport's proximity to urban Guatemala City (population, >1.1 million).

This example leads to two conclusions discussed further below. First, ash avoidance methodology needs further refinement. Second, there exists an apparent bias towards under-reporting of aircraft-ash encounters, which could short-change their cost to air carriers, their perceived risk, and their funding allocation.

The original report of an aircraft-ash encounter was brought to our attention by Captain Edward Miller of the Air Line Pilots Association and provided on the condition that the air carrier remain anonymous. Bulletin editors also wish to acknowledge conversations with several additional anonymous contacts (commercial pilots). This case occurred in Guatemala; however, analogous situations exist at many airports adjacent to volcanoes. Modest eruptions from nearby volcanoes may be uncertain or difficult to see; they may be hard to detect or characterize; yet they still may yield mobile ash plumes carried by complex local winds to confront air traffic (Salinas, 2001; Hefter, 1998; Casadevall, 1994).

Although in most Bulletin reports we favor the use of local time to emphasize the reference frame of people on the scene, most of the source material (satellite and aviation) for this report refer to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). UTC is the time on the Greenwich meridian (longitude zero), formerly GMT, a term which has fallen out of use. Accordingly, there are cases in this report that lack conversion to local time. Local time in Guatemala is 6 hours behind UTC.

Activity at Fuego and Pacaya. Fuego erupted on 21 May 1999 sending ash to the S, SE, and SW and ultimately dropping up to 40 cm of ash on local settlements (BGVN 24:04). The eruption occurred at 1800 local time (in terms of UTC, at 0000 the next day). Three hours later the eruption decreased and the Aeronautica Civil recommended that planes go no closer to Fuego than 40 km. One hour after that (at 2200 local, 0400 UTC), the atmospheric ash had settled, and Aeronautica Civil recommended flying no closer to Fuego than 15 km.

Bulletin reports for Pacaya in mid-1999 suggested relative calm, in harmony with the observation that it had chiefly been fuming. However, Pacaya is well-known for Strombolian outbursts. It lies directly in-line and only 23 km S of the N10°E-oriented airstrip. As is common for commercial aircraft there, the approaches described below passed very close to Pacaya. Pacaya typically has lower and smaller eruptions than Fuego, but because it lies so close to the southern approach to the airport, Pacaya's ash plumes easily enter the path of landing aircraft. The situation was particularly complex during this eruption because Fuego's ash was reported on cities that lie below the flight path as well as on the Pacaya's flanks.

Pilot's report of aircraft-ash encounter. What follows was taken from one flight crew's description of events and from later reports and dialog on the topic. In order to preserve the confidentiality of the airlines, the precise times of events on 21 May 1999 have been omitted. Pilots reported clear visibility and light wind, with both the capital and the airport in sight. They maneuvered the aircraft for a final approach from the S. Pilots were advised by air traffic control about erupted particulate ("volcanic sand") about 24 km (15 miles) SE of the airport, well away from their projected path to Runway 01. In addition, based on winds they detected as they neared the airport, the pilots concluded that the erupted particulate to the SE was downwind from their projected flight path to the airport. (In retrospect, this conclusion appears tenuous considering the possibility of either a fresh injection of ash from Fuego, or lingering ash in the trailing portion of the plume that lay to the SE.)

At ~32 km (20 miles) distance from the runway, the pilots maneuvered the plane through ~3,000 m (9,700 feet) altitude on a final approach to the airport with the plane's flaps partially extended (at ~15°, which slowed their aircraft to ~260 km/hour (160 mph), its auxiliary power unit (a small jet engine) on, and its landing gear down. Around this point in their descent, pilots saw bright yellow sparks through the windshield lasting a few seconds, a display unlike static electricity, but rather like that from a grinding wheel. This occurred again at 2,500 m (8,200 feet) altitude, but was more intense yet intermittent.

At this time, air-traffic control announced to the pilots that the aircraft landing in front of them had encountered volcanic particulate; they instructed the pilots to abort their landing and climb to 3,350 m (11,000 feet) altitude. Discussions of options and ash avoidance ensued between pilots and air-traffic control; ash had by this time accumulated on the runway, further complicating landing, even for approaches in the opposite direction. The pilots retracted the landing gear, accelerated to ~410 km/hour (~250 mph), began to climb, and after some discussion with air-traffic control, held on a course NE of the airport. They were subsequently cleared to climb to 6,700 m (22,000 feet) altitude and advised to proceed to an alternate airfield.

During the climb, at ~5,800 m (19,000 feet) altitude en-route to the alternate airport, the aircraft encountered volcanic particulate for 10 minutes. Within that interval the plane spent 2 minutes during ascent engulfed in denser and heavier particulate. During that period, window arcing was constant and the beam of their landing lights revealed a conspicuous cloud of reflecting particles. During ash ingestion the engines's speed lacked noticeable fluctuations. The aircraft exited the plume at about 6,100 m (20,000 feet) altitude and landed without encountering additional ash.

Upon landing, the pilots noticed reduced visibility through abraded windshields. Post-flight examination of the airplane revealed heavy damage, requiring the replacement of the engines (US $2 million each) and auxiliary-power-unit engine. (Note, however, that no deterioration in engine power or performance was noticed during the flight.) Other replaced parts included windshields, a heat exchanger, and coalescer bags. Minor damage was seen on the horizontal stabilizer and wing leading-edges.

Volcanic Ash Advisory Statements. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Satellite Services Division website contains two archived statements issued by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) at Washington, D.C. for Fuego on 21-22 May 1999. The statements, issued to the aviation cummunity to warn of volcanic hazards, are intended for an audience accustomed to special terminology (figures 2 and 3). In the interest of advancing understanding of how volcanological and atmospheric data get transmitted to aviators, we offer brief explanations for many of the terms used (figure 2).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. The first archived Volcanic Ash Advisory Statement (VAAS) for the 21 May 1999 eruption at Fuego, Guatemala. The boxes contain added notes to explain some of the basic conventions and specific details seen here. This Statement currently appears on the NOAA Satellite Services Division website (see "Information Contacts," below). Local names are frequently anglicized, dropping all accents and other non-English characters (eg. México would be written MEXICO). Later Advisories adopted the abbreviation "Z" (pronounced 'Zulu' by aviators) for UTC, as in 1300 UTC written as 1300Z.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. A later Volcanic Ash Advisory Statement (VAAS) for the 21 May 1999 eruption at Fuego, Guatemala. The statement, which was issued the next day, discloses that the eruption had then stopped and the hazard status was lowered. The statement appears on the NOAA Satellite Services Division website (see "Information Contacts," below).

The Washington VAAC received first notification of the Fuego eruption from a routine surface weather observation from Guatemala City at 2000 local time (0200 UTC) on 22 May. They issued the first Volcanic Ash Advisory Statement a half-hour later (figure 2). Six hours later they issued the second Advisory Statement (figure 3). The Advisories were composed by staff of the Satellite Analysis Branch, one of the two NOAA components forming the Washington VAAC (Streett, 1999; Washington VAAC).

The section "Details of ash cloud" first says that the "surface observation from Guatemala City indicate that the Fuego volcano is in eruption" and that no additional information is available and then briefly describes in words observations that came from satellite imagery. The first sentence, "No eruption . . ." is self-explanatory, but highlights a limitation of the method in use that needs to be emphasized to aviators: an eruption may have occurred but its status is not revealed on the imagery. The sentence, "No eruption could be detected due to thunderstorm cloudiness covering the area around the volcano" is self-explanatory. Less clear is the term convective debris. It does not refer to ash; rather, it refers to remnants of thunderstorms. The gist of these latter two sentences is simply that the thunderstorms that covered the area made it challenging or impossible to see the ash on satellite imagery. Central American thunderstorm clouds typically can reach altitudes of more than 12,000 m (40,000 feet), and can mask or obscure airborne ash residing below that level.

Members of the Washington VAAC commented that this eruption demonstrates key problems that can arise when cloudy conditions prevent satellite detection of ash, foiling a primary mode of analysis. In such cases, they rely on ground observers (including observatories and weather observers), pilot reports, and reports from airlines. Thus, their ability to issue useful information in cloudy conditions depends on the quality of communications with local observers, the Meteorological Watch Office, volcanologists, geophysical observatories, and the aviation community.

The Advisory Statement listed México City weather balloon data acquired 1,050 km NW of Guatemala City. In retrospect, the Washington VAAC noted that they generally avoid using such distant sounding data. If a closer sounding cannot be found, they prefer to use upper-level wind forecasts taken from a numerical weather model. In any case, the scarcity of local sounding data presents a challenge to the realistic analysis of airborne ash.

The outlook section says to "see SIGMETS." SIGMETS are the true warnings to aircraft for SIGnificant METeorological events. They are issued by regional Meteorological Watch Offices (MWOs), in this case the MWO (for Guatemala) is in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. SIGMETS were lacking for this eruption; although the Washington VAAC tried to contact the MWO without response. Another complexity confronted at the VAAC is a lack of a single scale for communicating a volcano's hazard status.

Reporting of aviation ash encounters. In personal communications with Bulletin editors, airline personnel stated that many more encounters have occurred than have yet been tallied in publically accessible literature. In accord with those assertions, the 21 May 1999 encounters are absent from reports compiled by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, 2001). In that document (Appendix I, table 3A, p. I-12) Fuego fails to appear as a source vent for any aircraft-ash encounter. Pacaya is listed for two encounters, in January 1987 and in May 1998 (BGVN 23:05).

Even though the number of encounters was probably under-represented and thus reflects a minimum, ICAO (2001) notes that the international costs to aviation since 1982 summed to well in excess of $250 million. They noted, "In addition to its potential to cause a major aircraft accident, the economic cost of volcanic ash to international civil aviation is staggering. This involves numerous complete engine changes, engine overhauls, airframe refurbishing... aircraft downtime... [and] volcanic ash clearance from airports and the damage caused to equipment and buildings on the ground."

The incidents here suggest that there has been a strong bias toward under-reporting aircraft-ash encounters. If this tentative conclusion is correct, it implies consistent understatements of the hazard's magnitude. This, in turn, may have thwarted meaningful analysis of how and whether to proceed with designing more robust hazard-reduction systems. Accordingly, resources that could have been devoted to the problem have not yet been committed (see Gimmestad and others, 2001 for a discussion of a prototype on-board ash-detection instrument).

Communication challenges. While much of the aviation community needs to learn about volcanism rapidly, dependably, and with the aid of the Internet, some observers charged with reporting volcanic-ash hazards in Central and South America lack access to basic communication devices like reliable telephones and fax machines. To reduce the risks, the aviation, meteorological, remote sensing, and volcanological communities need to improve their ability to pass critical information to each other rapidly and precisely. The operational systems related to volcanic ash and aviation must transcend numerous boundaries (eg., languages, infrastructure, funding, governments, agencies, air carriers, pilots, aircraft manufactures, etc.). The systems need to portray complex, dynamic processes such as the rapid rise of an explosive plume, or large-scale ash-cloud movement.

Although the infrastructure for ash avoidance is greater than ever, members of the Washington VAAC have told Bulletin editors that they still depend heavily on people on the scene of the eruption to notify them promptly when eruptions occur. They said that thus far in parts of Central and South America a problem has been the expense of communication (eg., by phone, fax, and Internet). They also said that for the same regions the U.S. meteorological database regularly lacks pilot reports. Though serious, these problems have at least been identified and their solutions would appear to lack great technical or economic barriers.

The pilots involved in the May 1999 encounter recommended that far more emphasis be placed on forecasting and avoiding ash plumes. Other pilots cited the need for fast and accurate communications between those who observe eruptive activity and air traffic control personnel.

Issues like these continue to be an important subject at gatherings on the topic of ash hazards in aviation (Casadevall, 1994; Streett, D., 1999; Washington VAAC, 1999). The Airline Dispatcher's Federation (ADF) will participate in a 7-9 May 2002 conference and workshop: "Operational Implications of Airborne Volcanic Ash: Detection, Avoidance, and Mitigation." The gathering will provide the pilot and dispatcher with insights into volcanic ash, including its characteristics, affects on aircraft, detection/tracking, effective warning systems, and mitigation. A "hands-on" exercise will make this the first gathering of its kind to provide lab-style instruction on interpretation of satellite and wind data, and on models of ash trajectory and dispersion. Representatives from the Boeing company, and a host of US government agencies and non-governmental organizations will attend. The workshop will include lectures, demonstrations, laboratory exercises, and a simulated-eruption exercise involving volcanologists, forecasters, controllers, dispatchers, and pilots.

A second international symposium on ash and aviation safety is being planned by the U.S. Geological Survey, organized by Marianne Guffanti. It will be held in Washington, D.C. in September 2003.

References. Casadevall, T.J. (ed.), 1994, Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2047, 450 p.

Gimmestad, G.G., Papanicolopoulos, C.D., Richards, M.A., Sherman, D.L., and West, L.L., 2001, Feasibility study of radiometry for airborne detection of aviation hazards, NASA/CR-2001-210855; Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta, Georgia, 51 p. (URL: http://techreports.larc.nasa.gov/ltrs/PDF/2001/cr/).

Hefter, J.L., 1998, Verifying a volcanic ash forecasting model, Airline Pilot, v. 67, no. 5, pp. 20-23, 54.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), 2001, Manual on volcanic ash, radioactive material, and toxic chemical clouds, doc 9691-AN/954 (first edition): 999 University St., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3C 5H7 (purchasing information: sales_unit@icao.int).

Rose, W.I., Bluth, J.S.G., Schneider, D.L., Ernst, G.G.J., Riley, C.M., Henderson, L.J., and McGimsey, R.G., 2001, Observations of volcanic clouds in the first few days of atmospheric residence: The 1992 eruptions of Crater Peak, Mount Spurr volcano, Alaska, Jour. of Geology, v. 109, p. 677-694.

Salinas, Leonard J., 2001, Volcanic ash clouds pose a real threat to aircraft safety: United Airlines, Chicago, Illinois (URL: http://www.dispatcher.org/library/VolcanicAsh.htm).

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the World, 2nd edition: Geoscience Press in association with the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, Tucson AZ, 368 p.

Streett, D., 1999, Satellite-based Volcanic Ash Advisories and an Ash Trajectory Model from the Washington VAAC: Eighth Conference on Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology, 10-15 January 1999, Dallas, Texas; American Meteorological Society, p. 290-294.

Washington VAAC, 1999, Operations of the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, in Aeronautical meteorological offices and their functions, and meteorological observation networks: Third Caribbean/South American Regional Air Navigation Meeting (Car/sam/ran/3); Buenos Aires, Argentina, 5 - 15 October, 1999; International Civil Aviation Organization (http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/ VAAC/PAPERS/carsam.html).

Geologic Background. Volcán Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. The scarp of an older edifice, Meseta, lies between 3763-m-high Fuego and its twin volcano to the north, Acatenango. Construction of Meseta dates back to about 230,000 years and continued until the late Pleistocene or early Holocene. Collapse of Meseta may have produced the massive Escuintla debris-avalanche deposit, which extends about 50 km onto the Pacific coastal plain. Growth of the modern Fuego volcano followed, continuing the southward migration of volcanism that began at Acatenango. In contrast to the mostly andesitic Acatenango, eruptions at Fuego have become more mafic with time, and most historical activity has produced basaltic rocks. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded since the onset of the Spanish era in 1524, and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

Information Contacts: Captain Edward Miller, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Air Safety & Engineering Department, 535 Herndon Parkway, PO Box 1169, Herndon, VA 22070-1169, USA; Grace Swanson and Davida Streett, Washington VAAC, Satellite Analysis Branch (NOAA/NESDIS), 4700 Silver Hill Road, Stop 9910, Washington, DC 20233-9910, USA (URL: http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/); Bill Rose, Geological Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI 49931, USA.


Karymsky (Russia) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Karymsky

Russia

54.049°N, 159.443°E; summit elev. 1513 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Elevated seismicity; possible explosions and avalanches in March 2002

Episodes of increased seismicity occurred during December 2000 through September 2001 (BGVN 26:08). Since then seismic activity at Karymsky has remained mostly above background levels. The Concern Color Code remained at Yellow ("volcano is restless") through at least late March 2002. Apparent steam plumes were seen in satellite imagery during January-March 2002.

On 4 January 2002, the Kamchatkan Volcanic Eruption Response Team (KVERT) reported above-background seismicity during the previous week, with 40 to 80 weak local earthquakes occurring per day. Several shallow seismic events suggested gas-ash explosions. Beginning at 1200 on 10 January the number of local earthquakes increased noticeably. During 11-14 January about 200 weak local shallow seismic events occurred per day.

During late January through at least March 2002, the seismic station typically recorded approximately 10 local shallow earthquakes per hour. Around 24 January, the earthquakes became slightly stronger. The character of the seismicity during mid-March suggested weak ash-gas explosions and avalanches.

The Tokyo VAAC reported that on 1 February at 1810 an eruption produced an ash cloud that reached ~7.5 km above the summit and drifted to the E; however, the cloud was not visible on satellite imagery. On 13 February at 0945 a pilot reported an ash cloud to ~3.5 km above the volcano extending to the W. Again, this cloud was not visible on satellite imagery; it may have been a single burst that dissipated rapidly.

No ash was detected in satellite images during the report period; only steam and possible airborne volcanic aerosols were visible during late February. Thermal anomalies and plumes were visible on AVHRR satellite imagery throughout the report period (table 1).

Table 1. Thermal anomalies and plumes visible on AVHRR satellite imagery at Karymsky during January through March 2002. Courtesy KVERT.

Date Time (local) Size (pixels) Max. band-3 temperature Background temperature Visible plume
19 Jan 2002 1659 2 31.6°C -21°C --
19 Jan-25 Jan 2002 2-4 -3.7 to 35.0°C -16 to -25°C --
21 Jan 2002 1614 -- -- -- Steam plume extending 45 km SE
27 Jan 2002 1711 1 47.7°C -22°C --
28 Jan 2002 1646 -- -- -- Small steam plume extending 30 km NE
03 Feb-08 Feb 2002 -- 2-10 49.7 to -7°C -15 to -30°C --
05 Feb-06 Feb 2002 -- -- -- -- Steam plume extending 100-150 km E
08 Feb 2002 0536 4 5.7°C -22°C --
13 Feb 2002 0538 4 0.1°C -23°C --
13 Feb 2002 1202 4 -1.7°C -22 to -28°C --
13 Feb 2002 1708 4 ~49°C -20°C 20-km long steam plume moving SW
14 Feb 2002 1644 5 39°C -8°C Small plume extending N
17 Feb 2002 0544 1 -3°C -22°C --
18 Feb 2002 1649 4 32°C -10°C Short plume extending NE
19 Feb 2002 1622 -- -- -- Small steam plume extending 100 km E
20 Feb 2002 0613 4 24.9°C -24°C --
21 Feb 2002 0550 4 -4.2°C -25°C --
22 Feb-01 Mar 2002 -- 1-4 12 to 40°C -10 to -27°C --
22 Feb 2002 1650 -- -- -- Very diffuse cloud observed that could be related to volcanic aerosols
27 Feb 2002 1635 -- -- -- 20-km long faint steam plume extended E
02 Mar-08 Mar 2002 -- 1-4 1 to 15°C -17 to -24°C --
06 Mar 2002 1708 -- -- -- Bifurcated steam plume; first branch extended 10 km NE and the second branch extended 20 km SE
16 Mar-22 Mar 2002 -- 2-4 -6.8 to 35.6°C 0 to -20°C --
19 Mar-20 Mar 2002 -- -- -- -- Small steam/aerosol plume extending SE
22, 25 Mar 2002 -- 1-3 -6.8 and 14°C -20°C --

General Reference. Khrenov, A.P., and others, 1982, Eruptive activity of Karymsky Volcano over the period of 10 Years (1970-1980): Volcanology and Seismology, no. 4, p. 29-48.

Tokarev, P.I., 1990, Eruptions and seismicity at Karymskii volcano in 1965-1986: Volcanology and Seismology, v. 11, p. 117-134 (in English).

Geologic Background. Karymsky, the most active volcano of Kamchatka's eastern volcanic zone, is a symmetrical stratovolcano constructed within a 5-km-wide caldera that formed during the early Holocene. The caldera cuts the south side of the Pleistocene Dvor volcano and is located outside the north margin of the large mid-Pleistocene Polovinka caldera, which contains the smaller Akademia Nauk and Odnoboky calderas. Most seismicity preceding Karymsky eruptions originated beneath Akademia Nauk caldera, located immediately south. The caldera enclosing Karymsky formed about 7600-7700 radiocarbon years ago; construction of the stratovolcano began about 2000 years later. The latest eruptive period began about 500 years ago, following a 2300-year quiescence. Much of the cone is mantled by lava flows less than 200 years old. Historical eruptions have been vulcanian or vulcanian-strombolian with moderate explosive activity and occasional lava flows from the summit crater.

Information Contacts: Olga Chubarova, Kamchatka Volcanic Eruptions Response Team (KVERT), Institute of Volcanic Geology and Geochemistry, Piip Ave. 9, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, 683006, Russia; Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC),Tokyo, Japan (URL: https://ds.data.jma.go.jp/svd/vaac/data/).


Kilauea (United States) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Kilauea

United States

19.421°N, 155.287°W; summit elev. 1222 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Lava stops entering sea during January, tilting in late March-April 2002

This report discusses activity at Kilauea during mid-January through mid-April 2002. The flow of lava into the ocean in September (BGVN 26:12) at the Kamoamoa entry and, to a lesser extent, at the E Kupapa'u entry, terminated by the end of January. During February through mid-March lava flowed on the surface at elevations above or on the Pulama Pali slope and along the Kamoamoa lava tube system. Volcanic tremor occurred at moderate levels, and long-period (LP) earthquakes were registered below the caldera. In mid-March incandescence was visible from Pu`u `O`o crater. Incoming lava flooded the floor of Pu`u `O`o crater and excess lava flowed through lava tubes down the Pulama Pali slope to the coastal plain. Heightened activity continued and in early April a series of deflation and inflation events occurred. LP earthquakes increased and on 6 April observations of the crater lake in Pu`u `O`o crater revealed that the lava had risen to 17 m below the E rim.

Geophysical activity. Tiltmeters across the volcano showed no significant deformation until mid-March, although an M 4.1 earthquake had occurred at 0118 on 18 January. The earthquake was located 4 km SSE of the Pu`u `O`o crater at a depth of 9.1 km. During the following several days volcanic tremor remained moderate to strong at Pu`u `O`o. The swarm of long-period (LP) earthquakes at the summit continued through March. Just after 0300 on 27 March a small earthquake beneath the caldera triggered more than 30 minutes of increased tremor and small earthquakes.

Sharp deflation at Pu`u `O`o on 28 March accompanied a change in eruptive activity at the cone. On 31 March volcanic tremor was low-to-moderate at Pu`u `O`o and the continuing weak tremor below the caldera was broken occasionally by small LP earthquakes. Associated tilt across the volcano was flat or only changed slightly.

During 4-6 April, a series of deflation and inflation events occurred. In terms of tilt, at ~2100 on 4 April, Kilauea's summit deflated (~1.7 µrad); 30 minutes later Pu`u `O`o followed (~9 µrad). This was reversed at 1600 on 5 April when rapid inflation began at the summit and ~12 minutes later at Pu`u `O`o. At 1700 inflation ended at the summit, and it abruptly deflated, as did Pu`u `O`o at 1800. Subsequently, tilt at Pu`u `O`o oscillated three times between rapid deflation and slower inflation. The tilt temporarily decreased, but at 0508 on 6 April another interval of 4.5 oscillations occurred followed by resumed tilt and slow, bumpy inflation. During this turbulent period LP earthquakes increased at the summit while tremor remained steady at Pu`u `O`o. By 7 April tilt was relatively steady, volcanic tremor at Pu`u `O`o was moderate, and tremor at the summit was low to moderate.

Lava flows. During mid-January surface lava traveled along the upper portion of the flow field above the Pulama pali slope and onto the coastal flat. Surface lava also emerged along the Kamoamoa lava tube system and traveled down the Pulama pali slope. These surface flows continued to be visible through February, although the flow reaching the coastal plain had stopped at the end of January. At times during early March several rootless shields (a pile of lava flows built over a lava tube rather than over a conduit feeding magma) were active. During 12-19 March a bright glow was widely visible over Kilauea from Pu`u `O`o crater and from a rootless shield near 665 m elevation where the most intense surface activity occurred.

By 18 March lava had flooded the floor of Pu`u `O`o crater resulting in surface lava flows and lava flowing through tubes. Lava spread out on the lower fan and adjacent coastal flat, although the fronts of the flows remained ~2.3 km from the ocean. At the base of the lava fan and on the adjacent coastal flat the rootless shields remained active and small surface lava flows persisted through mid-April.

Eruptive activity changed on 28 March, as noted above, and overflight observations revealed new lava located W of the main crater. Observers also saw lava fountaining and forming a circulating pond. By 31 March a lava flow was visible on the floor of Pu`u `O`o crater and several vents were incandescent. During a brief visit to Pu`u `O`o on 6 April observers noticed that the crater lake had risen ~8 m since 29 March (the lake surface was 17 m below the E rim), several cones were active, and lava was flowing into the lava lake from two vents. By the following day activity had decreased and by 8 April incandescence was no longer visible at Pu`u `O`o.

General References. Decker, R.W., Wright, T.L., and Stauffer, P.H., 1987, (eds.), Volcanism in Hawaii: USGS Professional Paper 1350, 1667 p. (64 papers).

Ryan, M.P., 1988, The mechanics and three-dimensional internal structure of active magmatic systems: Kilauea volcano, Hawaii: JGR, v. 93, p. 4213-4248.

Dzurisin, D., Koyanagi, R.Y., and English, T.T., 1984, Magma supply and storage at Kilauea volcano, Hawaii, 1956-1983: JVGR, v. 21, no. 3/4, p. 177-207.

Heliker, C., Griggs, J.D., Takahashi, T.J., and Wright, T.L., 1986/7, Volcano monitoring at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory: Earthquakes and Volcanoes, v. 18, no. 1, p. 3-71.

Geologic Background. Kilauea, which overlaps the E flank of the massive Mauna Loa shield volcano, has been Hawaii's most active volcano during historical time. Eruptions are prominent in Polynesian legends; written documentation extending back to only 1820 records frequent summit and flank lava flow eruptions that were interspersed with periods of long-term lava lake activity that lasted until 1924 at Halemaumau crater, within the summit caldera. The 3 x 5 km caldera was formed in several stages about 1500 years ago and during the 18th century; eruptions have also originated from the lengthy East and SW rift zones, which extend to the sea on both sides of the volcano. About 90% of the surface of the basaltic shield volcano is formed of lava flows less than about 1100 years old; 70% of the volcano's surface is younger than 600 years. A long-term eruption from the East rift zone that began in 1983 has produced lava flows covering more than 100 km2, destroying nearly 200 houses and adding new coastline to the island.

Information Contacts: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), U.S. Geological Survey, PO Box 51, Hawaii National Park, HI 96718, USA (URL: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/).


Manam (Papua New Guinea) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Manam

Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Mild eruptions during January-February 2002

Activity at Manam remained relatively low following a 4 June 2000 eruption (BGVN 25:07). During August and September 2001, the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory (RVO) reported occasional emissions of weak-to-moderate volumes of white vapor. Weak emissions were also observed from South Crater.

On 13 January 2002 mild eruptive activity began from South Crater. Weak gray-brown ash clouds were emitted at 5-10 minute intervals. Fine, light ashfall was reported on the NE side of the island. Ashfall was reported again on 16, 20, 21, 22, 26, 29, 30, and 31 January, produced by activity ranging from gentle emissions to forceful projections of weak-to-moderate gray-brown and occasionally dark-gray ash clouds, during periods lasting a few hours. Most of the activity was accompanied by weak, deep, low roaring and rumbling noises. Explosion noises were heard on 20 January, and incandescence was observed on 17 and 20 January. The incandescence on 20 January fluctuated but occasionally intensified and projected glowing lava fragments.

Similar mild eruptive activity continued through much of February. Fine ashfall occurred on the SE part of the island. Weak-to-bright incandescence was observed on 13 February, after a loud explosion at 0225. The explosion was also followed by weak roaring and rumbling noises at one-minute intervals lasting for ~1 hour. During 20-24 February activity decreased and continuous weak volumes of white vapor were emitted. Main Crater released only weak-to-moderate volumes of white vapor.

People living in and near the four valleys (especially those in the NE and SE) were urged to be cautious and remain away from the valleys as much as possible.

More recently, a period of activity began in December 1956 that lasted through January 1966. Lava flows and a nuee ardente from the South Crater occurred in June and December 1974, and intermittent moderate explosive activity has continued, with peaks of activity in 1982 and 1984. The water-tube tiltmeter is located at Tabele Observatory, 4 km from the summit on the SW flank.

General References. de Saint Ours, P., 1982, Potential volcanic hazards at Manam Island: Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea Report 82/22, 19 p.

Scott, B.J., and McKee, C.O., 1986, Deformation, eruptive activity, and earth tidal influences at Manam volcano, Papua New Guinea, 1957-1982: Royal Society of New Zealand Bulletin 24, p. 155-171.

Geologic Background. 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 1807-m-high basaltic-andesitic stratovolcano to its lower flanks. These "avalanche 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 historical eruptions have originated from the southern crater, concentrating eruptive products during much of the past century into the SE valley. Frequent historical 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: Ima Itikarai, Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO), P.O. Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.


Miyakejima (Japan) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Miyakejima

Japan

34.094°N, 139.526°E; summit elev. 775 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Eruptive activity decreases; high SO2 flux through April 2002

The following report covers activity at Miyake-jima after February 2001 and through April 2002, but a brief review of previous activity is included. Volcanism renewed at Miyake-jima on 27 June 2000 with a series of underwater eruptions (BGVN 25:05-25:07). Activity through October 2000 was characterized by intrusive events, collapse of the summit crater, explosive events, and degassing. SO2 emissions were high and low levels of ash were intermittently emitted (BGVN 25:09). During October 2000 through mid-February 2001 high volumes of volcanic gas emission continued (BGVN 26:02).

After a large eruption on 18 August 2000, large amounts of volcanic gas, especially SO2, started to discharge. SO2 flux monitoring by COSPEC V has been conducted since 26 August 2000. Monitoring is performed almost daily by the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) and Geological Survey of Japan (GSJ). Figure 14 shows the daily average of SO2 flux during August 2000 through April 2002. The mean flux during September-December 2000 was ~40,000 metric tons per day (t/d). During 2000, the average SO2 flux was 40,000 t/d, and it decreased to 21,000 t/d during 2001. As of March 2002 the average SO2 flux was 10,000-20,000 t/d. During the 26 September 2001 explosion the amount of SO2 degassing was ~15,000 t/d.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 14. Daily averages of SO2 flux at Miyake-jima during August 2000 through April 2002. Courtesy JMA, GSJ, and KSVO.

In November 2001 the GSJ reported that the strong eruptions of July-August 2000, initially thought to be solely phreatic, had been phreatomagmatic. For instance, tephra from the 18 August 2000 eruption was ~30-40% juvenile in nature. Following the 29 August 2000 eruption, activity was much weaker. A summit pit crater or caldera, formed as a result of "drain back" as magma was intruded elsewhere, stabilized in August 2000 with a diameter of 1.4 km.

On 16 March 2001 the JMA reported that the strongest tremor since 29 August 2000 had occurred. Three days later, on 19 March, an eruption produced a black ash cloud that rose 800 m above the volcano.

In mid-May 2001, based on information from the JMA, the Volcanic Research Center reported that no ash clouds had been observed since 19 March. They also reported that steam plumes with abundant SO2 were continuously emitted from the summit caldera to 0.5-2 km above the caldera rim. Continuous SO2 emission released as much as 33,000 to 46,000 metric tons of SO2 per day (figure 14). Low-level seismic activity continued; on 5 May 2001 a total of 446 small low-frequency earthquakes were registered, and on 7 May an M 2.8 earthquake occurred. Global positioning system (GPS) measurements showed steady, continuous deflation of the volcano, though the rate was lower than before September 2000. Very small collapses of the caldera rims were occasionally seen during air inspections.

About 20 small eruptions were recorded by the JMA during 2001 through the end of March 2002. Major eruptions were reported on 27 May, 26-27 September, and 16 October 2001. The eruptions produced ash plumes up to 1,500 m high.

On 25 January 2002 at 1015 Air Force Weather Agency staff detected a faint E-drifting volcanic plume emanating from Miyake-jima on MODIS imagery (figure 15).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 15. MODIS imagery on 25 January 2002 at 1015 shows a plume drifting E from Miyake-jima. Courtesy AFWA and NASA.

The GSJ reported that as of 1 April 2002, eruptions were continuing and significant quantities of SO2 (10,000-20,000 t/d) discharged from the summit pit crater (figure 14). According to a news report, a minor eruption occurred at Miyake-jima on 2 April shortly after 1000. While evacuated residents were visiting the island, ash rose to ~300 m above the volcano and fell around Miyake-jima. The island is currently uninhabited because activity that began on 26-27 June 2000 prompted officials to order an evacuation on 1 September 2000.

Geologic Background. The circular, 8-km-wide island of Miyakejima forms a low-angle stratovolcano that rises about 1100 m from the sea floor in the northern Izu Islands about 200 km SSW of Tokyo. The basaltic volcano is truncated by small summit calderas, one of which, 3.5 km wide, was formed during a major eruption about 2500 years ago. Parasitic craters and vents, including maars near the coast and radially oriented fissure vents, dot the flanks of the volcano. Frequent historical eruptions have occurred since 1085 CE at vents ranging from the summit to below sea level, causing much damage on this small populated island. After a three-century-long hiatus ending in 1469, activity has been dominated by flank fissure eruptions sometimes accompanied by minor summit eruptions. A 1.6-km-wide summit caldera was slowly formed by subsidence during an eruption in 2000; by October of that year the crater floor had dropped to only 230 m above sea level.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Volcanological Division, 1-3-4 Ote-machi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/); Setsuya Nakada and Hidefumi Watanabe, Volcano Research Center, Earthquake Research Institute, University of Tokyo, Yayoi 1-1-1, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan (URL: http://www.eri.u-tokyo.ac.jp/VRC/index_E.html); Akihiko Tomiya, Geological Survey of Japan (GSJ), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Tsukuba Central 7, Tsukuba 305-8567, Japan (URL: http://staff.aist.go.jp/a.tomiya/miyakeE.html); Charles Holliday, Air Force Weather Agency (AFWA),106 Peacekeeper Dr., Ste 2NE; Offutt AFB, NE 68113-4039 USA; National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Washington, DC 20456-0001, USA (URL: https://www.nasa.gov/); Kusatsu-Shirane Volcano Observatory (KSVO), Tokyo Institute of Technology, Kusatsu, Agatsuma-gun, Gunma 377-17, Japan; Dow Jones News.


Nyiragongo (DR Congo) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Nyiragongo

DR Congo

1.52°S, 29.25°E; summit elev. 3470 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Report of field work; MODIS imagery from January 2002 eruption

During 17-18 January 2002 Nyiragongo, located ~18 km N of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) close to the border of Rwanda, erupted an estimated 20 x 106 m3 volume of lava (BGVN 26:12). Lava flows originated from the central crater and from several locations along a huge system of fractures that rapidly developed along the entire S flank of the volcano down to the city of Goma (~400,000 people) on the N shore of Lake Kivu. Goma was then invaded by extensive lava flows, which destroyed at least 13% of the surface of the city before reaching the lake. The advancing lava flows caused the spontaneous evacuation of at least 300,000 people, mostly toward the neighboring town of Gisenyi in Rwanda, and left more than 40,000 people homeless. About 100 people died as a consequence (direct or indirect) of the eruption. This disaster required an urgent public health response to evaluate the hazards to life and health. The assessment was especially important because of the humanitarian crisis in the eastern DRC that led many of the people who had fled from the lava flows to return to the city within one or two days, despite the danger of further eruptive activity or the possible risks arising from the proximity of the cooling lava flows (Baxter, 2002).

The following report, with the exception of the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery, was compiled from field visits carried out by the volcanologists representing the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (UN-OCHA): Dario Tedesco, Paolo Papale, Orlando Vaselli, and Jacques Durieux. The team flew over the volcano and Goma in a helicopter on 22 and 24 January, and made field observations during 23 January-4 February. One team member continued studies on Lake Kivu until 13 February. The report provides an initial reconstruction of the main events of the eruption based on reports from local witnesses, observations and reports by researchers at the Goma Volcano Observatory (GVO), a closer inspection of seismograms recorded by GVO seismic stations, and field work by the UN-OCHA team. The UN-OCHA team worked closely with a French-British team of scientists (Patrick Allard, Peter Baxter, Michel Halbwachs, and Jean-Christophe Komorowski), whose report (Allard and others, 2002) will be summarized in a future Bulletin.

Activity during December 2000-January 2002. Since December 2000 the two GVO seismic stations had recorded long-period (LP) earthquake swarms. Commonly, each LP event was shortly followed by volcanic tremor.

On 6 February 2001 Nyamuragira erupted (BGVN 26:01). Following the 2-week eruption, seismicity did not decrease. On the contrary, volcanic tremor and LP earthquakes reappeared at both stations (Bulengo, BSS, S of Nyiragongo and Katale, KSS, NE of Nyiragongo, ~40 km from Bulengo), without showing any particular pattern, from March 2001 through January 2002. During the 10 months that preceded the January 2002 eruption, it was impossible to distinguish which volcano was the source of the seismicity.

In addition to the increased seismic activity, on 5 October strong vibrations were felt and on 7 October a strong tectonic earthquake (M 3.5-4.0), unusual for this region, was felt by the population. This earthquake was followed a few hours later by high-amplitude volcanic tremor.

Field trips by GVO personnel to the summit of Nyiragongo during 29 October-1 November and 8-10 December 2001 revealed several important changes. Immediately after the October tectonic event a white plume was visible inside the 1977 eruptive fracture on top of and inside the Shaheru crater (2 km S of the summit crater) at 2,700 m elevation. A similar plume was emerging from new cracks in the inner wall of the central crater, while a dark plume was visible from the small 1995 spatter cone inside the volcano. The new fumaroles on the side of the small central crater had a temperature of 70°C; the ground temperature, which was normally at 5-9°C, was recorded as 28°C; cracks near Shaheru crater were at ~50°C.

An increase in seismicity similar to that observed during early October occurred beginning on 4 January 2002, when an M > 4 earthquake occurred. On 7 January seismic activity triggered some visible changes, including reactivation of fumarolic activity. Following the 4 January earthquake seismicity remained high until 16 January. The onset of the eruption was preceded by about 8 hours of calm consisting of very low seismicity (without tremor or LP earthquakes).

Eruption during 17-18 January 2002. Early on 17 January a huge system of fractures began to develop on the S flank and eventually extended from high elevations down to Goma and Lake Kivu. The main trend of fractures was N15°W, which is similar to the general trend of the rift valley in the Nyiragongo region. The system of fractures appears to have propagated down from the volcano, starting at 2,800-3,000 m elevation (300-400 m N of the old Shaheru crater), and covering a distance of ~10 km towards Goma in less than 8 hours. The uppermost portion of the fracture started erupting at 0835 on 17 January. A single fracture ~2 m wide was visible above and inside Shaheru. Reactivated during the January event, it corresponded to the eruptive fracture of January 1977. Below the Shaheru crater the fracture was replaced by a more complex system, with two parallel main fractures ~300 m apart, also propagating N15°W. At about 1000 the system of fractures had reached ~1,900 m elevation; they then took ~30 minutes to cross the last system of ancient cones N of Goma, at ~1,700 m. By about 1400 the fractures were in the proximity of the Munigi village on the outskirts of Goma.

As the fractures advanced, several started erupting. Beginning around 1000 and lasting for at least two hours, lava flows escaped at ~1,950-2,000 m elevation S of the ancient Kanyambuzi-Mudjoga tuff cones. Fractures on the gentle slopes N of Goma lacked venting lava along a portion a few kilometers in length, but, at several locations the tips of intruded dykes ascended within only a few ten's of centimeters to a few meters below the ground surface.

At 1610 on 17 January the southernmost system of vents opened S of Munigi village and on the outskirts of Goma at 1,570-1,580 m elevation. Lava flows from these vents affected the Goma airport and destroyed part of the city before reaching the lake. About 10-20 minutes later a new N15°W-oriented fracture began to erupt at 1,950-2,000 m elevation, located ~1.5 km W of the main fracture system. Lava flows from this fracture partially destroyed the western part of Goma without reaching the lake.

Around the same time a fracture a few hundred meters long opened on the NW flank of the cone, at ~2,700-3,000 m elevation as estimated by helicopter, producing a lava flow that did not affect inhabited areas. Unlike the southern fracture system, this fracture had an estimated N30°E to N60°E trend. The eruptive activity at several places along the fracture system on the S flank reportedly lasted through part of the night or even up to daylight on 18 January.

MODIS images on 18, 21, and 27 January showed a hot spot in the vicinity of the volcano (figure 13). The 18 January image showed a single, large hot spot (3-4 pixels wide and ~11 pixels long on the S flank of Nyiragongo. The elongate hot spot had a NNE-SSW orientation. Its proximal section was located about mid-way up the S flank of the volcano (in the vicinity of the Shaheru-Djoga cinder cones and 1977 S-flank fissure) and the distal section was directly over Goma. The hot spot decreased over the following days, and by 27 January was barely visible.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellite images on 18, 21, and 27 January showing a hot spot near Nyiragongo during the eruption. The 18 January image shows a single, large hot spot (3-4 pixels wide and ~ 11 pixels long) on the S flank. The hot spot decreased over the following days, and by 27 January was barely visible. Courtesy HIGP/SOEST.

Activity following the eruption. During the night of 21 January some earthquake swarms created panic in the population. During about 0600-1800 on 22 January no earthquakes were felt. However, at about 1800 a sequence began during which ~20 earthquakes were felt in less than 3 hours. The following days were characterized by periods of intense seismicity, alternating with intervals (~10-15 hours) of lower seismic activity.

Seismic events showed quite a range of magnitude, frequency content, and S-P times, suggesting several different origins. The earthquakes that occurred in the days following the eruption were ~M > 5. During the 5 days following the eruption ~100 tectonic earthquakes (M > 3.5) occurred with epicenters in the Goma-Nyiragongo region. Several houses collapsed or were seriously damaged due to seismic loading in Gisenyi, where nine people died as a direct result of roof collapse. Seismic signals showed a typical sequence of tectonic events, followed within minutes to hours by LP events and volcanic tremor lasting continuously for more than 10 hours. Such a sequence, which is identical to the typical sequence recorded during the year preceding the eruption, suggested rock fracturing followed by the intrusion and ascent of magma.

An estimate of the location of seismic events made by comparing the arrival time differences of P- and S-waves at the three seismic stations of Bulengo, Katale, and Goma (the last one provided by the French-British team) showed that on 27 and 28 January the shocks were concentrated in the area between the Nyiragongo crater and Goma, probably 4-6 km N of Lake Kivu. During the first days of February the epicenters of earthquakes were clustered in two areas. The first was along the system of fractures, stretching a few kilometers N and S of Goma (in part, beneath Lake Kivu). The second cluster lay S of the town of Sake, 15-20 km W of Goma, close to the W border of the rift.

Observations during a helicopter flight over the volcano on 21 January revealed that the crater floor (old surface of the 1994-95 lava lake) was cut by a N-S elongated depression (like a small graben) underlain by steaming cracks. The next day witnesses from villages 6 km SW and ~10 km N of the summit crater reported that at about 2100 an earthquake was felt and immediately followed by a red glow or "flames" above the crater. Later that evening fine ash fell along the road from Goma to Sake. On the morning of 23 January ash fell in Goma and at the airport. A helicopter survey revealed a layer of ash on the volcano's upper S and E flanks and devastated vegetation on the crater's N flank.

On 24 January the inside of the crater appeared as a huge cavity with an estimated depth of 800 m and a grayish-yellow colored floor. The old terraces that represented the remnants of the lava lake at different stages of its long history were nearly totally absent. The interpretation is that either the emptying of the lava lake, the fracturing of the system, or more likely both, destabilized the inner part of the crater. Seismic records showed higher-amplitude tremor, presumably related to the crater-floor collapses, starting on 22 January at 2051 and lasting for ~4 hours. During the same flight on 24 January an explosion or a new collapse at the crater produced a small cloud of steam and ash that reached a few hundred meters above the crater rim.

Gas blasts sporadically occurred, mainly after the eruption, ~100-200 m away from the main path of the lava flow in Goma causing displacement of pavement in small buildings. In a small garage in Goma a thick (~10 cm) concrete pavement was cracked and uplifted up to 50-70 cm by the gas blasts.

Observations and research at Lake Kivu. Interesting phenomena were noted on the shore of Lake Kivu in the area of Himbi. Women who used to wash clothes close to the lake observed that the water level had decreased a few centimeters 3-5 days before the eruption. During the night and early morning of 17-18 January waiters at a restaurant observed crabs and crayfish jumping out of the lake. During 20-21 January dead fish and bubbling spots were observed in the small bay close to the restaurant. Waiters stated that the temperature of the lake in those zones had increased and a brown-black stain appeared from the bottom of the lake in an area of several square meters. At the same time an odor of spoiled eggs (suggesting presence of H2S) was present. A similar phenomenon occurred early in the morning (at about 0230) on 30 January after an M 4.5 earthquake. The owners of the restaurant suddenly awoke due to difficulty breathing and the strong smell of rotten eggs. In both cases, the "normal" conditions were reestablished in a "short" (not well-defined) time. Soil-gas measurements indicated that CO2 concentrations reached values up to 20%.

A geochemical survey of the main fluid manifestations in and around the S part of Nyiragongo was carried out during the days after the 17 January eruption. Sampling included water from Lake Kivu, cold and thermal springs, dry vents, and soil gases. The main conclusions of this survey were: 1) contrary to rumors following the entry of lava flows into the lake, lake water only a few meters away from the lava front was not polluted; 2) the geochemical characteristics of water from the lake and from springs on land are close to those found previously by Tietze and others (1980) and Tuttle and others (1990); and 3) the analyzed gases appear to have a clear magmatic origin as revealed by their isotopic signature. An exception to the final conclusion is that gases from the Rambo sampling point, which sits next to a brewery in Gisenyi, appear to represent mixtures between biogenic (organic) and magmatic sources.

Immediately following the eruption, fishermen reported visible changes in the water level at Lake Kivu. This was confirmed by women who visited the lake shore daily for washing or collecting water. A series of measurements was started in close cooperation with the UN field officer Dominic Garcin, who has a vast knowledge of the lake. The first measurements were obtained on 28 January along the shoreline from Gisenyi to Sake. The results confirmed a significant subsidence of the ground and rise of the water level. The subsidence was highest (37 cm) in Goma, then progressively vanished towards the E (~10 cm in Gisenyi but 0 cm ~2 km farther E) and W (0 cm ~15 km W of Goma). After these first measurements, several others were systematically taken along the N shoreline of Lake Kivu as well as around the lake up to ten's of kilometers S of Goma, and at Idjwi Island, ~30 km S of Goma. The measurements showed that ground subsidence is an ongoing phenomenon in the entire rift area near Lake Kivu. One month after the eruption, maximum measured ground subsidence was 50-60 cm at the Goma harbor and at Idjwi Island (figure 14). Scientists note that the February-March westward shifting of the ground subsidence corresponds to a similar westward shifting of epicenters.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 14. Plots showing cumulative, asymmetrical land subsidence in the Goma area across the far S flanks of Nyiragongo. The subsidence was measured with respect to pre-subsidence surface of Lake Kivu, and surveyed along an E-W transect. The four survey dates (all in early 2002) each established the greatest subsidence at Goma, and lesser subsidence towards the East African rift's margins. Courtesy UN-OCHA team.

Conclusions. The characteristics of the erupted products and associated lava flows, together with the available information on the state of the volcano prior the eruption, suggest different dynamics of magma emission in the upper and lower portions of the fracture system. Two different interpretations have been offered. The "magmatic" hypothesis is that the energy for intense fracturing of the volcanic apparatus came from deep magma pushing from below inside the volcanic system. The "tectonic" hypothesis is that the energy for fracturing came from a non-volcanic source and was due to a rifting event related to regional tectonics. Further discussion of both hypotheses is offered in the report by the UN-OCHA team (Tedesco and others, 2002).

Goma is considered at a very high risk should reactivation of the volcano and rift system occur. The security of its inhabitants cannot be guaranteed even with the most sophisticated instrumental network. Thousands of lives can be saved by increased surveillance, continued scientific investigation, contingency plans, and information campaigns.

An outstanding effort by the UN and several donors allowed for the development of short and long-term aid to the Goma Volcano Observatory (GVO). This effort included support for foreign volcanologists, purchase of new equipment, establishing a new monitoring network, and help with logistics (transportation, communications, salaries, etc.). GVO is now publishing weekly reports on volcano activities.

References. Allard, P., Baxter, P., Halbwachs, M., and Komorowski, J-C, 2002, Final report of the French-British scientific team: submitted to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Paris, France, Foreign Office, London, United Kingdom and respective Embassies in Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Rwanda, 24 p.

Baxter, P.J., 2002, Eruption at Nyiragongo volcano, Democratic Republic of Congo, 17-18 January 2002: a report on a field visit to assess the initial hazards of the eruption, 15 p.

Tedesco, D., Papale, P., Vaselli, O., and Durieux, J., 2002, The January 17th, 2002 eruption of Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo: UN-OCHA report, 17 p.

Tietze, K., Geyh, M., Muller, H., Schroder, L. Stahl, W., and Wehner, H., 1980, Geol. Rund., v. 69, p. 452-472.

Tuttle, M.L., Lockwood, J.P., and Evans, W.C., 1990, Natural hazards associated with Lake Kivu in Rwanda and Zaire, central Africa: U.S. Geological Survey, Open File Report 90-691, 47 p.

General Reference. Tazieff, H., 1979, Nyiragongo, the forbidden volcano, translated by J. F. Bernard: Barron's, New York, 287 p. Originally published as Nyiragongo: Flammarion, Paris, 1975.

Geologic Background. One of Africa's most notable volcanoes, Nyiragongo contained a lava lake in its deep summit crater that was active for half a century before draining catastrophically through its outer flanks in 1977. The steep slopes of a stratovolcano contrast to the low profile of its neighboring shield volcano, Nyamuragira. Benches in the steep-walled, 1.2-km-wide summit crater mark levels of former lava lakes, which have been observed since the late-19th century. Two older stratovolcanoes, Baruta and Shaheru, are partially overlapped by Nyiragongo on the north and south. About 100 parasitic cones are located primarily along radial fissures south of Shaheru, east of the summit, and along a NE-SW zone extending as far as Lake Kivu. Many cones are buried by voluminous lava flows that extend long distances down the flanks, which is characterized by the eruption of foiditic rocks. The extremely fluid 1977 lava flows caused many fatalities, as did lava flows that inundated portions of the major city of Goma in January 2002.

Information Contacts: Dario Tedesco, Dipartimento Scienze Ambientali, Seconda Universita' di Napoli, Via Vivaldi 43, 81100 Caserta, Italy; Paolo Papale, Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, via S. Maria, 53, I-56126 Pisa, Italy; Orlando Vaselli, Dipartimento Scienze della Terra, via G. La Pira, 4, 50121 Firenze, Italy; Jacques Durieux, Groupe d'Etude des Volcans Actifs, 6, Rue des Razes 69320 Feyzin, France; Dieudonné Wafula, Goma Volcano Observatory, Departement de Geophysique, Centre de Recherche en Sciences Naturelles, Lwiro, D.S. Bukavu, DRC; Andy Harris, Eric Pilger and Luke Flynn, Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the School of Ocean and Earth Science Technology (HIGP/SOEST), University of Hawaii, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI 96822 USA; Peter Baxter, Department of Community Medicine, Institute of Public Health, University of Cambridge, University Forvie Site, Robinson Way, Cambridge, CB2 2SR, United Kingdom.


Pacaya (Guatemala) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Pacaya

Guatemala

14.382°N, 90.601°W; summit elev. 2569 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Costly 1999 aircraft-ash encounters due to ash plumes

At least two commercial aircraft flew through airborne ash near the Guatemala City airport on 21 May 1999. An eruption from Fuego that day was the first at that volcano since 1987 (BGVN 24:04). Although the aviator's reports attributed the ash from this encounter to Fuego, their aircraft intersected multiple ash plumes in widely different locations, and thus they may also have crossed plumes from Pacaya. The most likely plume near the southern approach to the airport (La Aurora, ~23 km N of Pacaya; ~40 km NE of Fuego) is from the almost constantly active Pacaya. In contrast, Fuego lies 32 km W of Pacaya and was the likely source of a plume intersected later during the flight, at higher altitude, and for much longer duration.

During the encounters the ~100 or more people on board the two aircraft, and many more on the ground, were at risk. Both encounters seriously damaged the aircraft but ended in safe landings without reported injuries. Volcanic ash can cause jet-engine failure, which creates a hazard not only to passengers, but to people on the ground as well. The risk in this situation was amplified by the airport's proximity to urban Guatemala City (population, >1.1 million).

This example leads to two conclusions discussed further below. First, ash avoidance methodology needs further refinement. Second, there exists an apparent bias towards under-reporting of aircraft-ash encounters, which could short-change their cost to air carriers, their perceived risk, and their funding allocation.

The original report of an aircraft-ash encounter was brought to our attention by Captain Edward Miller of the Air Line Pilots Association and provided on the condition that the air carrier remain anonymous. Bulletin editors also wish to acknowledge conversations with several additional anonymous contacts (commercial pilots). This case occurred in Guatemala; however, analogous situations exist at many airports adjacent to volcanoes. Modest eruptions from nearby volcanoes may be uncertain or difficult to see; they may be hard to detect or characterize; yet they still may yield mobile ash plumes carried by complex local winds to confront air traffic (Salinas, 2001; Hefter, 1998; Casadevall, 1994).

Although in most Bulletin reports we favor the use of local time to emphasize the reference frame of people on the scene, most of the source material (satellite and aviation) for this report refer to UTC (Coordinated Universal Time). UTC is the time on the Greenwich meridian (longitude zero), formerly GMT, a term which has fallen out of use. Accordingly, there are cases in this report that lack conversion to local time. Local time in Guatemala is 6 hours behind UTC.

Activity at Fuego and Pacaya. Fuego erupted on 21 May 1999 sending ash to the S, SE, and SW and ultimately dropping up to 40 cm of ash on local settlements (BGVN 24:04). The eruption occurred at 1800 local time (in terms of UTC, at 0000 the next day). Three hours later the eruption decreased and the Aeronautica Civil recommended that planes go no closer to Fuego than 40 km. One hour after that (at 2200 local, 0400 UTC), the atmospheric ash had settled, and Aeronautica Civil recommended flying no closer to Fuego than 15 km.

Bulletin reports for Pacaya in mid-1999 suggested relative calm, in harmony with the observation that it had chiefly been fuming. However, Pacaya is well-known for Strombolian outbursts. It lies directly in-line and only 23 km S of the N10°E-oriented airstrip. As is common for commercial aircraft there, the approaches described below passed very close to Pacaya. Pacaya typically has lower and smaller eruptions than Fuego, but because it lies so close to the southern approach to the airport, Pacaya's ash plumes easily enter the path of landing aircraft. The situation was particularly complex during this eruption because Fuego's ash was reported on cities that lie below the flight path as well as on the Pacaya's flanks.

Pilot's report of aircraft-ash encounter. What follows was taken from one flight crew's description of events and from later reports and dialog on the topic. In order to preserve the confidentiality of the airlines, the precise times of events on 21 May 1999 have been omitted. Pilots reported clear visibility and light wind, with both the capital and the airport in sight. They maneuvered the aircraft for a final approach from the S. Pilots were advised by air traffic control about erupted particulate ("volcanic sand") about 24 km (15 miles) SE of the airport, well away from their projected path to Runway 01. In addition, based on winds they detected as they neared the airport, the pilots concluded that the erupted particulate to the SE was downwind from their projected flight path to the airport. (In retrospect, this conclusion appears tenuous considering the possibility of either a fresh injection of ash from Fuego, or lingering ash in the trailing portion of the plume that lay to the SE.)

At ~32 km (20 miles) distance from the runway, the pilots maneuvered the plane through ~3,000 m (9,700 feet) altitude on a final approach to the airport with the plane's flaps partially extended (at ~15°, which slowed their aircraft to ~260 km/hour (160 mph), its auxiliary power unit (a small jet engine) on, and its landing gear down. Around this point in their descent, pilots saw bright yellow sparks through the windshield lasting a few seconds, a display unlike static electricity, but rather like that from a grinding wheel. This occurred again at 2,500 m (8,200 feet) altitude, but was more intense yet intermittent.

At this time, air-traffic control announced to the pilots that the aircraft landing in front of them had encountered volcanic particulate; they instructed the pilots to abort their landing and climb to 3,350 m (11,000 feet) altitude. Discussions of options and ash avoidance ensued between pilots and air-traffic control; ash had by this time accumulated on the runway, further complicating landing, even for approaches in the opposite direction. The pilots retracted the landing gear, accelerated to ~410 km/hour (~250 mph), began to climb, and after some discussion with air-traffic control, held on a course NE of the airport. They were subsequently cleared to climb to 6,700 m (22,000 feet) altitude and advised to proceed to an alternate airfield.

During the climb, at ~5,800 m (19,000 feet) altitude en-route to the alternate airport, the aircraft encountered volcanic particulate for 10 minutes. Within that interval the plane spent 2 minutes during ascent engulfed in denser and heavier particulate. During that period, window arcing was constant and the beam of their landing lights revealed a conspicuous cloud of reflecting particles. During ash ingestion the engines's speed lacked noticeable fluctuations. The aircraft exited the plume at about 6,100 m (20,000 feet) altitude and landed without encountering additional ash.

Upon landing, the pilots noticed reduced visibility through abraded windshields. Post-flight examination of the airplane revealed heavy damage, requiring the replacement of the engines (US $2 million each) and auxiliary-power-unit engine. (Note, however, that no deterioration in engine power or performance was noticed during the flight.) Other replaced parts included windshields, a heat exchanger, and coalescer bags. Minor damage was seen on the horizontal stabilizer and wing leading-edges.

Volcanic Ash Advisory Statements. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Satellite Services Division website contains two archived statements issued by the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) at Washington, D.C. for Fuego on 21-22 May 1999. The statements, issued to the aviation cummunity to warn of volcanic hazards, are intended for an audience accustomed to special terminology (figures 31 and 32). In the interest of advancing understanding of how volcanological and atmospheric data get transmitted to aviators, we offer brief explanations for many of the terms used (figure 31).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. The first archived Volcanic Ash Advisory Statement (VAAS) for the 21 May 1999 eruption at Fuego, Guatemala. The boxes contain added notes to explain some of the basic conventions and specific details seen here. This Statement currently appears on the NOAA Satellite Services Division website (see "Information Contacts," below). Local names are frequently anglicized, dropping all accents and other non-English characters (eg. México would be written MEXICO). Later Advisories adopted the abbreviation "Z" (pronounced 'Zulu' by aviators) for UTC, as in 1300 UTC written as 1300Z.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 32. A later Volcanic Ash Advisory Statement (VAAS) for the 21 May 1999 eruption at Fuego, Guatemala. The statement, which was issued the next day, discloses that the eruption had then stopped and the hazard status was lowered. The statement appears on the NOAA Satellite Services Division website (see "Information Contacts," below).

The Washington VAAC received first notification of the Fuego eruption from a routine surface weather observation from Guatemala City at 2000 local time (0200 UTC) on 22 May. They issued the first Volcanic Ash Advisory Statement a half-hour later (figure 31). Six hours later they issued the second Advisory Statement (figure 32). The Advisories were composed by staff of the Satellite Analysis Branch, one of the two NOAA components forming the Washington VAAC (Streett, 1999; Washington VAAC).

The section "Details of ash cloud" first says that the "surface observation from Guatemala City indicate that the Fuego volcano is in eruption" and that no additional information is available and then briefly describes in words observations that came from satellite imagery. The first sentence, "No eruption . . ." is self-explanatory, but highlights a limitation of the method in use that needs to be emphasized to aviators: an eruption may have occurred but its status is not revealed on the imagery. The sentence, "No eruption could be detected due to thunderstorm cloudiness covering the area around the volcano" is self-explanatory. Less clear is the term convective debris. It does not refer to ash; rather, it refers to remnants of thunderstorms. The gist of these latter two sentences is simply that the thunderstorms that covered the area made it challenging or impossible to see the ash on satellite imagery. Central American thunderstorm clouds typically can reach altitudes of more than 12,000 m (40,000 feet), and can mask or obscure airborne ash residing below that level.

Members of the Washington VAAC commented that this eruption demonstrates key problems that can arise when cloudy conditions prevent satellite detection of ash, foiling a primary mode of analysis. In such cases, they rely on ground observers (including observatories and weather observers), pilot reports, and reports from airlines. Thus, their ability to issue useful information in cloudy conditions depends on the quality of communications with local observers, the Meteorological Watch Office, volcanologists, geophysical observatories, and the aviation community.

The Advisory Statement listed México City weather balloon data acquired 1,050 km NW of Guatemala City. In retrospect, the Washington VAAC noted that they generally avoid using such distant sounding data. If a closer sounding cannot be found, they prefer to use upper-level wind forecasts taken from a numerical weather model. In any case, the scarcity of local sounding data presents a challenge to the realistic analysis of airborne ash.

The outlook section says to "see SIGMETS." SIGMETS are the true warnings to aircraft for SIGnificant METeorological events. They are issued by regional Meteorological Watch Offices (MWOs), in this case the MWO (for Guatemala) is in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. SIGMETS were lacking for this eruption; although the Washington VAAC tried to contact the MWO without response. Another complexity confronted at the VAAC is a lack of a single scale for communicating a volcano's hazard status.

Reporting of aviation ash encounters. In personal communications with Bulletin editors, airline personnel stated that many more encounters have occurred than have yet been tallied in publically accessible literature. In accord with those assertions, the 21 May 1999 encounters are absent from reports compiled by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO, 2001). In that document (Appendix I, table 3A, p. I-12) Fuego fails to appear as a source vent for any aircraft-ash encounter. Pacaya is listed for two encounters, in January 1987 and in May 1998 (BGVN 23:05).

Even though the number of encounters was probably under-represented and thus reflects a minimum, ICAO (2001) notes that the international costs to aviation since 1982 summed to well in excess of $250 million. They noted, "In addition to its potential to cause a major aircraft accident, the economic cost of volcanic ash to international civil aviation is staggering. This involves numerous complete engine changes, engine overhauls, airframe refurbishing . . . aircraft downtime . . . [and] volcanic ash clearance from airports and the damage caused to equipment and buildings on the ground."

The incidents here suggest that there has been a strong bias toward under-reporting aircraft-ash encounters. If this tentative conclusion is correct, it implies consistent understatements of the hazard's magnitude. This, in turn, may have thwarted meaningful analysis of how and whether to proceed with designing more robust hazard-reduction systems. Accordingly, resources that could have been devoted to the problem have not yet been committed (see Gimmestad and others, 2001 for a discussion of a prototype on-board ash-detection instrument).

Communication challenges. While much of the aviation community needs to learn about volcanism rapidly, dependably, and with the aid of the Internet, some observers charged with reporting volcanic-ash hazards in Central and South America lack access to basic communication devices like reliable telephones and fax machines. To reduce the risks, the aviation, meteorological, remote sensing, and volcanological communities need to improve their ability to pass critical information to each other rapidly and precisely. The operational systems related to volcanic ash and aviation must transcend numerous boundaries (eg., languages, infrastructure, funding, governments, agencies, air carriers, pilots, aircraft manufactures, etc.). The systems need to portray complex, dynamic processes such as the rapid rise of an explosive plume, or large-scale ash-cloud movement.

Although the infrastructure for ash avoidance is greater than ever, members of the Washington VAAC have told Bulletin editors that they still depend heavily on people on the scene of the eruption to notify them promptly when eruptions occur. They said that thus far in parts of Central and South America a problem has been the expense of communication (eg., by phone, fax, and Internet). They also said that for the same regions the U.S. meteorological database regularly lacks pilot reports. Though serious, these problems have at least been identified and their solutions would appear to lack great technical or economic barriers.

The pilots involved in the May 1999 encounter recommended that far more emphasis be placed on forecasting and avoiding ash plumes. Other pilots cited the need for fast and accurate communications between those who observe eruptive activity and air traffic control personnel.

Issues like these continue to be an important subject at gatherings on the topic of ash hazards in aviation (Casadevall, 1994; Streett, D., 1999; Washington VAAC, 1999). The Airline Dispatcher's Federation (ADF) will participate in a 7-9 May 2002 conference and workshop: "Operational Implications of Airborne Volcanic Ash: Detection, Avoidance, and Mitigation." The gathering will provide the pilot and dispatcher with insights into volcanic ash, including its characteristics, affects on aircraft, detection/tracking, effective warning systems, and mitigation. A "hands-on" exercise will make this the first gathering of its kind to provide lab-style instruction on interpretation of satellite and wind data, and on models of ash trajectory and dispersion. Representatives from the Boeing company, and a host of US government agencies and non-governmental organizations will attend. The workshop will include lectures, demonstrations, laboratory exercises, and a simulated-eruption exercise involving volcanologists, forecasters, controllers, dispatchers, and pilots.

A second international symposium on ash and aviation safety is being planned by the U.S. Geological Survey, organized by Marianne Guffanti. It will be held in Washington, D.C. in September 2003.

References. Casadevall, T.J. (ed.), 1994, Proceedings of the First International Symposium on Volcanic Ash and Aviation Safety: U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 2047, 450 p.

Gimmestad, G.G., Papanicolopoulos, C.D., Richards, M.A., Sherman, D.L., and West, L.L., 2001, Feasibility study of radiometry for airborne detection of aviation hazards, NASA/CR-2001-210855; Georgia Tech Research Institute, Atlanta, Georgia, 51 p. (URL: http://techreports.larc.nasa.gov/ltrs/PDF/2001/cr/).

Hefter, J.L., 1998, Verifying a volcanic ash forecasting model, Airline Pilot, v. 67, no. 5, pp. 20-23, 54.

International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), 2001, Manual on volcanic ash, radioactive material, and toxic chemical clouds, doc 9691-AN/954 (first edition): 999 University St., Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3C 5H7 (purchasing information: sales_unit@icao.int).

Rose, W.I., Bluth, J.S.G., Schneider, D.L., Ernst, G.G.J., Riley, C.M., Henderson, L.J., and McGimsey, R.G., 2001, Observations of volcanic clouds in the first few days of atmospheric residence: The 1992 eruptions of Crater Peak, Mount Spurr volcano, Alaska, Jour. of Geology, v. 109, p. 677-694.

Salinas, Leonard J., 2001, Volcanic ash clouds pose a real threat to aircraft safety: United Airlines, Chicago, Illinois (URL: http://www.dispatcher.org/library/VolcanicAsh.htm).

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the World, 2nd edition: Geoscience Press in association with the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, Tucson AZ, 368 p.

Streett, D., 1999, Satellite-based Volcanic Ash Advisories and an Ash Trajectory Model from the Washington VAAC: Eighth Conference on Aviation, Range, and Aerospace Meteorology, 10-15 January 1999, Dallas, Texas; American Meteorological Society, p. 290-294.

Washington VAAC, 1999, Operations of the Washington Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, in Aeronautical meteorological offices and their functions, and meteorological observation networks: Third Caribbean/South American Regional Air Navigation Meeting (Car/sam/ran/3); Buenos Aires, Argentina, 5 - 15 October, 1999; International Civil Aviation Organization (http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/ VAAC/PAPERS/carsam.html).

Geologic Background. Eruptions from Pacaya, one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, are frequently visible from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. This complex basaltic volcano was constructed just outside the southern topographic rim of the 14 x 16 km Pleistocene Amatitlán caldera. A cluster of dacitic lava domes occupies the southern caldera floor. The post-caldera Pacaya massif includes the ancestral Pacaya Viejo and Cerro Grande stratovolcanoes and the currently active Mackenney stratovolcano. Collapse of Pacaya Viejo between 600 and 1500 years ago produced a debris-avalanche deposit that extends 25 km onto the Pacific coastal plain and left an arcuate somma rim inside which the modern Pacaya volcano (Mackenney cone) grew. A subsidiary crater, Cerro Chino, was constructed on the NW somma rim and was last active in the 19th century. During the past several decades, activity has consisted of frequent strombolian eruptions with intermittent lava flow extrusion that has partially filled in the caldera moat and armored the flanks of Mackenney cone, punctuated by occasional larger explosive eruptions that partially destroy the summit of the growing young stratovolcano.

Information Contacts: Captain Edward Miller, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Air Safety & Engineering Department, 535 Herndon Parkway, PO Box 1169, Herndon, VA 22070-1169, USA; Grace Swanson and Davida Streett, Washington VAAC, Satellite Analysis Branch (NOAA/NESDIS), 4700 Silver Hill Road, Stop 9910, Washington, DC 20233-9910, USA (URL: http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/); Bill Rose, Geological Engineering and Sciences, Michigan Technological University, Houghton, MI 49931, USA.


Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Rabaul

Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


M 5.6 earthquakes during March 2002 not related to volcanism

After explosions at Tavurvur during June and August 2001, activity decreased through October. During February-March 2002, the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory (RVO) reported that volcanic and seismic activity remained low, with some low-frequency earthquakes recorded. The active vent emitted weak-to-moderate amounts of white vapor. Ground deformation measurements showed no significant changes.

During mid-February, moderate-to-strong gas emissions drifted to the SE and E and damaged vegetation on the adjacent cone South Daughter, suggesting the presence of volcanic gases like sulphur dioxide within the emissions. The last ash-producing activity from Tavurvur occurred in early September 2001. RVO reported that the chance of mild ash activity occurring in the near future is very remote.

A few tectonic earthquakes were felt during mid-February. They were located 35-80 km NW and SW from the Rabaul-Kokopo area. An M 5.6 tectonic earthquake was felt at 0650 on 17 March. The earthquake was located offshore in the Pomio area. On 21 March, some high-frequency earthquakes occurred NE of Rabaul. Since 1995, these high-frequency earthquakes have been associated with eruptive activity at Tavurvur. During mid-March, some earthquakes were felt, unrelated to volcanic activity, that had magnitudes of 5.3-5.6.

Geologic Background. 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: Ima Itikarai, Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO), P.O. Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.


Sheveluch (Russia) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Sheveluch

Russia

56.653°N, 161.36°E; summit elev. 3283 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Growing dome, greater seismicity, and plumes to 10 km in early 2002

During late January to early April 2002, seismic activity at Shiveluch remained above background levels and the lava dome in the active crater continued to grow. Explosions, avalanches, pyroclastic flows, and plumes from combinations of steam, gas, and ash, all occurred without warning and rose as high as 7-10 km altitude. Many shallow earthquakes (ML less than or equal to 2.5) occurred within the volcano's edifice along with other shallow seismic events. The Alert Level was raised from Yellow to Orange during a period of increased activity, 12 February-mid-March. Then the Level was returned to Yellow.

Typical activities from the end of January through the first half of February 2002 included weak seismic events and short-lived explosions, which sent ash-gas plumes to heights of 0.8-1.0 km above the ~2.5 km-high dome (reaching 3.3-3.5 km altitude). Occasional explosions sent plumes to higher altitudes; on 25 January a plume rose to ~4.5 km altitude, while an explosive eruption on 1 February sent ash-gas plumes to heights over 5.0 km.

For the latter eruption, Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) satellite images show thermal anomalies up to 10 pixels. Many of these "hot" pixels were at the detector saturation level of 48°C, and appeared against typical background temperatures as low as -25°C. A satellite image on 2 February revealed a 40-pixel thermal anomaly; however, only 5-7 of the pixels had temperatures above 40°C, indicating that only those pixels were influenced by hot material on the ground. The other pixels with elevated temperatures were associated with a cloud caused by hot avalanches.

On the evening of 12 February, the character of the seismicity changed suggesting the occurrence of more intense gas-ash explosions. During the next 30 days, explosions occurred frequently, producing ash-and-gas plumes that rose over 1 km above the dome and occasionally over 3 km above it. On 22 February, a series of shallow seismic events registered for ~1 hour, possibly related to ash-gas explosions or a hot rock avalanche. A similar series was recorded on the night of 27 February, and the next morning observers from Klyuchi town (46 km S) reported a 2-km-long pyroclastic flow to the SE of the dome.

AVHRR images of the resulting plumes showed that some extended to distances of 100 km in various directions, depending upon local wind conditions. A satellite image on 21 February showed a circular ash cloud, 20 km in diameter, at an altitude of ~7.1 km. By 15 March seismic activity declined but remained above background levels. Short-lived explosions continued to send plumes as high as 7.5 km altitude during the last week of March.

Thermal anomalies and pixel size on AVHRR imagery. Dave Schneider (USGS, AVO) provided an explanation of relevant aspects of pixel size and thermal anomalies. The size of a "raw" AVHRR pixel varies across and along the scan of the sensor. The instrument scans from side to side as the satellite moves in orbit. Along the nadir (the line directly beneath the satellite sensor), the pixel size is ~1.1 km on a side. At the far extreme of the scan (55° from nadir) the pixel size increases to 2.4 x 6.5 km. The raw image looks very distorted due to this change in pixel size, so the raw data are resampled to a resolution of 1 x 1 km when processing the data for display. This resampling can generate artifacts, including duplicate "hot" pixels. Analysts usually recognize and account for this problem, and then accurately report the appropriate number of hot pixels.

Another complication is the cause and significance of hot pixels. An AVHRR pixel will begin to appear anomalously warm, compared to its neighbors, when very hot material (hundred's of degrees) occupy a very small percentage of the total pixel area (much less that 1%). So, when a report mentions four hot pixels, and the pixel is 1 km square, one might be tempted to interpret this as 4 km2 of hot material. However, this is not correct. Typically, only a very small portion of a pixel area is hot, but sufficiently hot to reach the pixel's saturation value of ~50°C. The numbers of hot pixels are not all that relevant in an absolute sense. In a relative sense, however, the number of hot pixels can be important, for example, during episodes where we have seen anomalies grow from 1-4 hot pixels and then reach 10-20 hot pixels after an eruption.

Geologic Background. The high, isolated massif of Sheveluch volcano (also spelled Shiveluch) rises above the lowlands NNE of the Kliuchevskaya volcano group. The 1300 km3 volcano is one of Kamchatka's largest and most active volcanic structures. The summit of roughly 65,000-year-old Stary Shiveluch is truncated by a broad 9-km-wide late-Pleistocene caldera breached to the south. Many lava domes dot its outer flanks. The Molodoy Shiveluch lava dome complex was constructed during the Holocene within the large horseshoe-shaped caldera; Holocene lava dome extrusion also took place on the flanks of Stary Shiveluch. At least 60 large eruptions have occurred during the Holocene, making it the most vigorous andesitic volcano of the Kuril-Kamchatka arc. Widespread tephra layers from these eruptions have provided valuable time markers for dating volcanic events in Kamchatka. Frequent collapses of dome complexes, most recently in 1964, have produced debris avalanches whose deposits cover much of the floor of the breached caldera.

Information Contacts: Olga Chubarova, Kamchatka Volcanic Eruptions Response Team (KVERT), Institute of Volcanic Geology and Geochemistry, Piip Ave. 9, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, 683006, Russia; Tom Miller and Dave Schneider, Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO), a cooperative program of a) U.S. Geological Survey, 4200 University Drive, Anchorage, AK 99508-4667, USA (URL: http://www.avo.alaska.edu/), b) Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska, PO Box 757320, Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320, USA, and c) Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, 794 University Ave., Suite 200, Fairbanks, AK 99709, USA.


Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) — March 2002 Citation iconCite this Report

Ulawun

Papua New Guinea

5.05°S, 151.33°E; summit elev. 2334 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Isolated tremor episodes and slow deflation through March 2002

An eruption occurred at Ulawun during 25-30 April 2001 (BGVN 26:06). Limited evacuations occurred on 3 May due to the occurrence of relatively high seismic activity and the possibility of further volcanic activity. On 14 June the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory (RVO) recommended that the Alert Level be reduced from 2 to 1. At this stage of alert, people could move back to their homes with the approval of the local disaster committee.

Volcanic tremor began at 2200 on 24 September. It peaked at about 1000 on 27 September and generally declined afterward. By 30 September seismic activity was at moderate levels. During 27-30 September a very slow deflationary trend was detected. Volcanic tremor continued to occur at moderate-to-high levels until it dropped dramatically on 11 October. After 11 October seismicity only consisted of discrete low-frequency earthquakes. On 8 and 9 October loud roaring noises emanated from the volcano.

During October through March 2002 activity was generally low. The main crater produced weak-to-moderate volumes of white and white-gray vapor. The N valley vent occasionally released weak volumes of thin white vapor. RSAM data revealed conspicuous seismicity on 26 October; incandescence was observed that night. A rapid trend of deflation beneath the summit area during the previous two weeks stopped on 24 December.

During mid-February tremor increased to moderate levels for the first time since December 2001. On 21 February weak roaring noises were heard and weak incandescence was visible for a short time. After 22 February tremor returned to background levels. Seismic activity returned to background levels after volcanic tremor ceased on 18 March. Discrete low-frequency earthquakes continued to occur in small numbers. The electronic tiltmeter continued to show long-term deflation of the summit area. Based on recent observations, activity at Ulawun is expected to remain low.

General References. Johnson, R.W., Davies, R.A., and White, A.J.R., 1972, Ulawun volcano, New Britain: Australia Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics, Bulletin 142, 42 p.

McKee, C.O., 1983, Volcanic hazards at Ulawun volcano: Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea Report 83/13, 21 p.

Geologic Background. The symmetrical basaltic-to-andesitic Ulawun stratovolcano is the highest volcano of the Bismarck arc, and one of Papua New Guinea's most frequently active. The volcano, also known as the Father, rises above the north coast of the island of New Britain across a low saddle NE of Bamus volcano, the South Son. The upper 1000 m is unvegetated. A prominent E-W escarpment on the south may be the result of large-scale slumping. Satellitic cones occupy the NW and E flanks. A steep-walled valley cuts the NW side, and a flank lava-flow complex lies to the south of this valley. Historical eruptions date back to the beginning of the 18th century. Twentieth-century eruptions were mildly explosive until 1967, but after 1970 several larger eruptions produced lava flows and basaltic pyroclastic flows, greatly modifying the summit crater.

Information Contacts: Ima Itikarai, Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO), P.O. Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

Atmospheric Effects

The enormous aerosol cloud from the March-April 1982 eruption of Mexico's El Chichón persisted for years in the stratosphere, and led to the Atmospheric Effects section becoming a regular feature of the Bulletin. Descriptions of the initial dispersal of major eruption clouds remain with the individual eruption reports, but observations of long-term stratospheric aerosol loading will be found in this section.

Atmospheric Effects (1980-1989)  Atmospheric Effects (1995-2001)

Special Announcements

Special announcements of various kinds and obituaries.

Special Announcements

Additional Reports

Reports are sometimes published that are not related to a Holocene volcano. These might include observations of a Pleistocene volcano, earthquake swarms, or floating pumice. Reports are also sometimes published in which the source of the activity is unknown or the report is determined to be false. All of these types of additional reports are listed below by subregion and subject.

Kermadec Islands


Floating Pumice (Kermadec Islands)

1986 Submarine Explosion


Tonga Islands


Floating Pumice (Tonga)


Fiji Islands


Floating Pumice (Fiji)


Andaman Islands


False Report of Andaman Islands Eruptions


Sangihe Islands


1968 Northern Celebes Earthquake


Southeast Asia


Pumice Raft (South China Sea)

Land Subsidence near Ham Rong


Ryukyu Islands and Kyushu


Pumice Rafts (Ryukyu Islands)


Izu, Volcano, and Mariana Islands


Acoustic Signals in 1996 from Unknown Source

Acoustic Signals in 1999-2000 from Unknown Source


Kuril Islands


Possible 1988 Eruption Plume


Aleutian Islands


Possible 1986 Eruption Plume


Mexico


False Report of New Volcano


Nicaragua


Apoyo


Colombia


La Lorenza Mud Volcano


Pacific Ocean (Chilean Islands)


False Report of Submarine Volcanism


Central Chile and Argentina


Estero de Parraguirre


West Indies


Mid-Cayman Spreading Center


Atlantic Ocean (northern)


Northern Reykjanes Ridge


Azores


Azores-Gibraltar Fracture Zone


Antarctica and South Sandwich Islands


Jun Jaegyu

East Scotia Ridge


Additional Reports (database)

08/1997 (BGVN 22:08) False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption

False report of volcanism intended to exclude would-be gold miners

12/1997 (BGVN 22:12) False Report of Somalia Eruption

Press reports of Somalia's first historical eruption were likely in error

11/1999 (BGVN 24:11) False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption

UFO adherent claims new volcano in Sea of Marmara

05/2003 (BGVN 28:05) Har-Togoo

Fumaroles and minor seismicity since October 2002

12/2005 (BGVN 30:12) Elgon

False report of activity; confusion caused by burning dung in a lava tube



False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption (Philippines) — August 1997

False Report of Mount Pinokis Eruption

Philippines

7.975°N, 123.23°E; summit elev. 1510 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


False report of volcanism intended to exclude would-be gold miners

In discussing the week ending on 12 September, "Earthweek" (Newman, 1997) incorrectly claimed that a volcano named "Mount Pinukis" had erupted. Widely read in the US, the dramatic Earthweek report described terrified farmers and a black mushroom cloud that resembled a nuclear explosion. The mountain's location was given as "200 km E of Zamboanga City," a spot well into the sea. The purported eruption had received mention in a Manila Bulletin newspaper report nine days earlier, on 4 September. Their comparatively understated report said that a local police director had disclosed that residents had seen a dormant volcano showing signs of activity.

In response to these news reports Emmanuel Ramos of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) sent a reply on 17 September. PHIVOLCS staff had initially heard that there were some 12 alleged families who fled the mountain and sought shelter in the lowlands. A PHIVOLCS investigation team later found that the reported "families" were actually individuals seeking respite from some politically motivated harassment. The story seems to have stemmed from a local gold rush and an influential politician who wanted to use volcanism as a ploy to exclude residents. PHIVOLCS concluded that no volcanic activity had occurred. They also added that this finding disappointed local politicians but was much welcomed by the residents.

PHIVOLCS spelled the mountain's name as "Pinokis" and from their report it seems that it might be an inactive volcano. There is no known Holocene volcano with a similar name (Simkin and Siebert, 1994). No similar names (Pinokis, Pinukis, Pinakis, etc.) were found listed in the National Imagery and Mapping Agency GEOnet Names Server (http://geonames.nga.mil/gns/html/index.html), a searchable database of 3.3 million non-US geographic-feature names.

The Manila Bulletin report suggested that Pinokis resides on the Zamboanga Peninsula. The Peninsula lies on Mindanao Island's extreme W side where it bounds the Moro Gulf, an arm of the Celebes Sea. The mountainous Peninsula trends NNE-SSW and contains peaks with summit elevations near 1,300 m. Zamboanga City sits at the extreme end of the Peninsula and operates both a major seaport and an international airport.

[Later investigation found that Mt. Pinokis is located in the Lison Valley on the Zamboanga Peninsula, about 170 km NE of Zamboanga City and 30 km NW of Pagadian City. It is adjacent to the two peaks of the Susong Dalaga (Maiden's Breast) and near Mt. Sugarloaf.]

References. Newman, S., 1997, Earthweek, a diary of the planet (week ending 12 September): syndicated newspaper column (URL: http://www.earthweek.com/).

Manila Bulletin, 4 Sept. 1997, Dante's Peak (URL: http://www.mb.com.ph/).

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the world, 2nd edition: Geoscience Press in association with the Smithsonian Institution Global Volcanism Program, Tucson AZ, 368 p.

Information Contacts: Emmanuel G. Ramos, Deputy Director, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, Department of Science and Technology, PHIVOLCS Building, C. P. Garcia Ave., University of the Philippines, Diliman campus, Quezon City, Philippines.


False Report of Somalia Eruption (Somalia) — December 1997

False Report of Somalia Eruption

Somalia

3.25°N, 41.667°E; summit elev. 500 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Press reports of Somalia's first historical eruption were likely in error

Xinhua News Agency filed a news report on 27 February under the headline "Volcano erupts in Somalia" but the veracity of the story now appears doubtful. The report disclosed the volcano's location as on the W side of the Gedo region, an area along the Ethiopian border just NE of Kenya. The report had relied on the commissioner of the town of Bohol Garas (a settlement described as 40 km NE of the main Al-Itihad headquarters of Luq town) and some or all of the information was relayed by journalists through VHF radio. The report claimed the disaster "wounded six herdsmen" and "claimed the lives of 290 goats grazing near the mountain when the incident took place." Further descriptions included such statements as "the volcano which erupted two days ago [25 February] has melted down the rocks and sand and spread . . . ."

Giday WoldeGabriel returned from three weeks of geological fieldwork in SW Ethiopia, near the Kenyan border, on 25 August. During his time there he inquired of many people, including geologists, if they had heard of a Somalian eruption in the Gedo area; no one had heard of the event. WoldeGabriel stated that he felt the news report could have described an old mine or bomb exploding. Heavy fighting took place in the Gedo region during the Ethio-Somalian war of 1977. Somalia lacks an embassy in Washington DC; when asked during late August, Ayalaw Yiman, an Ethiopian embassy staff member in Washington DC also lacked any knowledge of a Somalian eruption.

A Somalian eruption would be significant since the closest known Holocene volcanoes occur in the central Ethiopian segment of the East African rift system S of Addis Ababa, ~500 km NW of the Gedo area. These Ethiopian rift volcanoes include volcanic fields, shield volcanoes, cinder cones, and stratovolcanoes.

Information Contacts: Xinhua News Agency, 5 Sharp Street West, Wanchai, Hong Kong; Giday WoldeGabriel, EES-1/MS D462, Geology-Geochemistry Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM 87545; Ayalaw Yiman, Ethiopian Embassy, 2134 Kalorama Rd. NW, Washington DC 20008.


False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption (Turkey) — November 1999

False Report of Sea of Marmara Eruption

Turkey

40.683°N, 29.1°E; summit elev. 0 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


UFO adherent claims new volcano in Sea of Marmara

Following the Ms 7.8 earthquake in Turkey on 17 August (BGVN 24:08) an Email message originating in Turkey was circulated, claiming that volcanic activity was observed coincident with the earthquake and suggesting a new (magmatic) volcano in the Sea of Marmara. For reasons outlined below, and in the absence of further evidence, editors of the Bulletin consider this a false report.

The report stated that fishermen near the village of Cinarcik, at the E end of the Sea of Marmara "saw the sea turned red with fireballs" shortly after the onset of the earthquake. They later found dead fish that appeared "fried." Their nets were "burned" while under water and contained samples of rocks alleged to look "magmatic."

No samples of the fish were preserved. A tectonic scientist in Istanbul speculated that hot water released by the earthquake from the many hot springs along the coast in that area may have killed some fish (although they would be boiled rather than fried).

The phenomenon called earthquake lights could explain the "fireballs" reportedly seen by the fishermen. Such effects have been reasonably established associated with large earthquakes, although their origin remains poorly understood. In addition to deformation-triggered piezoelectric effects, earthquake lights have sometimes been explained as due to the release of methane gas in areas of mass wasting (even under water). Omlin and others (1999), for example, found gas hydrate and methane releases associated with mud volcanoes in coastal submarine environments.

The astronomer and author Thomas Gold (Gold, 1998) has a website (Gold, 2000) where he presents a series of alleged quotes from witnesses of earthquakes. We include three such quotes here (along with Gold's dates, attributions, and other comments):

(A) Lima, 30 March 1828. "Water in the bay 'hissed as if hot iron was immersed in it,' bubbles and dead fish rose to the surface, and the anchor chain of HMS Volage was partially fused while lying in the mud on the bottom." (Attributed to Bagnold, 1829; the anchor chain is reported to be on display in the London Navy Museum.)

(B) Romania, 10 November 1940. ". . . a thick layer like a translucid gas above the surface of the soil . . . irregular gas fires . . . flames in rhythm with the movements of the soil . . . flashes like lightning from the floor to the summit of Mt Tampa . . . flames issuing from rocks, which crumbled, with flashes also issuing from non-wooded mountainsides." (Phrases used in eyewitness accounts collected by Demetrescu and Petrescu, 1941).

(C) Sungpan-Pingwu (China), 16, 22, and 23 August 1976. "From March of 1976, various large anomalies were observed over a broad region. . . . At the Wanchia commune of Chungching County, outbursts of natural gas from rock fissures ignited and were difficult to extinguish even by dumping dirt over the fissures. . . . Chu Chieh Cho, of the Provincial Seismological Bureau, related personally seeing a fireball 75 km from the epicenter on the night of 21 July while in the company of three professional seismologists."

Yalciner and others (1999) made a study of coastal areas along the Sea of Marmara after the Izmet earthquake. They found evidence for one or more tsunamis with maximum runups of 2.0-2.5 m. Preliminary modeling of the earthquake's response failed to reproduce the observed runups; the areas of maximum runup instead appeared to correspond most closely with several local mass-failure events. This observation together with the magnitude of the earthquake, and bottom soundings from marine geophysical teams, suggested mass wasting may have been fairly common on the floor of the Sea of Marmara.

Despite a wide range of poorly understood, dramatic processes associated with earthquakes (Izmet 1999 apparently included), there remains little evidence for volcanism around the time of the earthquake. The nearest Holocene volcano lies ~200 km SW of the report location. Neither Turkish geologists nor scientists from other countries in Turkey to study the 17 August earthquake reported any volcanism. The report said the fisherman found "magmatic" rocks; it is unlikely they would be familiar with this term.

The motivation and credibility of the report's originator, Erol Erkmen, are unknown. Certainly, the difficulty in translating from Turkish to English may have caused some problems in understanding. Erkmen is associated with a website devoted to reporting UFO activity in Turkey. Photographs of a "magmatic rock" sample were sent to the Bulletin, but they only showed dark rocks photographed devoid of a scale on a featureless background. The rocks shown did not appear to be vesicular or glassy. What was most significant to Bulletin editors was the report author's progressive reluctance to provide samples or encourage follow-up investigation with local scientists. Without the collaboration of trained scientists on the scene this report cannot be validated.

References. Omlin, A, Damm, E., Mienert, J., and Lukas, D., 1999, In-situ detection of methane releases adjacent to gas hydrate fields on the Norwegian margin: (Abstract) Fall AGU meeting 1999, Eos, American Geophysical Union.

Yalciner, A.C., Borrero, J., Kukano, U., Watts, P., Synolakis, C. E., and Imamura, F., 1999, Field survey of 1999 Izmit tsunami and modeling effort of new tsunami generation mechanism: (Abstract) Fall AGU meeting 1999, Eos, American Geophysical Union.

Gold, T., 1998, The deep hot biosphere: Springer Verlag, 256 p., ISBN: 0387985468.

Gold, T., 2000, Eye-witness accounts of several major earthquakes (URL: http://www.people.cornell.edu/ pages/tg21/eyewit.html).

Information Contacts: Erol Erkmen, Tuvpo Project Alp.


Har-Togoo (Mongolia) — May 2003

Har-Togoo

Mongolia

48.831°N, 101.626°E; summit elev. 1675 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Fumaroles and minor seismicity since October 2002

In December 2002 information appeared in Mongolian and Russian newspapers and on national TV that a volcano in Central Mongolia, the Har-Togoo volcano, was producing white vapors and constant acoustic noise. Because of the potential hazard posed to two nearby settlements, mainly with regard to potential blocking of rivers, the Director of the Research Center of Astronomy and Geophysics of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Bekhtur, organized a scientific expedition to the volcano on 19-20 March 2003. The scientific team also included M. Ulziibat, seismologist from the same Research Center, M. Ganzorig, the Director of the Institute of Informatics, and A. Ivanov from the Institute of the Earth's Crust, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Geological setting. The Miocene Har-Togoo shield volcano is situated on top of a vast volcanic plateau (figure 1). The 5,000-year-old Khorog (Horog) cone in the Taryatu-Chulutu volcanic field is located 135 km SW and the Quaternary Urun-Dush cone in the Khanuy Gol (Hanuy Gol) volcanic field is 95 km ENE. Pliocene and Quaternary volcanic rocks are also abundant in the vicinity of the Holocene volcanoes (Devyatkin and Smelov, 1979; Logatchev and others, 1982). Analysis of seismic activity recorded by a network of seismic stations across Mongolia shows that earthquakes of magnitude 2-3.5 are scattered around the Har-Togoo volcano at a distance of 10-15 km.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 1. Photograph of the Har-Togoo volcano viewed from west, March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

Observations during March 2003. The name of the volcano in the Mongolian language means "black-pot" and through questioning of the local inhabitants, it was learned that there is a local myth that a dragon lived in the volcano. The local inhabitants also mentioned that marmots, previously abundant in the area, began to migrate westwards five years ago; they are now practically absent from the area.

Acoustic noise and venting of colorless warm gas from a small hole near the summit were noticed in October 2002 by local residents. In December 2002, while snow lay on the ground, the hole was clearly visible to local visitors, and a second hole could be seen a few meters away; it is unclear whether or not white vapors were noticed on this occasion. During the inspection in March 2003 a third hole was seen. The second hole is located within a 3 x 3 m outcrop of cinder and pumice (figure 2) whereas the first and the third holes are located within massive basalts. When close to the holes, constant noise resembled a rapid river heard from afar. The second hole was covered with plastic sheeting fixed at the margins, but the plastic was blown off within 2-3 seconds. Gas from the second hole was sampled in a mechanically pumped glass sampler. Analysis by gas chromatography, performed a week later at the Institute of the Earth's Crust, showed that nitrogen and atmospheric air were the major constituents.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 2. Photograph of the second hole sampled at Har-Togoo, with hammer for scale, March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

The temperature of the gas at the first, second, and third holes was +1.1, +1.4, and +2.7°C, respectively, while air temperature was -4.6 to -4.7°C (measured on 19 March 2003). Repeated measurements of the temperatures on the next day gave values of +1.1, +0.8, and -6.0°C at the first, second, and third holes, respectively. Air temperature was -9.4°C. To avoid bias due to direct heating from sunlight the measurements were performed under shadow. All measurements were done with Chechtemp2 digital thermometer with precision of ± 0.1°C and accuracy ± 0.3°C.

Inside the mouth of the first hole was 4-10-cm-thick ice with suspended gas bubbles (figure 5). The ice and snow were sampled in plastic bottles, melted, and tested for pH and Eh with digital meters. The pH-meter was calibrated by Horiba Ltd (Kyoto, Japan) standard solutions 4 and 7. Water from melted ice appeared to be slightly acidic (pH 6.52) in comparison to water of melted snow (pH 7.04). Both pH values were within neutral solution values. No prominent difference in Eh (108 and 117 for ice and snow, respectively) was revealed.

Two digital short-period three-component stations were installed on top of Har-Togoo, one 50 m from the degassing holes and one in a remote area on basement rocks, for monitoring during 19-20 March 2003. Every hour 1-3 microseismic events with magnitude <2 were recorded. All seismic events were virtually identical and resembled A-type volcano-tectonic earthquakes (figure 6). Arrival difference between S and P waves were around 0.06-0.3 seconds for the Har-Togoo station and 0.1-1.5 seconds for the remote station. Assuming that the Har-Togoo station was located in the epicentral zone, the events were located at ~1-3 km depth. Seismic episodes similar to volcanic tremors were also recorded (figure 3).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 3. Examples of an A-type volcano-tectonic earthquake and volcanic tremor episodes recorded at the Har-Togoo station on 19 March 2003. Courtesy of Alexei Ivanov.

Conclusions. The abnormal thermal and seismic activities could be the result of either hydrothermal or volcanic processes. This activity could have started in the fall of 2002 when they were directly observed for the first time, or possibly up to five years earlier when marmots started migrating from the area. Further studies are planned to investigate the cause of the fumarolic and seismic activities.

At the end of a second visit in early July, gas venting had stopped, but seismicity was continuing. In August there will be a workshop on Russian-Mongolian cooperation between Institutions of the Russian and Mongolian Academies of Sciences (held in Ulan-Bator, Mongolia), where the work being done on this volcano will be presented.

References. Devyatkin, E.V. and Smelov, S.B., 1979, Position of basalts in sequence of Cenozoic sediments of Mongolia: Izvestiya USSR Academy of Sciences, geological series, no. 1, p. 16-29. (In Russian).

Logatchev, N.A., Devyatkin, E.V., Malaeva, E.M., and others, 1982, Cenozoic deposits of Taryat basin and Chulutu river valley (Central Hangai): Izvestiya USSR Academy of Sciences, geological series, no. 8, p. 76-86. (In Russian).

Geologic Background. The Miocene Har-Togoo shield volcano, also known as Togoo Tologoy, is situated on top of a vast volcanic plateau. The 5,000-year-old Khorog (Horog) cone in the Taryatu-Chulutu volcanic field is located 135 km SW and the Quaternary Urun-Dush cone in the Khanuy Gol (Hanuy Gol) volcanic field is 95 km ENE. Analysis of seismic activity recorded by a network of seismic stations across Mongolia shows that earthquakes of magnitude 2-3.5 are scattered around the Har-Togoo volcano at a distance of 10-15 km.

Information Contacts: Alexei V. Ivanov, Institute of the Earth Crust SB, Russian Academy of Sciences, Irkutsk, Russia; Bekhtur andM. Ulziibat, Research Center of Astronomy and Geophysics, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulan-Bator, Mongolia; M. Ganzorig, Institute of Informatics MAS, Ulan-Bator, Mongolia.


Elgon (Uganda) — December 2005

Elgon

Uganda

1.136°N, 34.559°E; summit elev. 3885 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


False report of activity; confusion caused by burning dung in a lava tube

An eruption at Mount Elgon was mistakenly inferred when fumes escaped from this otherwise quiet volcano. The fumes were eventually traced to dung burning in a lava-tube cave. The cave is home to, or visited by, wildlife ranging from bats to elephants. Mt. Elgon (Ol Doinyo Ilgoon) is a stratovolcano on the SW margin of a 13 x 16 km caldera that straddles the Uganda-Kenya border 140 km NE of the N shore of Lake Victoria. No eruptions are known in the historical record or in the Holocene.

On 7 September 2004 the web site of the Kenyan newspaper The Daily Nation reported that villagers sighted and smelled noxious fumes from a cave on the flank of Mt. Elgon during August 2005. The villagers' concerns were taken quite seriously by both nations, to the extent that evacuation of nearby villages was considered.

The Daily Nation article added that shortly after the villagers' reports, Moses Masibo, Kenya's Western Province geology officer visited the cave, confirmed the villagers observations, and added that the temperature in the cave was 170°C. He recommended that nearby villagers move to safer locations. Masibo and Silas Simiyu of KenGens geothermal department collected ashes from the cave for testing.

Gerald Ernst reported on 19 September 2004 that he spoke with two local geologists involved with the Elgon crisis from the Geology Department of the University of Nairobi (Jiromo campus): Professor Nyambok and Zacharia Kuria (the former is a senior scientist who was unable to go in the field; the latter is a junior scientist who visited the site). According to Ernst their interpretation is that somebody set fire to bat guano in one of the caves. The fire was intense and probably explains the vigorous fuming, high temperatures, and suffocated animals. The event was also accompanied by emissions of gases with an ammonia odor. Ernst noted that this was not surprising considering the high nitrogen content of guano—ammonia is highly toxic and can also explain the animal deaths. The intense fumes initially caused substantial panic in the area.

It was Ernst's understanding that the authorities ordered evacuations while awaiting a report from local scientists, but that people returned before the report reached the authorities. The fire presumably prompted the response of local authorities who then urged the University geologists to analyze the situation. By the time geologists arrived, the fuming had ceased, or nearly so. The residue left by the fire and other observations led them to conclude that nothing remotely related to a volcanic eruption had occurred.

However, the incident emphasized the problem due to lack of a seismic station to monitor tectonic activity related to a local triple junction associated with the rift valley or volcanic seismicity. In response, one seismic station was moved from S Kenya to the area of Mt. Elgon so that local seismicity can be monitored in the future.

Information Contacts: Gerald Ernst, Univ. of Ghent, Krijgslaan 281/S8, B-9000, Belgium; Chris Newhall, USGS, Univ. of Washington, Dept. of Earth & Space Sciences, Box 351310, Seattle, WA 98195-1310, USA; The Daily Nation (URL: http://www.nationmedia.com/dailynation/); Uganda Tourist Board (URL: http://www.visituganda.com/).