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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

Sangeang Api (Indonesia) Ash emissions and lava flow extrusion continue during May 2019 through January 2020

Shishaldin (United States) Multiple lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars, and ashfall events during October 2019 through January 2020

Nevados de Chillan (Chile) Many explosions, ash plumes, lava and pyroclastic flows June-December 2019

Asosan (Japan) Intermittent ash plumes and elevated SO2 emissions continue during July-December 2019

Tinakula (Solomon Islands) Intermittent thermal activity suggests ongoing eruption, July-December 2019

Ibu (Indonesia) Frequent ash plumes and small lava flows in the crater through December 2019

Lateiki (Tonga) Eruption 13-22 October 2019 creates new island, which disappears by mid-January 2020

Aira (Japan) Ongoing explosions with ejecta and ash plumes, along with summit incandescence, during July-December 2019

Suwanosejima (Japan) Explosions, ash emissions, and summit incandescence in July-December 2019

Barren Island (India) Thermal anomalies and small ash plumes during February-April 2019 and September 2019-January 2020

Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) Explosion producing an ash plume and pyroclastic surge resulted in fatalities and injuries on 9 December 2019

Kadovar (Papua New Guinea) Frequent gas and some ash emissions during May-December 2019 with some hot avalanches

Sangeang Api (Indonesia) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Sangeang Api


8.2°S, 119.07°E; summit elev. 1912 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ash emissions and lava flow extrusion continue during May 2019 through January 2020

Sangeang Api is located in the eastern Sunda-Banda Arc in Indonesia, forming a small island in the Flores Strait, north of the eastern side of West Nusa Tenggara. It has been frequently active in recent times with documented eruptions spanning back to 1512. The edifice has two peaks – the active Doro Api cone and the inactive Doro Mantori within an older caldera (figure 37). The current activity is focused at the summit of the cone within a horseshoe-shaped crater at the summit of Doro Api. This bulletin summarizes activity during May 2019 through January 2020 and is based on Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reports, Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, or CVGHM) MAGMA Indonesia Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) reports, and various satellite data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. A PlanetScope satellite image of Sangeang Api with the active Doro Api and the inactive Doro Mantori cones indicated, and the channel SE of the active area that contains recent lava flows and other deposits. December 2019 monthly mosaic copyright of Planet Labs 2019.

Thermal anomalies were visible in Sentinel-2 satellite thermal images on 4 and 5 May with some ash and gas emission visible; bright pixels from the summit of the active cone extended to the SE towards the end of the month, indicating an active lava flow (figure 38). Multiple small emissions with increasing ash content reached 1.2-2.1 km altitude on 17 June. The emissions drifted W and WNW, and a thermal anomaly was also visible. On the 27th ash plumes rose to 2.1 km and drifted NW and the thermal anomaly persisted. One ash plume reached 2.4 km and drifted NW on the 29th, and steam emissions were ongoing. Satellite images showed two active lava flows in June, an upper and a lower flow, with several lobes descending the same channel and with lateral levees visible in satellite imagery (figure 39). The lava extrusion appeared to have ceased by late June with lower temperatures detected in Sentinel-2 thermal data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. Sentinel-2 satellite thermal images of Sangeang Api on 20 May and 9 June 2019 show an active lava flow from the summit, traveling to the SE. False color (urban) image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. PlanetScope satellite images of Sangeang Api show new lava flows during June and July, with white arrows indicating the flow fronts. Copyright Planet Labs 2019.

During 4-5 July the Darwin VAAC reported ash plumes reaching 2.1-2.3 km altitude and drifting SW and W. Activity continued during 6-9 July with plumes up to 4.6 km drifting N, NW, and SW. Thermal anomalies were noted on the 4th and 8th. Plumes rose to 2.1-3 km during 10-16th, and to a maximum altitude of 4.6 km during 17-18 and 20-22. Similar activity was reported during 24-30 July with plumes reaching 2.4-3 km and dispersing NW, W, and SW. The upper lava flow had increased in length since 15 June (see figure 39).

During 31 July through 3 September ash plumes continued to reach 2.4-3 km altitude and disperse in multiple directions. Similar activity was reported throughout September. Thermal anomalies also persisted through July-September, with evidence of hot avalanches in Sentinel-2 thermal satellite imagery on 23 August, and 9, 12, 22, and 27 September. Thermal anomalies suggested hot avalanches or lava flows during October (figure 40). During 26-28 October short-lived ash plumes were reported to 2.1-2.7 km above sea level and dissipated to the NW, WNW, and W. Short-lived explosions produced ash plumes up to 2.7-3.5 km altitude were noted during 30-31 October and 3-4 November 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Sentinel-2 satellite thermal images of Sangeang Api on 7 and 22 October 2019 show an area of elevated temperatures trending from the summit of the active cone down the SE flank. False color (urban) image rendering (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Discrete explosions produced ash plumes up to 2.7-3.5 km altitude during 3-4 November, and during the 6-12th the Darwin VAAC reported short-lived ash emissions reaching 3 km altitude. Thermal anomalies were visible in satellite images during 6-8 November. A VONA was released on 14 November for an ash plume that reached about 2 km altitude and dispersed to the west. During 14-19 November the Darwin VAAC reported short-lived ash plumes reaching 2.4 km that drifted NW and W. Additional ash plumes were observed reaching a maximum altitude of 2.4 km during 20-26 November. Thermal anomalies were detected during the 18-19th, and on the 27th.

Ash plumes were recorded reaching 2.4 km during 4-5, 7-9, 11-13, and 17-19 December, and up to 3 km during 25-28 December. There were no reports of activity in early to mid-January 2020 until the Darwin VAAC reported ash reaching 3 km on 23 January. A webcam image on 15 January showed a gas plume originating from the summit. Several fires were visible on the flanks during May 2019 through January 2020, and this is seen in the MIROVA log thermal plot with the thermal anomalies greater than 5 km away from the crater (figure 41).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. MIROVA log plot of radiative power indicates the persistent activity at Sangeang Api during April 2019 through March 2020. There was a slight decline in September-October 2019 and again in February 2020. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. Sangeang Api volcano, one of the most active in the Lesser Sunda Islands, forms a small 13-km-wide island off the NE coast of Sumbawa Island. Two large trachybasaltic-to-tranchyandesitic volcanic cones, Doro Api and Doro Mantoi, were constructed in the center and on the eastern rim, respectively, of an older, largely obscured caldera. Flank vents occur on the south side of Doro Mantoi and near the northern coast. Intermittent historical eruptions have been recorded since 1512, most of them during in the 20th century.

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/); 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/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/).

Shishaldin (United States) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report


United States

54.756°N, 163.97°W; summit elev. 2857 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Multiple lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars, and ashfall events during October 2019 through January 2020

Shishaldin is located near the center of Unimak Island in Alaska and has been frequently active in recent times. Activity includes steam plumes, ash plumes, lava flows, lava fountaining, pyroclastic flows, and lahars. The current eruption phase began on 23 July 2019 and through September included lava fountaining, explosions, and a lava lake in the summit crater. Continuing activity during October 2019 through January 2020 is described in this report based largely on Alaska Volcano Observatory (AVO) reports, photographs, and satellite data.

Minor steam emissions were observed on 30 September 2019, but no activity was observed through the following week. Activity at that time was slightly above background levels with the Volcano Alert Level at Advisory and the Aviation Color Code at Yellow (figure 17). In the first few days of October weak tremor continued but no eruptive activity was observed. Weakly elevated temperatures were noted in clear satellite images during 4-9 October and weak tremor continued. Elevated temperatures were recorded again on the 14th with low-level tremor.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 17. Alaska Volcano Observatory hazard status definitions for Aviation Color Codes and Volcanic Activity Alert Levels used for Shishaldin and other volcanoes in Alaska. Courtesy of AVO.

New lava extrusion was observed on 13 October, prompting AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code to Orange and the Volcano Alert Level to Watch. Elevated surface temperatures were detected by satellite during the 13th and 17-20th, and a steam plume was observed on the 19th. A change from small explosions to continuous tremor that morning suggested a change in eruptive behavior. Low-level Strombolian activity was observed during 21-22 October, accompanied by a persistent steam plume. Lava had filled the crater by the 23rd and began to overflow at two places. One lava flow to the north reached a distance of 200 m on the 24th and melted snow to form a 2.9-km-long lahar down the N flank. The second smaller lava flow resulted in a 1-km-long lahar down the NE flank. Additional snowmelt was produced by spatter accumulating around the crater rim. By 25 October the northern flow reached 800 m, there was minor explosive activity with periodic lava fountaining, and lahar deposits reached 3 km to the NW with shorter lahars to the N and E (figure 18). Trace amounts of ashfall extended at least 8.5 km SE. There was a pause in activity on the 29th, but beginning at 1839 on the 31st seismic and infrasound monitoring detected multiple small explosions.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 18. PlanetScope satellite images of Shishaldin on 3 and 29 October 2019 show the summit crater and N flank before and after emplacement of lava flows, lahars, and ashfall. Copyright PlanetLabs 2019.

Elevated activity continued through November with multiple lava flows on the northern flanks (figure 19). By 1 November the two lava flows had stalled after extending 1.8 km down the NW flank. Lahars had reached at least 4 km NW and trace amounts of ash were deposited on the north flank. Elevated seismicity on 2 November indicated that lava was likely flowing beyond the summit crater, supported by a local pilot observation. The next day an active lava flow moved 400 m down the NW flank while a smaller flow was active SE of the summit. Minor explosive activity and/or lava fountaining at the summit was indicated by incandescence during the night. Small explosions were recorded in seismic and infrasound data. On 5 November the longer lava flow had developed two lobes, reaching 1 km in length. The lahars had also increased in length, reaching 2 km on the N and S flanks. Incandescence continued and hot spatter was accumulating around the summit vent. Activity continued, other than a 10-hour pause on 4-5 November, and another pause on the 7th. The lava flow length had reached 1.3 km on the 8th and lahar deposits reached 5 km.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 19. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images show multiple lava flows (orange) on the upper northern flanks of Shishaldin between 1 November and 1 December 2019. Blue is snow and ice in these images, and partial cloud cover is visible in all of them. Sentinel-2 Urban rendering (bands 21, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

After variable levels of activity for a few days, there was a significant increase on 10-11 November with lava fountaining through the evening and night. This was accompanied by minor to moderate ash emissions up to around 3.7 km altitude and drifting northwards, and a significant increase in seismicity. Activity decreased again during the 11-12th while minor steam and ash emissions continued. On 14 November minor ash plumes were visible on the flanks, likely caused by the collapse of accumulated spatter. By 15 November a large network of debris flows consisting of snowmelt and fresh deposits extended 5.5 km NE and the collapse of spatter mounds continued. Ashfall from ash plumes reaching as high as 3.7 km altitude produced thin deposits to the NE, S, and SE. Activity paused during the 17-18th and resumed again on the 19th; intermittent clear views showed either a lava flow or lahar descending the SE flank. Activity sharply declined at 0340 on the 20th.

Seismicity began increasing again on 24 November and small explosions were detected on the 23rd. A small collapse of spatter that had accumulated at the summit occurred at 2330 on the 24th, producing a pyroclastic flow that reached 3 km in length down the NW flank. A new lava flow had also reached several hundred meters down the same flank. Variable but elevated activity continued over 27 November into early December, with a 1.5-km-long lava flow observed in satellite imagery acquired on the 1st. On 5 December minor steam or ash emissions were observed at the summit and on the north flank, and Strombolian explosions were detected. Activity from that day produced fresh ash deposits on the northern side of the volcano and a new lava flow extended 1.4 km down the NW flank. Three small explosions were detected on the 11th.

At 0710 on 12 December a 3-minute-long explosion produced an ash plume up to 6-7.6 km altitude that dispersed predominantly towards the W to NW and three lightning strokes were detected. Ash samples were collected on the SE flank by AVO field crews on 20 December and analysis showed variable crystal contents in a glassy matrix (figure 20). A new ash deposit was emplaced out to 10 km SE, and a 3.5-km-long pyroclastic flow had been emplaced to the north, containing blocks as large as 3 m in diameter. The pyroclastic flow was likely a result from collapse of the summit spatter cone and lava flows. A new narrow lava flow had reached 3 km to the NW and lahars continued out to the northern coast of Unimak island (figure 21). The incandescent lava flow was visible from Cold Bay on the evening of the 12th and a thick steam plume continued through the next day.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 20. An example of a volcanic ash grain that was erupted at Shishaldin on 12 December 2019 and collected on the SE flank by the Alaska Volcano Observatory staff. This Scanning Electron Microscope images shows the different crystals represented by different colors: dark gray crystals are plagioclase, the light gray crystals are olivine, and the white ones are Fe-Ti oxides. The groundmass in this grain is nearly completely crystallized. Courtesy of AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 21. A WorldView-2 satellite image of Shishaldin with the summit vent and eruption deposits on 12 December 2019. The tephra deposit extends around 10 km SE, a new lava flow reaching 3 km NW with lahars continuing to the N coast of Unimak island. Pyroclastic flow deposits reach 3.5 km to the N and contain blocks as large as 3 m. Courtesy of Hannah Dietterich, AVO.

A new lava flow was reported by a pilot on the night of 16 December. Thermal satellite data showed that this flow reached 2 km to the NW. High-resolution radar satellite images over the 15-17th showed that the lava flow had advanced out to 2.5 km and had developed levees along the margins (figure 22). The lava channel was 5-15 m wide and was originating from a crater at the base of the summit scoria cone, which had been rebuilt since the collapse the previous week. Minor ash emissions drifted to the south on the 19tt and 20th (figure 23).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 22. TerraSAR-X radar satellite images of Shishaldin on 15 and 17 December 2019 show the new lava flow on the NW flank and growth of a scoria cone at the summit. The lava flow had reached around 2.5 km at this point and was 5-15 m wide with levees visible along the flow margins. Pyroclastic flow deposits from a scoria cone collapse event on 12 December are on the N flank. Figure courtesy of Simon Plank (German Aerospace Center, DLR) and Hannah Dietterich (AVO).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 23. Geologist Janet Schaefer (AVO/DGGS) collects ash samples within ice and snow on the southern flanks of Shishaldin on 20 December 2019. A weak ash plume is rising from the summit crater. Photo courtesy of Wyatt Mayo, AVO.

On 21 December a new lava flow commenced, traveling down the northern slope and accompanied by minor ash emissions. Continued lava extrusion was indicated by thermal data on the 25th and two lava flows reaching 1.5 km and 100 m were observed in satellite data on the 26th, as well as ash deposits on the upper flanks (figure 24). Weak explosions were detected by the regional infrasound network the following day. A satellite image acquired on the 30th showed a thick steam plume obscuring the summit and snow cover on the flanks indicating a pause in ash emissions.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 24. This 26 December 2019 WorldView-2 satellite image with a close-up of the Shishaldin summit area to the right shows a lava flow extending nearly 1.5 km down the NW flank and a smaller 100-m-long lava flow to the NE. Volcanic ash was deposited around the summit, coating snow and ice. Courtesy of Matt Loewen, AVO.

In early January satellite data indicated slow lava extrusion or cooling lava flows (or both) near the summit. On the morning of the 3rd an ash plume rose to 6-7 km altitude and drifted 120 km E to SE, producing minor amounts of volcanic lightning. Elevated surface temperatures the previous week indicated continued lava extrusion. A satellite image acquired on 3 January showed lava flows extending to 1.6 km NW, pyroclastic flows moving 2.6 km down the western and southern flanks, and ashfall on the flanks (figure 25).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 25. This WorldView-2 multispectral satellite image of Shishaldin, acquired on 3 January 2019, shows the lava flows reaching 1.6 km down the NW flank and an ash plume erupting from the summit dispersing to the SE. Ash deposits cover snow on the flanks. Courtesy of Hannah Dietterich, AVO.

On 7 January the most sustained explosive episode for this eruption period occurred. An ash plume rose to 7 km altitude at 0500 and drifted east to northeast then intensified reaching 7.6 km altitude with increased ash content, prompting an increase of the Aviation Color Code to Red and Volcano Alert Level to Warning. The plume traveled over 200 km to the E to NE (figure 26). Lava flows were produced on the northern flanks and trace amounts of ashfall was reported in communities to the NE, resulting in several flight cancellations. Thermal satellite images showed active lava flows extruding from the summit vent (figure 27). Seismicity significantly decreased around 1200 and the alert levels were lowered to Orange and Watch that evening. Through the following week no notable eruptive activity occurred. An intermittent steam plume was observed in webcam views.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 26. This Landsat 8 satellite image shows a detached ash plume drifts to the NE from an explosive eruption at Shishaldin on 7 January 2020. Courtesy of Chris Waythomas, AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 27. This 7 January 2019 Sentinel-2 thermal satellite image shows several lava flows on the NE and NW flanks of Shishaldin, as well as a steam plume from the summit dispersing to the NE. Blue is snow and ice in this false color image (bands 12, 11, 4). Courtesy of Sentinel-Hub playground.

Eruptive activity resumed on 18 January with lava flows traveling 2 km down the NE flank accompanied by a weak plume with possible ash content dispersing to the SW (figure 28). A steam plume was produced at the front of the lava flow and lahar deposits continued to the north (figures 29 to 32). Activity intensified from 0030 on the 19th, generating a more ash-rich plume that extended over 150 km E and SE and reached up to 6 km altitude; activity increased again at around 1500 with ash emissions reaching 9 km altitude. AVO increased the alert levels to Red/Warning. Lava flows traveled down the NE and N flanks producing meltwater lahars, accompanied by elevated seismicity (figures 33). Activity continued through the day and trace amounts of ashfall were reported in False Pass (figure 34). Activity declined to small explosions over the next few days and the alert levels were lowered to Orange/watch shortly after midnight. The next morning weak steam emissions were observed at the summit and there was a thin ash deposit across the entire area. Satellite data acquired on 23 January showed pyroclastic flow deposits and cooling lava flows on the northern flank, and meltwater reaching the northern coast (figure 35).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 28. This Worldview-3 multispectral near-infrared satellite image acquired on 18 January 2020 shows a lava flow down the NE flank of Shishaldin. A steam plume rises from the end of the flow and lahar deposits from snowmelt travel further north. Courtesy of Matt Loewen, AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 29. Steam plumes from the summit of Shishaldin and from the lava flow down the NE flank on 18 January 2020. Lahar deposits extend from the lava flow front and towards the north. Photo courtesy of Matt Brekke, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 30. A lava flow traveling down the NE flank of Shishaldin on 18 January 2020, seen from Cold Bay. Photo courtesy of Aaron Merculief, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. Two plumes rise from Shishaldin on 18 January 2020, one from the summit crater and the other from the lava flow descending the NE Flank. Photos courtesy of Woodsen Saunders, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 32. A low-altitude plume from Shishaldin on the evening of 18 January 2020, seen from King Cove. Photo courtesy of Savannah Yatchmeneff, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 33. This WorldView-2 near-infrared satellite image shows a lava flow reaching 1.8 km down the N flank and lahar deposits filling drainages out to the Bering Sea coast (not shown here) on 19 January 2020. Ash deposits coat snow to the NE and E. Courtesy of Matt Loewen, AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 34. An ash plume (top) and gas-and-steam plumes (bottom) at Shishaldin on 19 January 2020. Courtesy of Matt Brekke, via AVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 35. A Landsat 8 thermal satellite image (band 11) acquired on 23 January 2019 showing hot lava flows and pyroclastic flow deposits on the flanks of Shishaldin and the meltwater flow path to the Bering Sea. Figure courtesy of Christ Waythomas, AVO.

Activity remained low in late January with some ash resuspension (due to winds) near the summit and continued elevated temperatures. Seismicity remained above background levels. Infrasound data indicated minor explosive activity during 22-23 January and small steam plumes were visible on 22, 23, and 26 January. MIROVA thermal data showed the rapid reduction in activity following activity in late-January (figure 36).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 36. MIROVA thermal data showing increased activity at Shishaldin during August-September, and an even higher thermal output during late-October 2019 to late January 2020. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. The beautifully symmetrical Shishaldin is the highest and one of the most active volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands. The glacier-covered volcano is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes along an E-W line in the eastern half of Unimak Island. The Aleuts named the volcano Sisquk, meaning "mountain which points the way when I am lost." A steam plume often rises from its small summit crater. Constructed atop an older glacially dissected volcano, it is largely basaltic in composition. Remnants of an older ancestral volcano are exposed on the W and NE sides at 1,500-1,800 m elevation. There are over two dozen pyroclastic cones on its NW flank, which is blanketed by massive aa lava flows. Frequent explosive activity, primarily consisting of Strombolian ash eruptions from the small summit crater, but sometimes producing lava flows, has been recorded since the 18th century.

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/); Simon Plank, German Aerospace Center (DLR) German Remote Sensing Data Center, Geo-Risks and Civil Security, Oberpfaffenhofen, 82234 Weßling (URL: https://www.dlr.de/eoc/en/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-5242/8788_read-28554/sortby-lastname/); 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/); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).

Nevados de Chillan (Chile) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Nevados de Chillan


36.868°S, 71.378°W; summit elev. 3180 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Many explosions, ash plumes, lava and pyroclastic flows June-December 2019

Nevados de Chillán is a complex of late-Pleistocene to Holocene stratovolcanoes in the Chilean Central Andes. An eruption started with a phreatic explosion and ash emission on 8 January 2016 from a new crater (Nicanor) on the E flank of the Nuevo crater, which lies on the NW flank of the cone of the large stratovolcano referred to as Volcán Viejo. Strombolian explosions and ash emissions continued throughout 2016 and 2017; a lava dome within the Nicanor crater was confirmed in early January 2018. Explosions and pyroclastic flows continued during 2018 and the first half of 2019. This report covers continuing activity from June-December 2019 when ongoing explosive events produced ash plumes, lava, and pyroclastic flows. Information for this report is provided primarily by Chile's Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN)-Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), and by the Buenos Aires Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC).

Nevados de Chillán was relatively quiet during June 2019, generating only a small number of explosions with ash plumes. This activity continued during July; some events produced incandescent ejecta around the crater. By August a distinct increase in activity was noticeable; ash plumes were larger and more frequent, and incandescent ejecta rose hundreds of meters above the summit a number of times. Frequent explosions were typical during September; the first of several blocky lava flows emerged from the crater mid-month. Inflation that began in mid-July continued with several centimeters of both horizontal and vertical displacement. By October, pyroclastic flows often accompanied the explosive events in addition to the ash plumes, and multiple vents opened within the crater. Three more lava flows had appeared by mid-November; explosions continued at a high rate. Activity remained high at the beginning of December but dropped abruptly mid-month. MODVOLC measured three thermal alerts in September, two in October, seven in November, and six in December. This period of increased thermal activity closely matches the thermal anomaly data reported by the MIROVA project (figure 37), which included an increase at the end of August 2019 that lasted through mid-December before stopping abruptly. Several lava flows and frequent explosions with incandescent ejecta and pyroclastic flows were reported throughout the period of increased thermal activity.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. MIROVA thermal anomaly data for Nevados de Chillán from 3 February through December 2019 show low activity during June-August and increasing activity from August through mid-December. This correlates with ground and satellite observations of lava flows, incandescent explosions, ash plumes, and pyroclastic flows during the period of increased thermal activity. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Activity during June-August 2019. Nevados de Chillán remained relatively quiet during June 2019 with a few explosions of ash. At the active Nicanor crater, located on the E flank of the Volcán Nuevo dome, predominantly white steam plumes were observed daily in the nearby webcams. The growth rate of the dome inside the crater was reported by SERNAGEOMIN as continuing at about 260 m3/day. They noted an explosion on 3 June; the Buenos Aires VAAC reported a puff of ash seen from the webcam drifting SE at 3.7 km altitude (figure 38). The webcam indicated sporadic weak emissions continuing that day and the next. Minor explosions were also reported on 7-8 June and included incandescence observed at night and ejecta deposited around the crater rim. The Buenos Aires VAAC reported a narrow ash plume drifting ENE in multispectral imagery under clear skies late on 7 June. The webcams showed sporadic emissions of ash at 3.4 km altitude on 19 June that dissipated rapidly.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. Explosions at Nevados de Chillán on 3 (left) and 20 (right) June 2019 produced ash plumes that quickly dissipated in the strong winds. Courtesy of the SERNAGEOMIN Portezuelo webcam, Pehuenia Online (left) and Eco Bio Bio La Red Informativa (right).

Minor pulsating explosive activity continued during July 2019 with multiple occurrences of ash emissions. Ash emissions rose to 3.7 km altitude on 4 July and were seen in the SERNAGEOMIN webcam; the VAAC reported an emission on 8 July that rose to 4.3 km altitude and drifted SE. Monitoring stations near the complex recorded an explosive event early on 9 July; incandescence with gases and ejecta were deposited around the crater and an ash plume rose to 3.9 km and drifted SE. Small ash plumes from sporadic puffs on 12 July rose to 4.6 km altitude. An explosive event on 14 July also produced incandescent ejecta around the crater along with weak sporadic ash emissions. Single ash emissions on 18 (figure 39) and 22 July at 3.7 km altitude drifted ESE from summit before dissipating; another emission on 26 July was reported at 4.3 km altitude.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. Local news sources reported ash emissions at Nevados de Chillán on 18 July 2019. Courtesy of INF0SCHILE (left) and Radio Ñuble (right).

A distinct increase in the intensity and frequency of explosive activity was recorded during August 2019. SERNAGEOMIN noted ash emissions and explosions during 3-4 August in addition to the persistent steam plumes above the Nicanor crater (figure 40). The Buenos Aires VAAC reported a single puff on 3 August that was seen in the webcam rising to 3.9 km altitude and dissipating quickly. The next day a pilot reported an ash plume estimated at 5.5 km altitude drifting E. It was later detected in satellite imagery; the webcam revealed continuous emission of steam and gas with intermittent puffs of ash. SERNAGEOMIN issued a special report (REAV) on 6 August noting the increase in size and frequency of explosions, some of which produced dense ash plumes that rose 1.6 km above the crater along with incandescent ejecta. They also reported that satellite imagery indicated a 1.5-km-long lahar that traveled down the NNE flank as a result of the interaction of the explosive ejecta with the snowfall near the summit.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Climbers captured video of a significant explosion at Nevados de Chillán on 4 August 2019. Courtesy of CHV Noticias.

Beginning on 9-10 August 2019, and continuing throughout the month, SERNAGEOMIN observed explosive nighttime activity with incandescent ejecta scattered around the crater rim along with moderate levels of seismicity each day. A diffuse ash plume was detected in satellite imagery by the VAAC on 9 August drifting NW at 4.9 km altitude. SERNAGEOMIN issued a new warning on 12-13 August that the recent increase in activity since the end of July suggested the injection of a new magmatic body that could lead to larger explosive events with pyroclastic and lava flows. They reported pyroclastic ejecta from multiple explosions on 13 August rising 765 and 735 m above the crater. Drone images taken between 4 and 12 August showed the destruction of the summit dome from multiple explosions with the Nicanor Crater (figure 41). The VAAC reported sporadic pulses of volcanic ash drifting N during 12-14 August, visible in satellite imagery estimated at 4.3 km altitude. By 17-18 August, they noted constant steam emissions interspersed with gray plumes during explosive activity.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. Drone images taken at Nevados de Chillán between 4 and 12 August 2019 showed destruction of the dome caused by multiple explosions at the summit crater. Courtesy of Movisis.org Internacional.

An increase in seismicity, especially VT events, during 21-22 August 2019 resulted in multiple special REAV reports from SERNAGEOMIN. They noted on 21 August that an explosion produced gas emissions and pyroclastic material that rose 1,400 m above the crater; the next day material rose 450 m. That night, in addition to incandescent ejecta around the crater, they reported small high-temperature flows on the N flank which extended to the NNE flank a few days later. The VAAC reported pulses of ash plumes moving SE on 22 August at 4.3 km altitude. A faint ash cloud was visible in satellite imagery on 29 August drifting E at 3.7 km altitude (figure 42). The cloud was dissipating rapidly as it moved away from the summit. Sporadic ash emissions from intermittent explosions continued moving ESE then N and NE; they were reported daily through 5 September. They continued to rise in altitude to 3.9 km on 30 August, 4.3 km on 1 September, and 4.6 km on 3 September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Incandescence at the summit of Nevados de Chillán and ashfall covering snow to the E was captured in Sentinel-2 satellite imagery on 29 August 2019. Courtesy of Copernicus EMS.

Activity during September-October 2019. Frequent explosions from Nicanor crater continued during September 2019, producing numerous ash plumes and small high-temperature flows along the NNE flank. A webcam detected a small lateral vent on the NNE flank about 50 m from the crater rim emitting gas and particulates on 2-3 September. Multiple explosions during 3-5 September were associated with gas and ash emissions and incandescent ejecta deposited around the crater rim (figure 43). The network of GNSS stations recording deformation of the volcanic complex confirmed on 3-4 September that inflation, which had been recorded since mid-July 2019, was continuing at a rate of about 1 cm/month. Blocks of incandescent ejecta from numerous explosions were observed rolling down the N flank on 6-7 September and the E flank the following night.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Activity at Nevados de Chillán on 3 September 2019 included ash and steam explosions (left) and incandescent ejecta at the summit (right). Courtesy of Carlos Bustos and SERNAGEOMIN webcams.

SERNAGEOMIN reported on 9-10 September that satellite imagery revealed a new surface deposit about 130 m long trending NNE from the center of crater. They reported an increase in the level of seismicity from moderate to high on 10-11 September and observed incandescent ejecta at the summit during several explosions (figure 44). During a flyover on 12 September scientists confirmed the presence of a new blocky lava flow emerging from Nicanor Crater and moving down the NNE flank of Nuevo volcano. The flow was about 600 m long, 100 m wide, and 5 m thick with a blocky surface and incandescent lava at the base within the active crater. Measurements with a thermal camera indicated a temperature around 800°C within the active crater, and greater than 100°C on the surface of the flow. Frequent high-energy explosions that day produced incandescent ejecta that could be seen from Las Trancas and Shangri-La (figure 45). Ashfall 0.5 cm thick was reported 2 km from the volcano to the SW. The flow was visible from the webcam located N of Nicanor on 16-17 September. Satellite imagery indicated the flow was about 550 m long and moving at a rate of about 21 m/day.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. A blocky lava flow moved down the NNE flank of Nevados de Chillán on 11 September (left); incandescent ejecta covered the summit area the next night (right). Courtesy of EarthQuakesTime (left), Red Geocientifica de Chile (right) and SERNAGEOMIN Webcams.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 45. The SERNAGEOMIN Portezuelo webcam revealed the blocky lava flow, incandescent ejecta and ash emissions at Nevados de Chillán on 12 September 2019. Courtesy of American Earthquakes (left), PatoArias (right), and SERNAGEOMIN.

During 18-22 September 2019 multiple special reports of seismicity were released each day with incandescent ejecta, gas, and particulate emissions often observed at the summit crater; the lava flow remained active. On 24 September ashfall was reported about 15 km NW in communities including Las Trancas; small pyroclastic flows were observed the following day. Horizontal inflation of 2.4 cm was reported on 25 September, and vertical inflation was measured at 3.4 cm since mid-July. SERNAGEOMIN noted that while the frequency of explosions had increased, the energy released had decreased. Morphological changes in Nicanor crater suggested that it was growing at its SW edge and eroding the adjacent Arrau crater; the NE edge of the crater was unstable.

Plumes of steam and ash continued along with the explosions for the remainder of the month. During the night, incandescent ejecta was observed, and the low-velocity lava flow continued to move. Multiple VAAC reports were issued virtually every day of September. Pulses of ash were moving SE at 4.3 km altitude on 7-8 September. For most of the rest of the month sporadic emissions with minor amounts of ash were observed in either the webcam or satellite images at an altitude of 3.7 km, occasionally rising to 4.3 km. They drifted generally SE but varied somewhat with the changing winds. Continuous ash emissions were observed during 24-25 September that rose as high as 4.9 km altitude and drifted E, clearly visible in satellite imagery. After that, the altitude dropped back to 3.7 km and the plume was only faintly and intermittently visible in satellite imagery.

Low-altitude gray ash plumes were observed rising from Nicanor crater almost every day that weather permitted during October 2019. Incandescent ejecta was frequently observed at night. Beginning on 6-7 October, SERNAGEOM reported pyroclastic flows traveling short distances from the crater most days. They traveled 1.13 km down the NNE flank, 0.42 km down the NNW flank and 0.88 km down the SW flank. The blocky lava flow on the NNE flank was no longer active (figure 46). During 9-12 October, multiple special reports of increased seismic activity (REAVs) were issued each day. Inflation continued throughout the month. On 10 October the total horizontal deformation (since mid-July) was 3 cm, with a rate of movement a little over 1 cm/month; the total vertical displacement was 4.5 cm, with a rate of 1.93 cm/month during the previous 30 days.

In a special report issued on 11 October, SERNAGEOMIN mentioned that analysis of satellite imagery indicated a new emission center within the Nicanor crater adjacent to the dome vent active since December 2017 and to the lava flow of September. The new center was oval shaped with an E-W dimension of 60 m and a N-S dimension of 55 m, located about 90 m SE of the old, still active center, and was the site of the explosive activity reported since 30 September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 46. Drone footage posted 10 October 2019 from Nevados de Chillán shows steam emissions from the Nicanor crater and a blocky lava flow down NNE flank. The snow-covered cone in background is Volcan Baños. Courtesy of Volcanologia Chile and copyright by Nicolas Luengo V.

On 16 October a new blocky flow was observed on the NE flank of the Nicanor Crater; it was about 70 m long, moving about 30 m/day. By 21 October it had reached 130 m in length, and its rate of advance had slowed significantly. Beginning on 25 October seismicity decreased noticeably and much less surface activity was observed at the crater. Explosions at the end of the month produced steam plumes, gas emissions and minor pulsating ash emissions.

The Buenos Aires VAAC reported a puff of ash at 4.9 km altitude on 1 October moving SE. Continuous emission of steam and gas with sporadic puffs of ash that rose to around 3.7-4.3 km altitude were typical every day after that until 25 October usually drifting S or E; they were most often visible in the webcams, and occasionally visible in satellite imagery when weather conditions permitted. A diffuse plume of ash was detected on 16 October drifting SE at 4.6 km altitude. The VAAC reported incandescence visible at the summit in webcam images on 22 October; a significant daytime explosion on 24 October produced a large incandescent ash cloud (figure 47). The next day the VAAC detected weak pulses of ash plumes in satellite images extending E from the summit for 130 km. Intermittent ash emissions were reported drifting SE at 3.7-4.3 km each day from 29-31 October.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 47. A large incandescent ash plume at Nevados de Chillán on 24 October 2019 sent ejecta around the summit (left); a dense ash plume was produced during an explosion on 30 October 2019 (right). Courtesy of Cristian Farian (left) and SERNAGEOMIN (right); both images taken from the SERNAGEOMIN webcams.

Activity during November-December 2019. Moderate seismicity continued during November 2019 with recurrent episodes of pulsating gas and ash emissions. Incandescent ejecta was visible many nights that the weather conditions were favorable (figure 48). In the Daily Report (RAV) issued on 6 November, SERNAGEOMIN noted that the original 700-m-long blocky lava flow on the NNE flank active during September had been partly covered by another flow, about 350 m long. They also reported that pyroclastic density currents were observed in the area immediately around the crater extending in several directions. They extended 850 m down the SW flank, 670 m down the NW flank, 1,680 m down the N flank, and 440 m to the NNE.

Changes in the crater area indicated a growth of the SW edge of the Nicanor Crater, continuing to erode the Arrau crater, with the constant emission of gas, ash, and incandescent ejecta that produced plumes up to 1.8 km high. SERNAGEOMIN also observed activity from a vent at the NE edge of the crater that included gas emission and ejecta, but no lava flow. The fourth lava flow observed in recent months (L4) was identified on the NNE slope on 13 November adjacent to the earlier flows; it was about 70 m long and slowly advancing. By 19 November L4 consisted of two lobes and extended about 90 m from the edge of the Nicanor crater advancing at an average rate of 0.4 m/hour. The vent producing L4 was located about 60 m SSE of the vent that produced the earlier flows (L1, L2, and L3). By 28 November the flow had reached a length of 165 m and was no longer advancing. A series of explosions reported on 25-27 and 30 November produced ejecta that rose 800, 1,000, 1,300, and 700 m above the crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 48. Incandescent ejecta at Nevados de Chillán was clearly visible at night on 3 November 2019. Courtesy of Claudio Kanisius.

Ash emissions were reported by the Buenos Aires VAAC during most of November, usually visible from the webcams, but often also seen in satellite imagery. The plumes generally reached 3.7-4.6 km altitude and drifted SSE. They usually occurred as continuous emission of steam and gas accompanied by sporadic pulses of ash but were sometimes continuous ash for several hours. They were visible about 100 km E of the summit on 2 November, and over 200 km SE the following day. A narrow plume of ash was seen in visual satellite imagery extending 50 km E of the summit on 9 November. Intermittent incandescence at the summit was seen from the webcam on 18 November. Pulses of ash were detected in satellite imagery extending 125 km SE on 22 November. Strong puffs of ash briefly rose to 4.9 km altitude and drifted NE on 26 November (figure 49); incandescence during the nighttime was visible in the webcam on 28 November.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 49. An explosion on 26 November 2019 at Nevados de Chillán produced a dense ash plume and small pyroclastic flows down the flank. Courtesy of Volcanes de Chile and the SERNAGEOMIN Portezuelo webcam.

Pulsating emissions of gas and ejecta continued into December 2019. Five explosions were reported on 1 December that produced gas plumes which rose 300-800 m above the crater. Three more explosions occurred on 3 December sending gas plumes 500-1,000 m high. SERNAGEOMIN reported on 4 December that explosive activity was observed from four vents within the Nicanor crater. This activity triggered new pyroclastic flows that extended 1,100 m E and 400 m S. By 5 December the total vertical inflation reported since July was 8 cm. A large explosion on 5 December sent material 1.6 km above the summit and pyroclastic flows down the flanks (figure 50). The webcams at Andarivel and Portezuelo showed a pyroclastic flow moving 400 m W, a direction not previously observed; this was followed by additional pyroclastic flows to the N and E.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 50. A large explosion at Nevados de Chillán on 5 December 2019 produced an ash plume that rose 1.6 km above the summit and sent pyroclastic flows down the flanks. Courtesy of SERNAGEOMIN.

On 9 December SERNAGEOMIN noted that the increase to four active vents was causing erosion on the S and SE edges of the crater making the most affected areas to the SW, S, SE and E of the crater. Major explosions reported that day produced pyroclastic flows that descended down the E and ESE flanks and particulate emissions that rose 1 km. The SW flank near the crater was also affected by ejecta and pyroclastic debris carried by the wind. The most extensive pyroclastic flows travelled down the E flank for the next several days; explosions on 10 December sent material 1.2 km high. Three explosions were noted on 11 December; the first sent incandescence close to 200 m high, and the second produced a column of particulate material 1.2 km high. The first of two explosions on 12 December sent material 1.8 km above the crater and pyroclastic flows down the flanks (figure 51). Although explosions were reported on 13 and 14 December, cloudy skies prevented observations of the summit.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 51. A large explosion at Nevados de Chillán on 12 December 2019 produced an ash plume that rose 1.8 km above the summit and sent pyroclastic flows down the flanks. Courtesy of Volcanes de Chile and SERNAGEOMIN.

Intermittent ash emissions were reported by the Buenos Aires VAAC during 1-13 December 2019. They rose to 3.7-4.3 km and drifted generally E. Pulses of ash were detected at 4.9 km altitude moving S in satellite imagery on 9 December. The last reported ash emission for December was on the afternoon of 12 December; puffs of ash could be seen in satellite imagery moving E at 4.6 km altitude. A decrease in particulate emissions and explosions was reported beginning on 14 December, and no further explosions were recorded by infrasound devices after 15 December. The deposits from the earlier pyroclastic flows had reached 600 m E and 300 m W of the crater. Seismic activity was recorded as low instead of moderate beginning on 25 December. A total horizontal inflation of about 6 cm since July was measured at the end of December.

Geologic Background. The compound volcano of Nevados de Chillán is one of the most active of the Central Andes. Three late-Pleistocene to Holocene stratovolcanoes were constructed along a NNW-SSE line within three nested Pleistocene calderas, which produced ignimbrite sheets extending more than 100 km into the Central Depression of Chile. The largest stratovolcano, dominantly andesitic, Cerro Blanco (Volcán Nevado), is located at the NW end of the group. Volcán Viejo (Volcán Chillán), which was the main active vent during the 17th-19th centuries, occupies the SE end. The new Volcán Nuevo lava-dome complex formed between 1906 and 1945 between the two volcanoes and grew to exceed Volcán Viejo in elevation. The Volcán Arrau dome complex was constructed SE of Volcán Nuevo between 1973 and 1986 and eventually exceeded its height.

Information Contacts: Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería (SERNAGEOMIN), Observatorio Volcanológico de Los Andes del Sur (OVDAS), Avda Sta María No. 0104, Santiago, Chile (URL: http://www.sernageomin.cl/), Twitter: @Sernageomin; 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/); Cristian Farias Vega, Departamento de Obras Civiles y Geología, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Vilcún, Región de La Araucanía, Chile (URL: https://twitter.com/cfariasvega/status/1187471827255226370); Copernicus Emergency Management Service (Copernicus EMS), Joint Research Centre, European Union (URL: https://emergency.copernicus.eu/, https://twitter.com/CopernicusEMS/status/1168156474817818624); Volcanes de Chile, Proyectos de la Fundación Volcanes de Chile, Chile (URL: https://www.volcanesdechile.net/, https://twitter.com/volcanesdechile/status/1199496839491395585); Pehuenia Online, Pehuenia, Argentina (URL: http://pehueniaonline.com.ar/, https://twitter.com/PehueniaOnline/status/1135703309824745472); Eco Bio Bio La Red Informativa, Bio Bio Region, Chile (URL: http://emergenciasbiobio.blogspot.com/, https://twitter.com/Eco_BioBio_II/status/1141734238590574593); INF0SCHILE (URL: https://twitter.com/INF0SCHILE/status/1151849611482599425); Radio Ñuble AM y FM, Chillán, Chile (URL: http://radionuble.cl/linea/, lhttps://twitter.com/RadioNuble/status/1151858189299781632); CHV Noticias, Santiago, Chile (URL: https://www.chvnoticias.cl/, https://twitter.com/CHVNoticias/status/1159263718015819777); Movisis.org Internacional, Manabi, Ecuador (URL: https://movisis.org/, https://twitter.com/MOVISISEC/status/1160778823031558144); Carlos Bustos (URL: https://twitter.com/cbusca1970/status/1168932243873644548); EarthQuakesTime (URL: https://twitter.com/EarthQuakesTime/status/1171654504841908229); Red Geocientifica de Chile (URL: https://twitter.com/RedGeoChile/status/1171972482875703296); American Earthquakes (URL: https://twitter.com/earthquakevt/status/1172271139760091136); PatoArias, Talca, Chile (URL: https://twitter.com/patoarias/status/1172287142191665153); Volcanologia Chile, (URL: http://www.volcanochile.com/joomla30/, https://twitter.com/volcanologiachl/status/1182707451554078720); Claudio Kanisius (URL: https://twitter.com/ClaudioKanisius/status/1191182878346031104).

Asosan (Japan) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Intermittent ash plumes and elevated SO2 emissions continue during July-December 2019

The large Asosan caldera reaches around 23 km long in the N-S direction and contains a complex of 17 cones, of which Nakadake is the most active (figure 58). A recent increase in activity prompted an alert level increase from 1 to 2 on 14 April 2019. The Nakadake crater is the site of current activity (figure 59) and contains several smaller craters, with the No. 1 crater being the main source of activity during July-December 2019. The activity during this period is summarized here based on reports by the Japan Meteorological Agency and satellite data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 58. Asosan is a group of cones and craters within a larger caldera system. January 2010 Monthly Mosaic images copyright Planet Labs 2019.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 59. Hot gas emissions from the Nakadake No. 1 crater on 25 June 2019 reached around 340°C. Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (July 2019 monthly report).

Small explosions were observed at the No. 1 vent on the 4, 5, 9, 13-16, and 26 July. There was an increase in thermal energy detected near the vent leading to a larger event on the 26th (figures 60 and 61), which produced an ash plume up to 1.6 km above the crater rim and continuing from 0757 to around 1300 with a lower plume height of 400 m after 0900. Light ashfall was reported downwind. Elevated activity was noted during 28-29 July, and an ash plume was seen in webcam footage on the 30th. Incandescence was visible in light-sensitive cameras during 4-17 and after the 26th. A field survey on 5 July measured 1,300 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2) per day. This had increased to 2,300 tons per day by the 12th, 2,500 on the 24th, and 2,400 by the 25th. A sulfur dioxide plume was detected in Sentinel-5P/TROPOMI satellite data acquired on 28 July (figure 62).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 60. Thermal images taken at Asosan on 26 July 2019 show the increasing temperature of emissions leading to an explosion. Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (July 2019 monthly report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 61. An eruption from the Nakadake crater at Asosan on 26 July 2019. Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (July 2019 monthly report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 62. A sulfur dioxide plume was detected from Asosan (to the left) on 28 July 2019. The larger plume (red) to the right is not believed to be associated with volcanism in this area. NASA Sentinel-5P/TROPOMI satellite image courtesy of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

The increased eruptive activity that began on 5 July continued to 16 August. There were 24 eruptions recorded throughout the month, with eruptions occurring on 18-23, 25, and 29-31 August. An ash plume at 2100 on 4 August reached 1.5 km above the crater rim. Detected SO2 increased to extremely high levels from late July to early August with 5,200 tons per day recorded on 9 August, but which then reduced to 2,000 tons per day. Ashfall occurred out to around 7 km NW on the 10th (figure 63). Activity continued to increase at the Nakadake No. 1 crater, producing incandescence. High-temperature gas plumes were detected at the No. 2 crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 63. Ashfall from Asosan on 10 August 2019 near Otohime, Aso city, which is about 7 km NW of the Nakadake No. 1 crater that produced the ash plume. The ashfall was thick enough that the white line in the parking lot was mostly obscured (lower photo). Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (August 2019 monthly report).

Thermal activity continued to increase, and incandescence was observed at the No. 1 crater throughout September. There were 24 eruptions recorded throughout August. Light ashfall occurred out to around 8 km NE on the 3rd and ash plumes reached 1.6 km above the crater rim during 10-13, and again during 25-30 (figures 64 and 65). During the later dates ashfall was reported to the NE and NW. The SO2 levels were back down to 1,600 tons per day by 11 September and increased to 2,600 tons per day by the 26th.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 64. Ash plumes at Asosan on 29 September 2019. Courtesy of Volcanoverse.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 65. Activity at Asosan in late September 2019. Left: incandescence and a gas plume at the Nakadake No. 1 crater on the 28th. Right: an eruption produced an ash plume at 0839 on the 30th. Aso Volcano Museum surveillance camera image (left) and Kusasenri surveillance camera image (right) courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (September 2019 monthly report).

Similar elevated activity continued through October with ash plumes reaching 1.3 km above the crater and periodic ashfall reported at the Kumamoto Regional Meteorological Observatory, and out to 4 km S to SW on the 19th and 29th. Temperatures up to 580°C were recorded at the No. 1 crater on 23 October and incandescence was occasionally visible at night through the month (figure 66). Gas surveys detected 2,800 tons per day of SO2 on 7 October, which had increased to 4,000 tons per day by the 11th.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 66. Drone images of the Asosan Nakadake crater area on 23 October 2019. The colored boxes show the same vents and the photographs on the left correlate to the thermal images on the right. The yellow box is around the No. 1 crater, with temperature measurements reaching 580°C. The emissions in the red box reached 50°C, and up to 100°C on the southwest crater wall (blue box). Courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency (October 2019 monthly report).

Ash plume emission continued through November (figure 67 and 68). Plumes reached 1.5 to 2.4 km above sea level during 13-18 November and ashfall occurred downwind, with a maximum of 1.4 km above the crater rim for the month. Ashfall was reported near Aso City Hall on the 27th. Incandescence was observed until 6 November. During the first half of October sulfur dioxide emissions were slightly lower than the previous month, with measurements detecting under 3,000 tons per day. In the second half of the month emissions increased to 2,000 to 6,300 tons per day. This was accompanied by an increase in volcanic tremor.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 67. Examples of ash plumes at Asosan on 2, 8, 9, and 11 November 2019. The plume on 2 November reached 1.3 km above the crater rim. Kusasenri surveillance camera images courtesy of the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 68. Ash emissions from the Nakadake crater at Asosan on 15 and 17 November 2019. The continuous ash emission is weak and is being dispersed by the wind. Copyright Mizumoto, used with permission.

Throughout December activity remained elevated with ash plumes reaching 1.1 km above the Nakadake No. 1 crater and producing ashfall. The maximum gas plume height was 1.8 km above the crater. A total of 23 eruptions were recorded, and incandescence at the crater was observed through the month. Sulfur dioxide emissions continued to increase with 5,800 tons per day recorded on the 27th, and 7,400 tons per day recorded on the 31st.

Overall, eruptive activity has continued intermittently since 26 July and SO2 emissions have increased through the year. Incandescence was seen at the crater since 2 October and this is consistent with an increase in thermal energy detected by the MIROVA algorithm around that time (figure 69).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 69. Thermal anomalies were low through 2019 with a notable increase around October to November. Log radiative power plot courtesy of MIROVA.

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), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); 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/); 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/); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Mizumoto, Kumamoto, Kyushu, Japan (Twitter: https://twitter.com/hepomodeler); Volcanoverse (URL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi3T_esus8Sr9I-3W5teVQQ).

Tinakula (Solomon Islands) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report


Solomon Islands

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Intermittent thermal activity suggests ongoing eruption, July-December 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 South Pacific 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. A large ash explosion during 21-26 October 2017 was a short-lived event; renewed thermal activity was detected beginning in December 2018 and intermittently throughout 2019. This report covers the ongoing activity from July-December 2019. Since ground-based observations are rarely available, satellite thermal and visual data are the primary sources of information.

MIROVA thermal anomaly data indicated intermittent but ongoing thermal activity at Tinakula during July-December 2019 (figure 35). It was characterized by pulses of multiple alerts of varying intensities for several days followed by no activity for a few weeks.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 35. The MIROVA project plot of Radiative Power at Tinakula from 2 March 2019 through the end of the year indicated repeated pulses of thermal energy each month except for August 2019. It was characterized by pulses of multiple alerts for several days followed by no activity for a few weeks. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Observations using Sentinel-2 satellite imagery were often prevented by clouds during July, but two MODVOLC thermal alerts on 2 July 2019 corresponded to MIROVA thermal activity on that date. No thermal anomalies were reported by MIROVA during August 2019, but Sentinel-2 satellite images showed dense steam plumes drifting away from the summit on four separate dates (figure 36). Two distinct thermal anomalies appeared in infrared imagery on 9 September, and a dense steam plume drifted about 10 km NW on 14 September (figure 37).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 36. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery for Tinakula recorded ongoing steam emissions on multiple days during August 2019 including 10 August (left) and 20 August (right). The island is about 3 km in diameter. Left image is natural color rendering with bands 4,3,2, right image is atmospheric penetration with bands 12, 11, and 8a. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. A bright thermal anomaly at the summit and a weaker one on the nearby upper W flank of Tinakula on 9 September 2019 (left) indicated ongoing eruptive activity in Sentinel-2 satellite imagery. While no thermal anomalies were visible on 14 September (right), a dense steam plume originating from the summit drifted more than 10 km NW. Atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

During October 2019 steam emissions were captured in four clear satellite images; a weak thermal anomaly was present on the W flank on 9 October (figure 38). MODVOLC recorded a single thermal alert on 9 November. Stronger thermal anomalies appeared twice during November in satellite images. On 13 November a strong anomaly was present at the summit in Sentinel-2 imagery; it was accompanied by a dense steam plume drifting NE from the hotspot. On 28 November two thermal anomalies appeared part way down the upper NW flank (figure 39). Thermal imagery on 3 December suggested that a weak anomaly remained on the NW flank in a similar location; a dense steam plume rose above the summit, drifting slightly SW on 18 December (figure 40). A thermal anomaly at the summit on 28 December was accompanied by a dense steam plume and corresponded to multiple MIROVA thermal anomalies at the end of December.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. A weak thermal anomaly was recorded on the upper W flank of Tinakula on 9 October 2019 in Sentinel-2 satellite imagery (left). Dense steam drifted about 10 km NW from the summit on 29 October (right). Atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. On 13 November 2019 a strong anomaly was present at the summit of Tinakula in Sentinel-2 imagery; it was accompanied by a dense steam plume drifting NE from the hotspot (left). On 28 November two thermal anomalies appeared part way down the upper NW flank (right). Atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8A). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Thermal imagery on 3 December 2019 from Tinakula suggested that a weak anomaly remained in a similar location to one of the earlier anomalies on the NW flank (left); a dense steam plume rose above the summit, drifting slightly SW on 18 December (center). A thermal anomaly at the summit on 28 December was accompanied by a dense steam plume (right) and corresponded to multiple MIROVA thermal anomalies at the end of December. Atmospheric penetration rendering (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).

Ibu (Indonesia) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



1.488°N, 127.63°E; summit elev. 1325 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Frequent ash plumes and small lava flows in the crater through December 2019

Heightened continuing activity at Ibu since March 2018 has been dominated by frequent ash explosions with weak ash plumes, and numerous thermal anomalies reflecting one or more weak lava flows (BGVN 43:05, 43:12, and 44:07). This report summarizes activity through December 2019, and is based on data from the Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), and various satellites.

Typical ash plumes during the reporting period of July-December 2019 rose 800 m above the crater, with the highest reported to 1.4 km in early October (table 5). They were usually noted a few times each month. According to MAGMA Indonesia, explosive activity caused the Aviation Color Code to be raised to ORANGE (second highest of four) on 14, 22, and 31 August, 4 and 30 September, and 15 and 20 October.

Table 5. Ash plumes and other volcanic activity reported at Ibu during December 2018-December 2019. Plume heights are reported above the crater rim. Data courtesy of PVMBG and Darwin VAAC.

Date Time Ash Plume Height Plume Drift Remarks
11 Dec 2018 -- 500 m -- Weather clouds prevented views in satellite data.
12 Jan 2019 1712 800 m S --
13 Jan 2019 0801 800 m S --
05-12 Feb 2019 -- 200-800 m E, S, W Weather conditions occasionally prevented observations.
25-26 Feb 2019 -- 1.1-1.7 km NE, ENE Thermal anomaly.
28 Feb 2019 -- 800 m N --
18 Mar 2019 -- 1.1 km E Plume drifted about 17 km NE.
23 Mar 2019 -- 1.1 km E --
28 Mar 2019 -- 800 m SE --
10 Apr 2019 -- 800 m N --
15-16 Apr 2019 -- 1.1 km N, NE --
18 Apr 2019 -- 800 m E --
07 May 2019 -- 1.1 km ESE --
08 May 2019 -- 1.1 km ESE --
09 May 2019 1821 600 m S Seismicity characterized by explosions, tremor, and rock avalanches.
10 May 2019 -- 500 m ESE --
14 May 2019 1846 800 m N --
14-16, 18-19 May 2019 -- 0.8-1.7 km NW, N, ENE --
23-24 May 2019 -- 1.1-1.4 km SE --
31 May 2019 -- 800 m W --
02 Jun 2019 -- 1.7 km W --
21 Jun 2019 -- 500 m N, NE --
24-25 Jun 2019 -- 0.2-1.1 km SE, ESE --
06 Jul 2019 -- 800 m N Intermittent thermal anomaly.
15 Jul 2019 -- 800 m NE --
07-12 Aug 2019 -- 200-800 m -- Plumes were white-to-gray.
14 Aug 2019 1107 800 m N Seismicity characterized by explosions and rock avalanches.
22 Aug 2019 0704 800 m W Seismicity characterized by explosions and rock avalanches.
31 Aug 2019 1847 800 m N Seismicity characterized by explosions and rock avalanches.
04 Sep 2019 0936 300 m S --
28 Sep 2019 -- 500-800 m WNW --
30 Sep 2019 1806 800 m N --
06-07 Oct 2019 -- 0.8-1.4 km S, N --
15 Oct 2019 0707 400 m S --
20 Oct 2019 0829 400 m W --
01-05 Nov 2019 -- 200-800 m E, N Plumes were white-and-gray.
20-21, 23-25 Nov 2019 -- 500-800 m Multiple Thermal anomaly on 21 Nov.
03 Dec 2019 -- 800 m NE Thermal anomaly.
26 Dec 2019 -- 800 m S Discrete ash puffs in satellite imagery.

Thermal anomalies were sometimes noted by PVMBG, and were also frequently obvious in infrared satellite imagery suggesting lava flows and multiple active vents, as seen on 22 November 2019 (figure 19). Thermal anomalies using MODIS satellite instruments processed by the MODVOLC algorithm were recorded 2-4 days every month from July to December 2019. In contrast, the MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) system detected numerous hotspots on most days (figure 20).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 19. Example of thermal activity in the Ibu crater on 22 November 2019, along with a plume drifting SE. One or more vents in the crater are producing small lava flows, an observation common throughout the reporting period. Sentinel-2 false color (urban) images (bands 12, 11, 4), courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 20. Thermal anomalies recorded at Ibu by the MIROVA system using MODIS infrared satellite data for the year 2019. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. The truncated summit of Gunung Ibu stratovolcano along the NW coast of Halmahera Island has large nested summit craters. The inner crater, 1 km wide and 400 m deep, contained several small crater lakes through much of historical time. The outer crater, 1.2 km wide, is breached on the north side, creating a steep-walled valley. A large parasitic cone is located ENE of the summit. A smaller one to the WSW has fed a lava flow down the W flank. A group of maars is located below the N and W flanks. Only a few eruptions have been recorded in historical time, the first a small explosive eruption from the summit crater in 1911. An eruption producing a lava dome that eventually covered much of the floor of the inner summit crater began in December 1998.

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/); Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), National Disaster Management Agency, Graha BNPB - Jl. Scout Kav.38, East Jakarta 13120, Indonesia (URL: http://www.bnpb.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/); 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/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).

Lateiki (Tonga) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



19.18°S, 174.87°W; summit elev. 43 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Eruption 13-22 October 2019 creates new island, which disappears by mid-January 2020

Lateiki (Metis Shoal) is one of several submarine and island volcanoes on the W side of the Tonga trench in the South Pacific. It has produced ephemeral islands multiple times since the first confirmed activity in the mid-19th century. Two eruptions, in 1967 and 1979, produced islands that survived for a few months before eroding beneath the surface. An eruption in 1995 produced a larger island that persisted, possibly until a new eruption in mid-October 2019 destroyed it and built a new short-lived island. Information was provided by the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, and from satellite information and news sources.

Review of eruptions during 1967-1995. The first reported 20th century eruption at this location was observed by sailors beginning on 12 December 1967 (CSLP 02-67); incandescent ejecta rose several hundred meters into the air and "steam and smoke" rose at least 1,000 m from the ocean surface. The eruption created a small island that was reported to be a few tens of meters high, and a few thousand meters in length and width. Eruptive activity appeared to end in early January 1968, and the island quickly eroded beneath the surface by the end of February (figure 6). When observed in April 1968 the island was gone, with only plumes of yellowish water in the area of the former island.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 6. Waves break over Lateiki on 19 February 1968, more than a month after the end of a submarine eruption that began in December 1967 and produced a short-lived island. Photo by Charles Lundquist, 1968 (Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory).

A large steam plume and ejecta were observed on 19 June 1979, along with a "growing area of tephra" around the site with a diameter of 16 km by the end of June (SEAN 04:06). Geologists visited the site in mid-July and at that time the island was about 300 m long, 120 m wide, and 15 m high, composed of tephra ranging in size from ash to large bombs (SEAN 04:07); ash emissions were still occurring from the E side of the island. It was determined that the new island was located about 1 km E of the 1967-68 island. By early October 1979 the island had nearly disappeared beneath the ocean surface.

A new eruption was first observed on 6 June 1995. A new island appeared above the waves as a growing lava dome on 12 June (BGVN 20:06). Numerous ash plumes rose hundreds of meters and dissipated downwind. By late June an elliptical dome, about 300 x 250 m in size and 50 m high, had stopped growing. The new island it formed was composed of hardened lava and not the tuff cones of earlier islands (figure 7) according to visitors to the island; pumice was not observed. An overflight of the area in December 2006 showed that an island was still present (figure 8), possibly from the June 1995 eruption. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery confirming the presence of Lateiki Island and discolored water was clearly recorded multiple times between 2015 and 2019. This suggests that the island created in 1995 could have lasted for more than 20 years (figure 9).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. An aerial view during the 1995 eruption of Lateiki forming a lava dome. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 8. Lateiki Island as seen on 7 December 2006; possibly part of the island that formed in 1995. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga and the Royal New Zealand Air Force.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 9. Sentinel-2 satellite imagery confirmed the existence of an island present from 2015 through 2019 with little changes to its shape. This suggests that the island created in 1995 could have lasted for more than 20 years. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

New eruption in October 2019. The Kingdom of Tonga reported a new eruption at Lateiki on 13 October 2019, first noted by a ship at 0800 on 14 October. NASA satellite imagery confirmed the eruption taking place that day (figure 10). The following morning a pilot from Real Tonga Airlines photographed the steam plume and reported a plume height of 4.6-5.2 km altitude (figure 11). The Wellington VAAC issued an aviation advisory report noting the pilot's observation of steam, but no ash plume was visible in satellite imagery. They issued a second report on 22 October of a similar steam plume reported by a pilot at 3.7 km altitude. The MODVOLC thermal alert system recorded three thermal alerts from Lateiki, one each on 18, 20, and 22 October 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 10. NASA's Worldview Aqua/MODIS satellite imagery taken on 14 October 2019 over the Ha'apai and Vava'u region of Tonga showing the new eruption at Lateiki. Neiafu, Vava'u, is at the top right and Tofua and Kao islands are at the bottom left. The inset shows a closeup of Late Island at the top right and a white steam plume rising from Lateiki. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga and NASA Worldview.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 11. Real Tonga Airline's Captain Samuela Folaumoetu'I photographed a large steam plume rising from Lateiki on the morning of 15 October 2019. Courtesy of the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga.

The first satellite image of the eruption on 15 October 2019 showed activity over a large area, much bigger than the preexisting island that was visible on 10 October (figure 12). Although the eruption produced a steam plume that drifted several tens of kilometers SW and strong incandescent activity, no ash plume was visible, similar to reports of dense steam with little ash during the 1968 and 1979 eruptions (figure 13). Strong incandescence and a dense steam plume were still present on 20 October (figure 14).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 12. The first satellite image of the eruption of Lateiki on 15 October 2019 showed activity over a large area, much bigger than the preexisting island that was visible on 10 October (inset). The two images are the same scale; the island was about 100 m in diameter before the eruption. Image uses Natural Color Rendering (bands 4, 3, 2). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. The steam plume from Lateiki on 15 October 2019 drifted more than 20 km SE from the volcano. A strong thermal anomaly from incandescent activity was present in the atmospheric penetration rendering (bands 12, 11, 8a) closeup of the same image (inset). Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 14. A dense plume of steam drifted NW from Lateiki on 20 October 2019, and a strong thermal signal (inset) indicated ongoing explosive activity. Courtesy of Annamaria Luongo and Sentinel Hub Playground.

A clear satellite image on 30 October 2019 revealed an island estimated to be about 100 m wide and 400 m long, according to geologist Taaniela Kula of the Tonga Geological Service of the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources as reported by a local news source (Matangitonga). There was no obvious fumarolic steam activity from the surface, but a plume of greenish brown seawater swirled away from the island towards the NE (figure 15). In a comparison of the location of the old Lateiki island with the new one in satellite images, it was clear that the new island was located as far as 250 m to the NW (figure 16) on 30 October. Over the course of the next few weeks, the island's size decreased significantly; by 19 November, it was perhaps one-quarter the size it had been at the end of October. Lateiki Island continued to diminish during December 2019 and January 2020, and by mid-month only traces of discolored sea water were visible beneath the waves over the eruption site (figure 17).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 15. The new Lateiki Island was clearly visible on 30 October 2019 (top left), as was greenish-blue discoloration in the surrounding waters. It was estimated to be about 100 m wide and 400 m long that day. Its size decreased significantly over subsequent weeks; ten days later (top right) it was about half the size and two weeks later, on 14 November 2019 (bottom left), it was about one-third its original size. By 19 November (bottom right) only a fraction of the island remained. Greenish discolored water continued to be visible around the volcano. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 16. The location of the new Lateiki Island (Metis Shoal), shown here on 30 October 2019 in red, was a few hundred meters to the NW of the old position recorded on 5 September 2019 (in white). Courtesy of Annamaria Luongo and Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 17. Lateiki Island disappeared beneath the waves in early January 2020, though plumes of discolored water continued to be observed later in the month. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. Lateiki, previously known as Metis Shoal, is a submarine volcano midway between the islands of Kao and Late that has produced a series of ephemeral islands since the first confirmed activity in the mid-19th century. An island, perhaps not in eruption, was reported in 1781 and subsequently eroded away. During periods of inactivity following 20th-century eruptions, waves have been observed to break on rocky reefs or sandy banks with depths of 10 m or less. Dacitic tuff cones formed during the first 20th-century eruptions in 1967 and 1979 were soon eroded beneath the ocean surface. An eruption in 1995 produced an island with a diameter of 280 m and a height of 43 m following growth of a lava dome above the surface.

Information Contacts: Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, PO Box 5, Nuku'alofa, Tonga (URL: http://www.gov.to/ ); Royal New Zealand Air Force (URL: http://www.airforce.mil.nz/); NASA Worldview (URL: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/); 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); Annamaria Luongo, Brussels, Belgium (Twitter: @annamaria_84, URL: https://twitter.com/annamaria_84 ); Taaniela Kula, Tonga Geological Service, Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources; Matangi Tonga Online (URL: https://matangitonga.to/2019/11/06/eruption-lateiki).

Aira (Japan) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



31.593°N, 130.657°E; summit elev. 1117 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Ongoing explosions with ejecta and ash plumes, along with summit incandescence, during July-December 2019

Sakurajima is a highly active stratovolcano situated in the Aira caldera in southern Kyushu, Japan. Common volcanism for this recent eruptive episode since March 2017 includes frequent explosions, ash plumes, and scattered ejecta. Much of this activity has been focused in the Minamidake crater since 1955; the Showa crater on the E flank has had intermittent activity since 2006. This report updates activity during July through December 2019 with the primary source information from monthly reports by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) and various satellite data.

During July to December 2019, explosive eruptions and ash plumes were reported multiple times per week by JMA. November was the most active, with 137 eruptive events, seven of which were explosive while August was the least active with no eruptive events recorded (table 22). Ash plumes rose between 800 m to 5.5 km above the crater rim during this reporting period. Large blocks of incandescent ejecta traveled as far as 1.7 km from the Minamidake crater during explosions in September through December. The Kagoshima Regional Meteorological Observatory (11 km WSW) reported monthly amounts of ashfall during each month, with a high of 143 g/m2 during October. Occasionally at night throughout this reporting period, crater incandescence was observed with a highly sensitive surveillance camera. All explosive activity originated from the Minamidake crater; the adjacent Showa crater produced mild thermal anomalies and gas-and-steam plumes.

Table 22. Monthly summary of eruptive events recorded at Sakurajima's Minamidake crater in the Aira caldera, July through December 2019. The number of events that were explosive in nature are in parentheses. No events were recorded at the Showa crater during this time. Ashfall is measured at the Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory (KLMO), 10 km W of Showa crater. Data courtesy of JMA (July to December 2019 monthly reports).

Month Ash emissions (explosive) Max plume height above crater Max ejecta distance from crater Total amount of ashfall (g/m2)
Jul 2019 9 (5) 3.8 km 1.1 km --
Aug 2019 -- 800 m -- 2
Sep 2019 32 (11) 3.4 km 1.7 km 115
Oct 2019 62 (41) 3.0 km 1.7 km 143
Nov 2019 137 (77) 5.5 km 1.7 km 69
Dec 2019 71 (49) 3.3 km 1.7 km 54

An explosion that occurred at 1044 on 4 July 2019 produced an ash plume that rose up to 3.2 km above the Minamidake crater rim and ejected material 1.1 km from the vent. Field surveys conducted on 17 and 23 July measured SO2 emissions that were 1,200-1,800 tons/day. Additional explosions between 19-22 July generated smaller plumes that rose to 1.5 km above the crater and ejected material 1.1 km away. On 28 July explosions at 1725 and 1754 produced ash plumes 3.5-3.8 km above the crater rim, which resulted in ashfall in areas N and E of Sakurajima (figure 86), including Kirishima City (20 km NE), Kagoshima Prefecture (30 km SE), Yusui Town (40 km N), and parts of the Kumamoto Prefecture (140 km NE).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 86. Photo of the Sakurajima explosion at 1725 on 28 July 2019 resulting in an ash plume rising 3.8 km above the crater (left). An on-site field survey on 29 July observed ashfall on roads and vegetation on the N side of the island (right). Photo by Moto Higashi-gun (left), courtesy of JMA (July 2019 report).

The month of August 2019 showed the least activity and consisted of mainly small eruptive events occurring up to 800 m above the crater; summit incandescence was observed with a highly sensitive surveillance camera. SO2 emissions were measured on 8 and 13 August with 1,000-2,000 tons/day, which was slightly greater than the previous month. An extensometer at the Arimura Observation Tunnel and an inclinometer at the Amida River recorded slight inflation on 29 August, but continuous GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) observations showed no significant changes.

In September 2019 there were 32 eruptive events recorded, of which 11 were explosions, more than the previous two months. Seismicity also increased during this month. An extensometer and inclinometer recorded inflation at the Minamidake crater on 9 September, which stopped after the eruptive events. On 16 September, an eruption at 0746 produced an ash plume that rose 2.8 km above the crater rim and drifted SW; a series of eruptive events followed from 0830-1110 (figure 87). Explosions on 18 and 20 September produced ash plumes that rose 3.4 km above the crater rim and ejecting material as far as 1.7 km from the summit crater on the 18th and 700 m on the 20th. Field surveys measured an increased amount of SO2 emissions ranging from 1,100 to 2,300 tons/day during September.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 87. Webcam image of an ash plume rising 2.8 km from the Minamidake crater at Sakurajima on 16 September 2019. Courtesy of Weathernews Inc.

Seismicity, SO2 emissions, and the number of eruptions continued to increase in October 2019, 41 of which were explosive. Field surveys conducted on 1, 11, and 15 October reported that SO2 emissions were 2,000-2,800 tons/day. An explosion at 0050 on 12 October produced an ash plume that traveled 1.7 km from the Minamidake crater. Explosions between 16 and 19 October produced an ash plume that rose up to 3 km above the crater rim (figure 88). The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force 1st Air group observed gas-and-steam plumes rising from both the Minamidake and Showa craters on 25 October. The inflation reported from 16 September began to slow in late October.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 88. Photos taken from the E side of Sakurajima showing gas-and-steam emissions with some amount of ash rising from the volcano on 16 October 2019 after an explosion around 1200 that day (top). At night, summit incandescence is observed (bottom). Courtesy of Bradley Pitcher, Vanderbilt University.

November 2019 was the most active month during this reporting period with increased seismicity, SO2 emissions, and 137 eruptive events, 77 of which were explosive. GNSS observations indicated that inflation began to slow during this month. On 8 November, an explosion at 1724 produced an ash plume up to a maximum of 5.5 km above the crater rim and drifted E. This explosion ejected large blocks as far as 500-800 m away from the crater (figure 89). The last time plumes rose above 5 km from the vents occurred on 26 July 2016 at the Showa crater and on 7 October 2000 at the Minamidake crater. Field surveys on 8, 21, and 29 November measured increased SO2 emissions ranging from 2,600 to 3,600 tons/day. Eruptions between 13-19 November produced ash plumes that rose up to 3.6 km above the crater and ejected large blocks up 1.7 km away. An onsite survey on 29 November used infrared thermal imaging equipment to observe incandescence and geothermal areas near the Showa crater and the SE flank of Minamidake (figure 90).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 89. Photos of an ash plume rising 5.5 km above Sakurajima on 8 November 2019 and drifting E. Photo by Moto Higashi-gun (top left), courtesy of JMA (November 2019 report) and the Geoscientific Network of Chile.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 90. Webcam image of nighttime incandescence and gas-and-steam emissions with some amount of ash at Sakurajima on 29 November 2019. Courtesy of JMA (November 2019 report).

Volcanism, which included seismicity, SO2 emissions, and eruptive events, decreased during December 2019. Explosions during 4-10 December produced ash plumes that rose up to 2.6 km above the crater rim and ejected material up to 1.7 km away. Field surveys conducted on 6, 16, and 23 December measured SO2 emissions around 1,000-3,000 tons/day. On 24 December, an explosion produced an ash plume that rose to 3.3 km above the crater rim, this high for this month.

Sentinel-2 natural color satellite imagery showed dense ash plumes in late August 2019, early November, and through December (figure 91). These plumes drifted in different directions and rose to a maximum 5.5 km above the crater rim on 8 November.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 91. Natural color Sentinel-2 satellite images of Sakurajima within the Aira caldera from late August through December 2019 showed dense ash plumes rising from the Minamidake crater. Courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) analysis of MODIS satellite data showed intermittent thermal anomalies beginning in mid-August to early September 2019 after a nearly two-month hiatus (figure 92). Activity increased by early November and continued through December. Three Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images between late July and early October showed distinct thermal hotspots within the Minamidake crater, in addition to faint gas-and-steam emissions in July and September (figure 93).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 92. Thermal anomalies at Sakurajima during January-December 2019 as recorded by the MIROVA system (Log Radiative Power) started up in mid-August to early September after a two-month break and continued through December. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 93. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images showing small thermal anomalies and gas-and-steam emissions (left and middle) at Sakurajima within the Minamidake crater between late July and early October 2019. All images with "Atmospheric penetration" (bands 12, 11, 8A) rendering; courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The Aira caldera in the northern half of Kagoshima Bay contains the post-caldera Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan's most active. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow accompanied formation of the 17 x 23 km caldera about 22,000 years ago. The smaller Wakamiko caldera was formed during the early Holocene in the NE corner of the Aira caldera, along with several post-caldera cones. The construction of Sakurajima began about 13,000 years ago on the southern rim of Aira caldera and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kitadake summit cone ended about 4850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minamidake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); 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/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Weathernews Inc. (Twitter: @wni_jp, https://twitter.com/wni_jp, URL: https://weathernews.jp/s/topics/201608/210085/, photo posted at https://twitter.com/wni_jp/status/1173382407216652289); Bradley Pitcher, Vanderbilt University, Nashville. TN, USA (URL: https://bradpitcher.weebly.com/, Twitter: @TieDyeSciGuy, photo posted at https://twitter.com/TieDyeSciGuy/status/1185191225101471744); Geoscientific Network of Chile (Twitter: @RedGeoChile, https://twitter.com/RedGeoChile, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RedGeoChile/, photo posted at https://twitter.com/RedGeoChile/status/1192921768186515456).

Suwanosejima (Japan) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report



29.638°N, 129.714°E; summit elev. 796 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Explosions, ash emissions, and summit incandescence in July-December 2019

Suwanosejima, located south of Japan in the northern Ryukyu Islands, is an active andesitic stratovolcano that has had continuous activity since October 2004, typically producing ash plumes and Strombolian explosions. Much of this activity is focused within the Otake crater. This report updates information during July through December 2019 using monthly reports from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), and various satellite data.

White gas-and-steam plumes rose from Suwanosejima on 26 July 2019, 30-31 August, 1-6, 10, and 20-27 September, reaching a maximum altitude of 2.4 km on 10 September, according to Tokyo VAAC advisories. Intermittent gray-white plumes were observed rising from the summit during October through December (figure 40).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Surveillance camera images of white gas-and-steam emissions rising from Suwanosejima on 10 December 2019 (left) and up to 1.8 km above the crater rim on 28 December (right). At night, summit incandescence was also observed on 10 December. Courtesy of JMA.

An explosion that occurred at 2331 on 1 August 2019 ejected material 400 m from the crater while other eruptions on 3-6 and 26 August produced ash plumes that rose up to a maximum altitude of 2.1 km and drifted generally NW according to the Tokyo VAAC report. JMA reported eruptions and summit incandescence in September accompanied by white gas-and-steam plumes, but no explosions were noted. Eruptions on 19 and 29 October produced ash plumes that rose 300 and 800 m above the crater rim, resulting in ashfall in Toshima (4 km SW), according to the Toshima Village Office, Suwanosejima Branch Office. Another eruption on 30 October produced a similar gray-white plume rising 800 m above the crater rim but did not result in ashfall. Similar activity continued in November with eruptions on 5-7 and 13-15 November producing grayish-white plumes rising 900 m and 1.5 km above the crater rim and frequent crater incandescence. Ashfall was reported in Toshima Village on 19 and 20 November; the 20 November eruption ejected material 200 m from the Otake crater.

Field surveys on 14 and 18 December using an infrared thermal imaging system to the E of Suwanose Island showed hotspots around the Otake crater, on the N slope of the crater, and on the upper part of the E coastline. GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) observations on 15 and 17 December showed a slight change in the baseline length. After 2122 on 25-26 and 31 December, 23 eruptions, nine of which were explosive were reported, producing gray-white plumes that rose 800-1,800 m above the crater rim and ejected material up to 600 m from the Otake crater. JMA reported volcanic tremors occurred intermittently throughout this reporting period.

Incandescence at the summit crater was occasionally visible at night during July through December 2019, as recorded by webcam images and reported by JMA (figure 41). MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) analysis of MODIS satellite data showed weak thermal anomalies that occurred dominantly in November with little to no activity recorded between July and October (figure 42). Two Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images in early November and late December showed thermal hotspots within the summit crater (figure 43).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. Surveillance camera image of summit incandescence at Suwanosejima on 31 October 2019. Courtesy of JMA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Weak thermal anomalies at Suwanosejima during January-December 2019 as recorded by the MIROVA system (Log Radiative Power) dominantly occurred in mid-March, late May to mid-June, and November, with two hotspots detected in late September and late December. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images showing small thermal anomalies (bright yellow-orange) within the Otake crater at Suwanosejima on 8 November 2019 (left) and faintly on 23 December 2019 behind clouds (right). Both images with "Atmospheric penetration" (bands 12, 11, 8A) rendering; courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The 8-km-long, spindle-shaped island of Suwanosejima in the northern Ryukyu Islands consists of an andesitic stratovolcano with two historically active summit craters. The summit of the volcano is truncated by a large breached crater extending to the sea on the east flank that was formed by edifice collapse. Suwanosejima, one of Japan's most frequently active volcanoes, was in a state of intermittent strombolian activity from Otake, the NE summit crater, that began in 1949 and lasted until 1996, after which periods of inactivity lengthened. The largest historical eruption took place in 1813-14, when thick scoria deposits blanketed residential areas, and the SW crater produced two lava flows that reached the western coast. At the end of the eruption the summit of Otake collapsed forming a large debris avalanche and creating the horseshoe-shaped Sakuchi caldera, which extends to the eastern coast. The island remained uninhabited for about 70 years after the 1813-1814 eruption. Lava flows reached the eastern coast of the island in 1884. Only about 50 people live on the island.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html); 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/); Tokyo Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC), 1-3-4 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/svd/vaac/data/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground).

Barren Island (India) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Barren Island


12.278°N, 93.858°E; summit elev. 354 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Thermal anomalies and small ash plumes during February-April 2019 and September 2019-January 2020

Barren Island is a remote stratovolcano located east of India in the Andaman Islands. Its most recent eruptive episode began in September 2018 and has included lava flows, explosions, ash plumes, and lava fountaining (BGVN 44:02). This report updates information from February 2019 through January 2020 using various satellite data as a primary source of information.

MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity) analysis of MODIS satellite data showed intermittent thermal anomalies within 5 km of the summit from mid-February 2019 through January 2020 (figure 41). There was a period of relatively low to no discernible activity between May to September 2019. The MODVOLC algorithm for MODIS thermal anomalies in comparison with Sentinel-2 thermal satellite imagery and Suomi NPP/VIIRS sensor data, registered elevated temperatures during late February 2019, early March, sparsely in April, late October, sparsely in November, early December, and intermittently in January 2020 (figure 42). Sentinel-2 thermal satellite imagery shows these thermal hotspots differing in strength from late February to late January 2020 (figure 43). The thermal anomalies in these satellite images are occasionally accompanied by ash plumes (25 February 2019, 23 October 2019, and 21 January 2020) and gas-and-steam emissions (26 April 2019).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. Intermittent thermal anomalies at Barren Island for 20 February 2019 through January 2020 occurred dominantly between late March to late April 2019 and late September 2019 through January 2020. Courtesy of MIROVA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. Timeline summary of observed activity at Barren Island from February 2019 through January 2020. For Sentinel-2, MODVOLC, and VIIRS data, the dates indicated are when thermal anomalies were detected. White areas indicated no activity was observed, which may also be due to meteoric clouds. Data courtesy of Darwin VAAC, Sentinel Hub Playground, HIGP, and NASA Worldview using the "Fire and Thermal Anomalies" layer.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. Sentinel-2 thermal images show ash plumes, gas-and-steam emissions, and thermal anomalies (bright yellow-orange) at Barren Island during February 2019-January 2020. The strongest thermal signature was observed on 23 October while the weakest one is observed on 26 January. Sentinel-2 False color (bands 12, 11, 4) images courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

The Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reported ash plumes rising from the summit on 7, 14, and 16 March 2019. The maximum altitude of the ash plume occurred on 7 March, rising 1.8 km altitude, drifting W and NW and 1.2 km altitude, drifting E and ESE, based on observations from Himawari-8. The VAAC reports for 14 and 16 March reported the ash plumes rising 0.9 km and 1.2 km altitude, respectively drifting W and W.

Geologic Background. Barren Island, a possession of India in the Andaman Sea about 135 km NE of Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, is the only historically active volcano along the N-S volcanic arc extending between Sumatra and Burma (Myanmar). It is the emergent summit of a volcano that rises from a depth of about 2250 m. The small, uninhabited 3-km-wide island contains a roughly 2-km-wide caldera with walls 250-350 m high. The caldera, which is open to the sea on the west, was created during a major explosive eruption in the late Pleistocene that produced pyroclastic-flow and -surge deposits. Historical eruptions have changed the morphology of the pyroclastic cone in the center of the caldera, and lava flows that fill much of the caldera floor have reached the sea along the western coast.

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/); 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/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); NASA Worldview (URL: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov/).

Whakaari/White Island (New Zealand) — February 2020 Citation iconCite this Report

Whakaari/White Island

New Zealand

37.52°S, 177.18°E; summit elev. 294 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Explosion producing an ash plume and pyroclastic surge resulted in fatalities and injuries on 9 December 2019

Whakaari/White Island has been New Zealand's most active volcano since 1976. Located 48 km offshore, the volcano is a popular tourism destination with tours leaving the town of Whakatane with approximately 17,500 people visiting the island in 2018. Ten lives were lost in 1914 when part of the crater wall collapsed, impacting sulfur miners. More recently, a brief explosion at 1411 on 9 December 2019 produced an ash plume and pyroclastic surge that impacted the entire crater area. With 47 people on the island at the time, the death toll stood at 21 on 3 February 2019. At that time more patients were still in hospitals within New Zealand or their home countries.

The island is the summit of a large underwater volcano, with around 70% of the edifice below the ocean and rising around 900 m above sea level (figure 70). A broad crater opens to the ocean to the SE, with steep crater walls and an active Main Crater area to the NW rear of the crater floor (figure 71). Although the island is privately owned, GeoNet continuously monitors activity both remotely and with visits to the volcano. This Bulletin covers activity from May 2017 through December 2019 and is based on reports by GeoNet, the New Zealand Civil Defence Bay of Plenty Emergency Management Group, satellite data, and footage taken by visitors to the island.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 70. The top of the Whakaari/White Island edifice forms the island in the Bay of Plenty area, New Zealand, while 70% of the volcano is below sea level. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 71. This photo from 2004 shows the Main Crater area of Whakaari/White Island with the vent area indicated. The crater is an amphitheater shape with the crater floor distance between the vent and the ocean entry being about 700 m. The sediment plume begins at the area where tour boats dock at the island. Photo by Karen Britten, graphic by Danielle Charlton at University of Auckland; courtesy of GeoNet (11 December 2019 report).

Nearly continuous activity occurred from December 1975 to September 2000, including the formation of collapse and explosion craters producing ash emissions and explosions that impacted all of the Main Crater area. More recently, it has been in a state of elevated unrest since 2011. Renewed activity commenced with an explosive eruption on 5 August 2012 that was followed by the extrusion of a lava dome and ongoing phreatic explosions and minor ash emissions through March 2013. An ash cone was seen on 4 March 2013, and over the next few months the crater lake reformed. Further significant explosions took place on 20 August and 4, 8, and 11 October 2013. A landslide occurred in November 2015 with material descending into the lake. More recent activity on 27 April 2016 produced a short-lived eruption that deposited material across the crater floor and walls. A short period of ash emission later that year, on 13 September 2016, originated from a vent on the recent lava dome. Explosive eruptions occur with little to no warning.

Since 19 September 2016 the Volcanic Alert Level (VAL) was set to 1 (minor volcanic unrest) (figure 72). During early 2017 background activity in the crater continued, including active fumaroles emitting volcanic gases and steam from the active geothermal system, boiling springs, volcanic tremor, and deformation. By April 2017 a new crater lake had begun to form, the first since the April 2016 explosion when the lake floor was excavated an additional 13 m. Before this, there were areas where water ponded in depressions within the Main Crater but no stable lake.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 72. The New Zealand Volcanic Alert Level system up to date in February 2020. Courtesy of GeoNet.

Activity from mid-2017 through 2018. In July-August 2017 GeoNet scientists carried out the first fieldwork at the crater area since late 2015 to sample the new crater lake and gas emissions. The crater lake was significantly cooler than the past lakes at 20°C, compared to 30-70°C that was typical previously. Chemical analysis of water samples collected in July showed the lowest concentrations of most "volcanic elements" in the lake for the past 10-15 years due to the reduced volcanic gases entering the lake. The acidity remained similar to that of battery acid. Gas emissions from the 2012 dome were 114°C, which were over 450°C in 2012 and 330°C in 2016. Fumarole 0 also had a reduced temperature of 152°C, reduced from over 190°C in late 2016 (figure 73). The observations and measurements indicated a decline in unrest. Further visits in December 2017 noted relatively low-level unrest including 149°C gas emissions from fumarole 0, a small crater lake, and loud gas vents nearby (figures 74 and 75). By 27 November the lake had risen to 10 m below overflow. Analysis of water samples led to an estimate of 75% of the lake water resulting from condensing steam vents below the lake and the rest from rainfall.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 73. A GeoNet scientists conducting field work near Fumarole 0, an accessible gas vent on Whakaari/White Island in August 2017. Courtesy of GeoNet (23 August 2017 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 74. GeoNet scientists sample gas emissions from vents on the 2012 Whakaari/White Island dome. The red circle in the left image indicates the location of the scientists. Courtesy of GeoNet (23 August 2017 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 75. Active fumaroles and vents in the Main Crater of Whakaari/White Island including Fumarole 0 (top left). The crater lake formed in mid-2017 and gas emissions rise from surrounding vents (right). Courtesy of GeoNet (22 December 2017 report).

Routine fieldwork by GeoNet monitoring teams in early March 2018 showed continued low-level unrest and no apparent changes after a recent nearby earthquake swarm. The most notable change was the increase in the crater lake size, likely a response from recent high rainfall (figure 76). The water remained a relatively cool 27°C. Temperatures continued to decline at the 2012 dome vent (128°C) and Fumarole 0 (138°C). Spring and stream flow had also declined. Deformation was observed towards the Active Crater of 2-5 mm per month and seismicity remained low. The increase in lake level drowned gas vents along the lake shore resulting in geyser-like activity (figure 77). GeoNet warned that a new eruption could occur at any time, often without any useful warning.

In mid-April 2018 visitors reported loud sounds from the crater area as a result of the rising lake level drowning vents on the 2012 dome (in the western side of the crater) and resulting in steam-driven activity. There was no notable change in volcanic activity. The sounds stopped by July 2018 as the geothermal system adjusted to the rising water, up to 17 m below overfill and filling at a rate of about 2,000 m3 per day, rising towards more active vents (figure 78). A gas monitoring flight taken on 12 September showed a steaming lake surrounded by active fumaroles along the crater wall (figure 79).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 76. The increase in the Whakaari/White Island crater lake size in early March 2018 with gas plumes rising from vents on the other side. Courtesy of GeoNet (19 March 2018 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 77. The increasing crater lake level at Whakaari/White Island produced geyser-like activity on the lake shore in March 2018. Courtesy of Brad Scott, GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 78. Stills taken from a drone video of the Whakaari/White Island Main Crater lake and active vents producing gas emissions. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 79. Photos taken during a gas monitoring flight with GNS Science at Whakaari/White Island show gas and steam emissions, and a steaming crater lake on 12 September 2018. Note the people for scale on the lower-right crater rim in the bottom photograph. Copyright of Ben Clarke, University of Leicester, used with permission.

Activity during April to early December 2019. A GeoNet volcanic alert bulletin in April 2019 reported that steady low-level unrest continued. The level of the lake had been declining since late January and was back down to 13 m below overflow (figure 80). The water temperature had increased to over 60°C due to the fumarole activity below the lake. Fumarole 0 remained steady at around 120-130°C. During May-June a seismic swarm was reported offshore, unrelated to volcanic activity but increasing the risk of landslides within the crater due to the shallow locations.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 80. Planet Labs satellite images from March 2018 to April 2019 show fluctuations in the Whakaari/White Island crater lake level. Image copyright 2019 Planet Labs, Inc.

On 26 June the VAL was raised to level 2 (moderate to heightened volcanic unrest) due to increased SO2 flux rising to historically high levels. An overflight that day detected 1,886 tons/day, nearly three times the previous values of May 2019, the highest recorded value since 2013, and the second highest since measurements began in 2003. The VAL was subsequently lowered on 1 July due to a reduction in detected SO2 emissions of 880 tons/day on 28 June and 693 tons/day on 29 June.

GeoNet reported on 26 September that there was an increase in steam-driven activity within the active crater over the past three weeks. This included small geyser-like explosions of mud and steam with material reaching about 10 m above the lake. This was not attributed to an increase in volcanic activity, but to the crater lake level rising since early August.

On 30 October an increase in background activity was reported. An increasing trend in SO2 gas emissions and volcanic tremor had been ongoing for several months and had reached the highest levels since 2016. This indicated to GeoNet that Whakaari/White Island might be entering a period where eruptive activity was more likely. There were no significant changes in other monitoring parameters at this time and fumarole activity continued (figure 81).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 81. A webcam image taken at 1030 on 30 October 2019 from the crater rim shows the Whakaari/White Island crater lake to the right of the amphitheater-shaped crater and gas-and-steam plumes from active fumaroles. Courtesy of GeoNet.

On 18 November the VAL was raised to level 2 and the Aviation Colour Code was raised to Yellow due to further increase in SO2 emissions and volcanic tremor. Other monitoring parameters showed no significant changes. On 25 November GeoNet reported that moderate volcanic unrest continued but with no new changes. Gas emissions remained high and gas-driven ejecta regularly jetting material a few meters into the air above fumaroles in the crater lake (figure 82).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 82. A webcam image from the Whakaari/White Island crater rim shows gas-driven ejecta rising above a fumarole within the crater lake on 22 November 2019. Courtesy of GeoNet.

GeoNet reported on 3 December that moderate volcanic unrest continued, with increased but variable explosive gas and steam-driven jetting, with stronger events ejecting mud 20-30 m into the air and depositing mud around the vent area. Gas emissions and volcanic tremor remained elevated and occasional gas smells were reported on the North Island mainland depending on wind direction. The crater lake water level remained unchanged. Monitoring parameters were similar to those observed in 2011-2016 and remained within the expected range for moderate volcanic unrest.

Eruption on 9 December 2019. A short-lived eruption occurred at 1411 on 9 December 2019, generating a steam-and-ash plume to 3.6 km and covering the entire crater floor area with ash. Video taken by tourists on a nearby boat showed an eruption plume composed of a white steam-rich portion, and a black ash-rich ejecta (figure 83). A pyroclastic surge moved laterally across the crater floor and up the inner crater walls. Photos taken soon after the eruption showed sulfur-rich deposits across the crater floor and crater walls, and a helicopter that had been damaged and blown off the landing pad (figure 84). This activity caused the VAL to be raised to 4 (moderate volcanic eruption) and the Aviation Colour Code being raised to Orange.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 83. The beginning of the Whakaari/White Island 9 December 2019 eruption viewed from a boat that left the island about 20-30 minutes prior. Top: the steam-rich eruption plume rising above the volcano and a pyroclastic surge beginning to rise over the crater rim. Bottom: the expanded steam-and-ash plume of the pyroclastic surge that flowed over the crater floor to the ocean. Copyright of Michael Schade, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 84. This photo of Whakaari/White Island taken after the 9 December 2019 eruption at around 1424 shows ash and sediment coating the crater floor and walls. The helicopter in this image was blown off the landing pad and damaged during the eruption. Copyright of Michael Schade, used with permission.

A steam plume was visible in a webcam image taken at 1430 from Whakatane, 21 minutes after the explosion (figure 85). Subsequent explosions occurred at 1630 and 1749. Search-and-Rescue teams reached the island after the eruption and noted a very strong sulfur smell that was experienced through respirators. They experienced severe stinging of any exposed skin that came in contact with the gas, and were left with sensitive skin and eyes, and sore throats. Later in the afternoon the gas-and-steam plume continued and a sediment plume was dispersing from the island (figure 86). The VAL was lowered to level 3 (minor volcanic eruption) at 1625 that day; the Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 85. A view of Whakaari/White Island from Whakatane in the North Island of New Zealand. Left: there is no plume visible at 1410 on 9 December 2019, one minute before the eruption. Right: A gas-and-steam plume is visible 21 minutes after the eruption. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 86. A gas-and-steam plume rises from Whakaari/White Island on the afternoon of 9 December 2019 as rescue teams visit the island. A sediment plume in the ocean is dispersing from the island. Courtesy of Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust.

During or immediately after the eruption an unstable portion of the SW inner crater wall, composed of 1914 landslide material, collapsed and was identified in satellite radar imagery acquired after the eruption. The material slid into the crater lake area and left a 12-m-high scarp. Movement in this area continued into early January.

Activity from late 2019 into early 2020. A significant increase in volcanic tremor began at around 0400 on 11 December (figure 87). The increase was accompanied by vigorous steaming and ejections of mud in several of the new vents. By the afternoon the tremor was at the highest level seen since the 2016 eruption, and monitoring data indicated that shallow magma was driving the increased unrest.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 87. This RSAM (Real-Time Seismic Amplitude) time series plot represents the energy produced at Whakaari/White Island from 11 November to 11 December 2019 with the Volcanic Activity Levels and the 9 December eruption indicated. The plot shows the sharp increase in seismic energy during 11 December. Courtesy of GeoNet (11 December 2019 report).

The VAL was lowered to 2 on the morning of 12 December to reflect moderate to heightened unrest as no further explosive activity had occurred since the event on the 9th. Volcanic tremor was occurring at very high levels by the time a bulletin was released at 1025 that day. Gas emissions increased since 10 January, steam and mud jetting continued, and the situation was interpreted to be highly volatile. The Aviation Colour Code remained at Orange. Risk assessment maps released that day show the high-risk areas as monitoring parameters continued to show an increased likelihood of another eruption (figure 88).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 88. Risk assessment maps of Whakaari/White Island show the increase in high-risk areas from 2 December to 12 December 2019. Courtesy of GeoNet (12 December 2019 report).

The volcanic activity bulletin for 13 December reported that volcanic tremor remained high, but had declined overnight. Vigorous steam and mud jetting continuing at the vent area. Brief ash emission was observed in the evening with ashfall restricted to the vent area. The 14 January bulletin reported that volcanic tremor had declined significantly over night, and nighttime webcam images showed a glow in the vent area due to high heat flow.

Aerial observations on 14 and 15 December revealed steam and gas emissions continuing from at least three open vents within a 100 m2 area (figure 89). One vent near the back of the crater area was emitting transparent, high-temperature gas that indicated that magma was near the surface, and produced a glow registered by low-light cameras (figure 90). The gas emissions had a blue tinge that indicated high SO2 content. The area that once contained the crater lake, 16 m below overflow before the eruption, was filled with debris and small isolated ponds mostly from rainfall, with different colors due to the water reacting with the eruption deposits. The gas-and-steam plume was white near the volcano but changed to a gray-brown color as it cooled and moved downwind due to the gas content (figure 91). On 15 December the tremor remained at low levels (figure 92).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 89. The Main Crater area of Whakaari/White Island showing the active vent area and gas-and-steam emissions on 15 December 2019. Gas emissions were high within the circled area. Before the eruption a few days earlier this area was partially filled by the crater lake. Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 90. A low-light nighttime camera at Whakaari/White Island imaged "a glow" at a vent within the active crater area on 13 December 2019. This glow is due to high-temperature gas emissions and light from external sources like the moon. Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 91. A gas-and-steam plume at Whakaari/White Island on 15 December 2019 is white near the crater and changes to a grey-brown color downwind due to the gas content. Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).
Figure (see Caption) Figure 92. The Whakaari/White Island seismic drum plot showing the difference in activity from 12 December (top) to 15 December (bottom). Courtesy of GeoNet (15 December 2019 report).

On 19 December tremor remained low (figure 93) and gas and steam emission continued. Overflight observations confirmed open vents with one producing temperatures over 650°C (figure 94). SO2 emissions remained high at around 15 kg/s, slightly lower than the 20 kg/s detected on 12 December. Small amounts of ash were produced on 23 and 26 December due to material entering the vents during erosion.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 93. This RSAM (Real-Time Seismic Amplitude) time series plot represents the energy produced at Whakaari/White Island from 1 November to mid-December 2019. The Volcanic Alert Levels and the 9 December eruption are indicated. Courtesy of GeoNet.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 94. A photograph and thermal infrared image of the Whakaari/White Island crater area on 19 December 2019. The thermal imaging registered temperatures up to 650°C at a vent emitting steam and gas. Courtesy of GeoNet.

The Aviation Colour Code was reduced to Yellow on 6 January 2020 and the VAL remained at 2. Strong gas and steam emissions continued from the vent area through early January and the glow persisted in nighttime webcam images. Short-lived episodes of volcanic tremor were recorded between 8-10 January and were accompanied by minor explosions. A 15 January bulletin reported that the temperature at the vent area remained very hot, up to 440°C, and SO2 emissions were within normal post-eruption levels.

High temperatures were detected within the vent area in Sentinel-2 thermal data on 6 and 16 January (figure 95). Lava extrusion was confirmed within the 9 December vents on 20 January. Airborne SO2 measurements on that day recorded continued high levels and the vent temperature was over 400°C. Observations on 4 February showed that no new lava extrusion had occurred, and gas fluxes were lower than two weeks ago, but still elevated. The temperatures measured in the crater were 550-570°C and no further changes to the area were observed.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 95. Sentinel-2 thermal infrared satellite images show elevated temperatures in the 9 December 2019 vent area on Whakaari/White Island. False color (urban) satellite image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

Geologic Background. The uninhabited Whakaari/White Island is the 2 x 2.4 km emergent summit of a 16 x 18 km submarine volcano in the Bay of Plenty about 50 km offshore of North Island. The island consists of two overlapping andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcanoes. The SE side of the crater is open at sea level, with the recent activity centered about 1 km from the shore close to the rear crater wall. Volckner Rocks, sea stacks that are remnants of a lava dome, lie 5 km NW. Descriptions of volcanism since 1826 have included intermittent moderate phreatic, phreatomagmatic, and Strombolian eruptions; activity there also forms a prominent part of Maori legends. The formation of many new vents during the 19th and 20th centuries caused rapid changes in crater floor topography. Collapse of the crater wall in 1914 produced a debris avalanche that buried buildings and workers at a sulfur-mining project. Explosive activity in December 2019 took place while tourists were present, resulting in many fatalities. The official government name Whakaari/White Island is a combination of the full Maori name of Te Puia o Whakaari ("The Dramatic Volcano") and White Island (referencing the constant steam plume) given by Captain James Cook in 1769.

Information Contacts: New Zealand GeoNet Project, a collaboration between the Earthquake Commission and GNS Science, Wairakei Research Centre, Private Bag 2000, Taupo 3352, New Zealand (URL: http://www.geonet.org.nz/); GNS Science, Wairakei Research Centre, Private Bag 2000, Taupo 3352, New Zealand (URL: http://www.gns.cri.nz/); Bay of Plenty Emergency Management Group Civil Defense, New Zealand (URL: http://www.bopcivildefence.govt.nz/); Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust, Auckland, New Zealand (URL: https://www.rescuehelicopter.org.nz/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Ben Clarke, The University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, United Kingdom (URL: https://le.ac.uk/geology, Twitter: https://twitter.com/PyroclasticBen); Michael Schade, San Francisco, USA (URL: https://twitter.com/sch).

Kadovar (Papua New Guinea) — January 2020 Citation iconCite this Report


Papua New Guinea

3.608°S, 144.588°E; summit elev. 365 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Frequent gas and some ash emissions during May-December 2019 with some hot avalanches

Kadovar is an island volcano north of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Manam. The first confirmed historical activity began in January 2018 and resulted in the evacuation of residents from the island. Eruptive activity through 2018 changed the morphology of the SE side of the island and activity continued through 2019 (figure 36). This report summarizes activity from May through December 2019 and is based largely on various satellite data, tourist reports, and Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) reports.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 36. The morphological changes to Kadovar from 2017 to June 2019. Top: the vegetated island has a horseshoe-shaped crater that opens towards the SE; the population of the island was around 600 people at this time. Middle: by May 2018 the eruption was well underway with an active summit crater and an active dome off the east flank. Much of the vegetation has been killed and ashfall covers a lot of the island. Bottom: the bay below the SE flank has filled in with volcanic debris. The E-flank coastal dome is no longer active, but activity continues at the summit. PlanetScope satellite images copyright Planet Labs 2019.

Since this eruptive episode began a large part of the island has been deforested and has undergone erosion (figure 37). Activity in early 2019 included regular gas and steam emissions, ash plumes, and thermal anomalies at the summit (BGVN 44:05). On 15 May an ash plume originated from two vents at the summit area and dispersed to the east. A MODVOLC thermal alert was also issued on this day, and again on 17 May. Elevated temperatures were detected in Sentinel-2 thermal satellite data on 20, 21, and 30 May (figure 38), with accompanying gas-and-steam plumes dispersing to the NNW and NW. On 30 May the area of elevated temperature extended to the SE shoreline, indicating an avalanche of hot material reaching the water.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 37. The southern flank of Kadovar seen here on 13 November 2019 had been deforested by eruptive activity and erosion had produced gullies down the flanks. Copyrighted photo by Chrissie Goldrick, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 38. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images show elevated temperatures at the summit area, and down to the coast in the top image. Gas-and-steam plumes are visible dispersing towards the NW. Sentinel-2 false color (urban) satellite image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel-Hub Playground.

Throughout June cloud-free Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images showed elevated temperatures at the summit area and extending down the upper SE flank (figure 38). Gas-and-steam plumes were persistent in every Sentinel-2 and NASA Suomi NPP / VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) image. MODVOLC thermal alerts were issued on 4 and 9 June. Similar activity continued through July with gas-and-steam emissions visible in every cloud-free satellite image. Thermal anomalies appeared weaker in late-July but remained at the summit area. An ash plume was imaged on 17 July by Landsat 8 with a gas-and-ash plume dispersing to the west (figure 39). Thermal anomalies continued through August with a MODVOLC thermal alert issued on the 14th. Gas emissions also continued and a Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) was issued on the 19th reporting an ash plume to an altitude of 1.5 km and drifting NW.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 39. An ash plume rising above Kadovar and a gas plume dispersing to the NW on 17 July 2019. Truecolor pansharpened Landsat 8 satellite image courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.

An elongate area extending from the summit area to the E-flank coastal dome appears lighter in color in a 7 September Sentinel-2 natural color satellite image, and as a higher temperature area in the correlating thermal bands, indicating a hot avalanche deposit. These observations along with the previous avalanche, persistent elevated summit temperatures, and persistent gas and steam emissions from varying vent locations (figure 40) suggests that the summit dome has remained active through 2019.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 40. Sentinel-2 visible and thermal satellite images acquired on 7 September 2019 show fresh deposits down the east flank of Kadovar. They appear as a lighter colored area in visible, and show as a hot area (orange) in thermal data. Sentinel-2 natural color (bands 4, 3, 2) and false color (urban) satellite image (bands 12, 11, 4) courtesy of Sentinel-Hub Playground.

Thermal anomalies and emissions continued through to the end of 2019 (figure 41). A tour group witnessed an explosion producing an ash plume at around 1800 on 13 November (figure 42). While the ash plume erupted near-vertically above the island, a more diffuse gas plume rose from multiple vents on the summit dome and dispersed at a lower altitude.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 41. The summit area of Kadovar emitting gas-and-steam plumes in August, September, and November 2019. The plumes are persistent in satellite images throughout May through December and there is variation in the number and locations of the source vents. PlanetScope satellite images copyright Planet Labs 2019.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 42. An ash plume and a lower gas plume rise during an eruption of Kadovar on 13 November 2019. The summit lava dome is visibly degassing to produce the white gas plume. Copyrighted photos by Chrissie Goldrick, used with permission.

While gas plumes were visible throughout May-December 2019 (figure 43), SO2 plumes were difficult to detect in NASA SO2 images due to the activity of nearby Manam volcano. The MIROVA thermal detection system shows continued elevated temperatures through to early December, with an increase during May-June (figure 44). Sentinel-2 thermal images showed elevated temperatures through to the end of December but at a lower intensity than previous months.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 43. This photo of the southeast side Kadovar on 13 November 2019 shows a persistent low-level gas plume blowing towards the left and a more vigorous plume is visible near the crater. This is an example of the persistent plume visible in satellite imagery throughout July-December 2019. Copyrighted photo by Chrissie Goldrick, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 44. The MIROVA plot of radiative power at Kadovar shows thermal anomalies throughout 2019 with some variations in frequency. Note that while the black lines indicate that the thermal anomalies are greater than 5 km from the vent, the designated summit location is inaccurate so these are actually a the summit crater and on the E flank. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. The 2-km-wide island of Kadovar is the emergent summit of a Bismarck Sea stratovolcano of Holocene age. It is part of the Schouten Islands, and lies off the coast of New Guinea, about 25 km N of the mouth of the Sepik River. Prior to an eruption that began in 2018, a lava dome formed the high point of the andesitic volcano, filling an arcuate landslide scarp open to the south; submarine debris-avalanche deposits occur in that direction. Thick lava flows with columnar jointing forms low cliffs along the coast. The youthful island lacks fringing or offshore reefs. A period of heightened thermal phenomena took place in 1976. An eruption began in January 2018 that included lava effusion from vents at the summit and at the E coast.

Information Contacts: 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/); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); NASA Worldview (URL: https://worldview.earthdata.nasa.gov); Chrissie Goldrick, Australian Geographic, Level 7, 54 Park Street, Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia (URL: https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/).

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Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network - Volume 38, Number 02 (February 2013)

Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Cumbal (Colombia)

Non-eruptive activity: swarms and increased emissions during 2011-2012

Izu-Tobu (Japan)

Quiet prevails despite the Tohoku megathrust of March 2011

Kilauea (United States)

2009 highlights: Waikupanaha ocean entry ceases, lava enters Halema`uma`u

Kusatsu-Shiranesan (Japan)

Minor tremor and small earthquakes during 2011-2012

Sabancaya (Peru)

Increased seismic and fumarolic activity in late 2012 and early 2013

Saunders (United Kingdom)

Eruption from ‘new’ vent

Telica (Nicaragua)

Degassing continues in 2012; increased micro-earthquake activity in March 2013

Turrialba (Costa Rica)

Decreased seismicity and emissions in 2012

Cumbal (Colombia) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



0.95°N, 77.87°W; summit elev. 4764 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Non-eruptive activity: swarms and increased emissions during 2011-2012

Our last report on Cumbal volcano (BGVN 19:07) highlighted fumarolic activity from the NE craters, and monitoring efforts by scientists collaborating with the Servicio Geológico Colombiano (SGC). The SGC (formerly known as Instituto Colombiano de Geología y Minería, “INGEOMINAS”) monitors the volcano from Pasto, ~72 km NE of Cumbal (figure 3). In this report we describe field observations during 2005-2012, significant new monitoring instruments installed during 2008-2012, and episodes of seismic unrest. Earthquake swarms during 2011 and 2012 accompanied increased fumarolic activity.

see figure caption Figure 3. This 2008 map of the Cumbal region indicates locations of telemetered monitoring instruments (see legend), major towns (black labels), and nearby volcanoes (yellow text; red text for Cumbal). Yellow text is also used for the radio repeater at “Cruz de Amarillo” ~65 km ENE of Cumbal volcano. More instruments were added to the system later. Courtesy of SGC.

SGC maintained Alert Level Green (Level IV, the lowest status on a 4-step system; figure 4) with two exceptions. Reduced monitoring during May-July 2010 caused the status to be unassigned during that time. Elevated seismicity and emissions noted in June 2012 raised the status from Green (Level IV) to Yellow (Level III) signifying detected “changes in behavior of the volcanic system.”

see figure caption Figure 4. This pictogram describes the volcano Alert Levels used for communicating hazards in Colombia (translated from original in Spanish). This is a four-step system similar to the USGS volcanic activity alert-notification system (Gardner and Guffanti, 2006), except that each step is numbered in addition to having a color code: Green (Level IV), Yellow (Level III), Orange (Level II), and Red (Level I). All SGC observatories (based in Pasto, Popayán, and Manizales) apply this qualitative system. Courtesy of SGC.

Local hazard map. SGC published a hazard map in 1988 for the region surrounding Cumbal (figure 5). The three asymmetrical hazard zones, high (red), medium (orange), and low (yellow), are at risk for ashfall and pyroclastic flows.

see figure caption Figure 5. This hazard map for Cumbal volcano was developed in 1988 by Ricardo Méndez and María Luisa Monsalve of INGEOMINAS (now the Servicio Geológico Colombiano). Three major zones delineate high, medium, and low risk. Note that ashfall could occur in any of the three zones. Courtesy of SGC.

Areas at highest risk, in the red zone, could be affected by lava and pyroclastic flows, especially within the narrow valleys of Chiquito, Blanco, and Río Grande. Ashfall, ballistics, mudflows, and gas emissions could also occur as far away as ~8 km from the summit. Areas at medium risk, the orange zone, could also be affected by pyroclastic flows, ashfall, and mudflows over an area extending up to 14 km SE from the summit, encompassing the town of Cumbal. Areas at lowest risk, yellow zone, is located primarily downwind of the volcano where pyroclastic flows and ashfall could occur; this zone extends beyond the view of the map.

Monitoring efforts. Aerial investigations conducted since 2005 revealed persistent plumes rising from Cumbal’s NE craters, El Verde and La Plazuela (figure 6; see also figure 2 in BGVN 19:07 for an annotated sketch map of the summit craters). In their online Technical Bulletins, SGC emphasized the frequency of plumes from this region that were documented since at least 1988.

see figure caption Figure 6. Cumbal is an elongate volcano with multiple peaks. In 2005 and 2007, clear conditions provided views of plumes rising from Cumbal’s summit craters, El Verde and La Plazuela. (top) On 29 January 2007, white plumes rose from the fumaroles El Verde and Rastrojo; the look direction is N. (bottom) On 29 December 2005, discrete plumes were visible from the fumaroles El Verde (1), El Tábano (2), and La Desfondada (3); the look direction is NNW. Some snow had collected along the ridges and a small pond of water was visible within La Plazuela crater that day. Courtesy of SGC.

To help understand Cumbal’s state, SGC installed seismic and electronic tilt equipment in late 2008 (figure 3). The La Mesa (2.5 km ESE) and Limones (2 km SE) stations had electronic tilt and short-period seismic instrumentation (figure 7). During installation on 24 September 2008, technicians observed steam plumes rising from the fumarolic areas El Verde and La Plazuela (figure 8).

see figure caption Figure 7. This satellite image-based map includes upgrades in Cumbal’s monitoring network as of 2012. Courtesy of SGC.
see figure caption Figure 8. Clear conditions revealed the pale, fumarolic summit area of Cumbal during the mornings of two days in September 2008. (top) Two white plumes seen at 0704 on 24 September 2008; the smaller plume (center) rose from La Plazuela crater while the larger plume (to the right) rose from El Verde. Emissions from these sites have been noted since the late 1980s. This photograph was taken from a location ~6.5 km SE from the summit. (bottom) From the center of town, near the Cumbal Nariño Temple, the view NW toward Cumbal’s summit and fumarolic sites was clear on 25 September 2008. Courtesy of SGC.

In June 2009, SGC installed a broadband seismometer at Limones station, upgrading from the short-period sensor. Unfortunately, monitoring capabilities were significantly reduced when, in December 2009, vandals stole station instrumentation at this site.

Data from the remaining station, La Mesa, was only acquired intermittently during January-June 2010 owing to radio repeater problems. From May to July, the Alert Level status went unassigned, but upon repair of the system, later returned back to Green (Level IV).

In August 2010 a short-period seismic station (CUMZ) came online (figure 7). This station was maintained by the National Seismological Network of Colombia (RSNC). The electronic tiltmeter at La Mesa was offline during August-November 2010 due to electronic malfunctions.

In November and December 2011, SGC collaborated with the Colombia Air Force (FAC) to conduct overflights of the volcanic complex. In addition to aerial photos and observations, a thermal camera was used to determine the hotspot distribution and measure temperatures for those sites (figure 9).

see figure caption Figure 9. This thermal image was taken during an overflight of Cumbal’s summit on 27 November 2011. The look direction was approximately S with El Verde (43.6°C) and the highest part of La Plazuela’s rim (34.5°C) showing the highest temperatures. Steam plumes rising from the craters partly obscured the view. Courtesy of FAC and SGC.

Monitoring capabilities were expanded when SGC installed an infrasound sensor at the La Mesa monitoring site in March 2012 and a webcamera was installed in the town of Cumbal (~11 km SE) in May (figure 10). During March-December 2012, white plumes were frequently observed rising from Cumbal’s fumarolic sites.

see figure caption Figure 10. An image taken by the new Cumbal webcamera on 23 May 2012. The black arrow points to the source of the strongest plumes, El Verde crater. Courtesy of SGC.

The Limones short-period seismometer was back online in October 2012. Additionally, two new stations, Nieve and Punta Vieja (figure 7), were added to the network in December; these stations had broadband seismic and electronic tilt equipment.

Summit fumarole monitoring. During 2010-2012, SGC conducted field campaigns to monitor Cumbal’s summit fumarolic sites. Three fumaroles (Desfondada, El Verde, and El Rastrojo) were visited during this time period with repeat observations and measurements. Lab analyses were conducted at the Manizales Volcanological and Seismological Observatory.

The Desfondada fumarole, located near the W rim of La Plazuela crater (see the sketch map in figure 2 in BGVN 19:07), was visited only once for sampling with the Giggenbach bottle method in August 2010; this site had a relatively high temperature, 278.4°C. The other sites were visited frequently and also sampled to determine gas species and condensates (table 1).

Table 1. Maximum temperatures measured from Cumbal's fumaroles during 2010-2012 at Desfondada, El Rastrojo, and El Verde. Site locations appear in figure 2 of BGVN 19:07, while the location of El Rastrojo is closest to the S-most crater of the complex, Mundo Nuevo. Courtesy of SGC.

Date Site Temperature (°C)
Aug 2010 Desfondada 278.4
Aug 2010 El Rastrojo 177.6
Sep 2011 El Rastrojo 153.3
Dec 2011 El Rastrojo 178.9
Mar 2012 El Rastrojo 148.5
Apr 2012 El Rastrojo 104.0
Aug 2010 El Verde 313.0
Mar 2012 El Verde 122.3
Apr 2012 El Verde 115.6

The earliest measured temperature from El Verde (in August 2010) yielded the highest value of the three fumaroles (313°C). Compared with temperatures measured in 1994 (378°C, BGVN 19:07), El Verde’s values were slightly lower; however, the three available temperatures from 2010 and 2012 were within the measured range determined by SGC field campaigns conducted during previous years (BGVN 19:07).

The El Rastrojo site was located ~1.6 km SW of the summit (figure 11); this fumarolic area, on the outer edge of Mundo Nuevo crater regularly emitted plumes and had temperatures in the range 104-178.9°C.

see figure caption Figure 11. On 27 November 2011, white plumes were visible rising from fumarolic features along the ridge of Cumbal volcano. (top) This oblique view of Cumbal is centered on Mundo Nuevo crater, the SW crater of the ~2 km-long volcanic complex. The area highlighted in red shows the location of El Rastrojo, an active fumarolic site that frequently emitted white plumes and was monitored by SGC. White plumes also emerge from La Plazuela and El Verde craters in the middle-ground (near the right edge of the image). (bottom) In this zoomed image (clipped from the top image), a short column of white vapor rises from El Rastrojo fumarole. This area is a scree slope where several large boulders are discolored by yellow sulfur deposits. Courtesy of SGC.

Hot spring investigations. Inferred magmatic compositions were detected from hot springs during 1988-1996 (Lewiki and others, 2000). Field investigators sampled from sites located within the central crater and from sites along the SE flank, up to 10 km from the summit and towards the town of Cumbal (figure 12). However, they concluded that “from 1995 to 1996, geochemical data show increasing hydrothermal signatures, suggesting a decline in magmatic volatile input.”

see figure caption Figure 12. This sketch map of Cumbal and the surrounding area highlights the locations of hot springs. During 2010-2012, SGC monitored four of these sites: El Salado (“S”), Cuetial (“C”), El Zapatero (“Z”), and Hueco Grande (also known as Quebrada el Corral, “QC”). Note that the generalized name “Cumbal Crater” is assigned to the area of La Plazuela and El Verde craters. Modified from Lewiki and others (2000).

During 2010, SGC monitored four hot springs for temperature and chemical changes. Results from sampling during May, August, and November 2010 determined chemical classifications for the springs El Salado, Cuetial, El Zapatero, and Hueco Grande (figure 13).

see figure caption Figure 13. Based on geochemical results from investigations in May (triangles), August (squares), and November 2010 (circles), SGC scientists classified four of Cumbal’s hot springs. Within this ternary diagram, the datapoints were generally well within the “Periferal Water” (Aguas Periféricas, significant HCO3) class. Datapoints from Hueco Grande, approached the “Volcanic Water” (translated from Spanish “Aguas Calentadas por Vapor,” significant SO4) class than the others. No datapoints were within the “Mature Water” (Aguas Maduras, significant Cl) class. Courtesy of SGC.

Sampling and analysis of the four hot springs continued during 2011-2012. SGC maintained a growing database of characteristics from these springs and released the results in online bulletins. In particular pH, temperature, conductivity, and concentrations of carbonates were repeatedly measured. During this time period, pH values measured from the hot springs were in the range of 5.9-7.3; temperatures were 26.4-34.4°C (the highest values were from Cuetial spring); conductivity values (Oxidation-Reduction Potential, “ORP”) ranged from 7.7-42.2 mV (highest values were from Cuetial and the lowest was from Hueco Grande springs); bicarbonate (HCO3) concentrations were 271.7-1,008.0 mg/L (the highest value was obtained from El Zapatero spring).

Cumbal seismicity. When the seismic stations Limones and La Mesa came online in late 2008, SGC began characterizing Cumbal’s seismicity based on the following interpretive scheme:

• Hybrid (HYB): Seismicity associated with signals characterizing fracturing and fluid movement.

• Long period (LPS): Seismicity associated with unsteady fluid movement (magma or hydrothermal fluids, for example).

• Tremor (TRE): Seismicity associated with fluid movement in which the source behaves in a sustained manner.

• Tornillo (TOR): Seismicity associated with fluid movement in which subterranean structures are linked with special conditions in such a manner that makes the cavities resonate. In their January 2009 online bulletin, SGC acknowledged that tornillo earthquakes have been an important indicator of eruptive activity at Galeras volcano, but the occurrence of the same signature at Cumbal volcano required additional analysis before associating specific unrest with this seismicity.

• Volcano-tectonic (VT): Earthquakes associated with brittle failure events caused by magma movement.

• Unclassified volcanic (VOL): Earthquakes from the region of Cumbal that do not correspond with the other classes; SGC stated that these events will be analyzed in more detail after more baseline data is collected. This category was also applied to seismic analyses of Doña Juana, a volcano that was instrumented around the same time (see report on Doña Juana in BGVN 38:01).

Seismicity in 2009. During 2009, as SGC began to establish baseline data for Cumbal’s seismicity, a wide range of earthquake classes was detected (figure 14). LPS and VT events dominated the records and TRE, HYB, and TOR earthquakes were also detected (in order of decreasing occurrence). TOR earthquakes occurred more frequently during August to early December. Due to vandalism, the 2009 record ended on 13 December 2009.

see figure caption Figure 14. The daily seismicity detected from Cumbal during 2009 in three plots that display January-August, August-November, and 1-13 December. Five different classes of earthquakes were tallied daily (VT, HYB, TRE, LPS, and TOR). Data gaps are attributed to station outages and time periods requiring re-processing; gray regions signify the reporting period in which the plots appear. Courtesy of SGC.

Seismicity in 2010. From January to July 2010, La Mesa station detected earthquakes intermittently and the Limones seismic station remained offline. When the network connection was re-established for La Mesa in late July, LPS earthquakes again dominated the records through the end of December (figure 15).

see figure caption Figure 15. Daily seismicity from Cumbal during 1 September-31 December 2010 was dominated by LPS events. Six different classes of earthquakes were tallied daily (VT, LP, TRE, HYB, TOR, and VOL); the gray region highlights the month when the plot was released online. Courtesy of SGC.

Seismicity in 2011. LPS, VT, and HYB events dominated seismicity at Cumbal for most of 2011; more VOL events occurred than HYB, but this category was described as temporary until more analysis is possible (table 2 and figure 16). Data quality enabled some events to be located and some swarms were apparently driving a several-fold increase in monthly counts. Until November 2011, TOR events were occurring ~5 times per month and TRE were occurring ~13 times per month. In November, seismicity increased significantly and SGC reported that several earthquake swarms had occurred; in particular, one event occurred on 18 November. A swarm of LPS earthquakes also occurred during 20-21 and on 31 December. Epicenters could not be calculated from the data and there were no reports of felt earthquakes.

Table 2. Monthly seismicity at Cumbal was tabulated by the occurrence of events: VT, LPS, TRE, HYB, TOR, VOL, and the overall total. Courtesy of SGC.

Jan 2011 165 906 14 109 8 111 1313 --
Feb 2011 188 453 5 5 5 104 760 --
Mar 2011 96 743 9 76 12 136 1072 --
Apr 2011 52 476 3 45 1 76 653 --
May 2011 80 575 10 37 5 38 745 --
Jun 2011 88 659 2 31 2 36 818 --
Jul 2011 76 726 9 29 4 30 874 --
Aug 2011 53 560 7 40 2 9 671 --
Sep 2011 75 524 8 70 7 47 731 --
Oct 2011 64 678 61 65 0 90 958 --
Nov 2011 300 1967 385 279 4 326 3261 Swarms
Dec 2011 160 2028 453 228 4 130 3003 Swarms
Jan 2012 103 1657 252 159 2 8 2181 Swarms
Feb 2012 176 758 73 167 1 6 1181 --
Mar 2012 78 678 47 105 5 0 913 --
Apr 2012 80 619 32 60 0 1 792 --
May 2012 54 625 35 45 0 0 759 Swarms
Jun 2012 56 858 29 34 5 0 982 --
Jul 2012 98 1306 29 54 5 0 1492 Swarms, 13 EQs located
Aug 2012 101 855 46 42 4 0 1048 Swarms, 11 EQs located
Sep 2012 117 1344 31 60 4 0 1556 Swarms, 3 EQs located
Oct 2012 135 1080 62 51 14 0 1342 Swarms, 92 EQs located
Nov 2012 235 1017 15 99 2 1 1369 Swarms, 89 EQs located
Dec 2012 260 1001 10 180 3 24 1478 Swarms, 97 EQs located
see figure caption Figure 16. Cumbal earthquakes tallied by month based on event class during 2011-2012. Elevated seismicity persisted during November 2011-January 2012, particularly VT, LPS, and TRE. The “TOTAL” class is the sum of VT, LPS, TRE, HYB, TOR, and VOL earthquakes for each month (see table 2 for values). Courtesy of SGC.

Seismicity in 2012. SGC reported that seismic swarms continued to occur in January 2012. The swarm that began at 2200 on 31 December 2011 continued until 1 January 2012 and a total of 211 LPS events were detected. Two more swarms occurred later that month, amounting to a total of 274 earthquakes. Seismicity declined during February-April but swarms reappeared: in May, one; in July, five; in August, two; in September, six; in October, six; in November, seven.

Due to elevated seismicity, persistent swarms, and observations of increased emissions from El Verde and La Plazuela, SGC announced on 10 July that the Alert Level was raised to Yellow (Level III). This status was maintained through December 2012. In their online July 2012 Activity Report, SGC noted that residents in the area had also reported notable gas emissions, seismicity, and possible noises associated with earthquakes.

Epicenters of Cumbal’s VT earthquakes were calculated during July-December 2012 and located on regional maps (table 3). Earthquake locations tended to be dispersed throughout the region, although some clustering was notable between 2 and 6 km of the summit region and at depths less than 12 km (as measured from the summit elevation) (figure 17).

Table 3. VT earthquakes from Cumbal during July-December 2012 tended to be low-magnitude events at shallow depths. This table compiles announcements from weekly activity reports; the date listed corresponds to the release date of the information. During the listed weeks, VT events were often clustered; SGC made special note of events that were clustered between La Plazuelas and Mundo Nuevo (“Cent.”) and events that were dispersed (“Disp.”). Depths were measured as km below the summit. Magnitudes were not available (“na”) during the week of 18 December. Courtesy of SGC.

Date Location Magnitude Depth
31 Jul 2012 SW less than 2.1 ≤ 10
06 Aug 2012 N, S, Disp. less than 1.3 ≤ 6
16 Oct 2012 ≤10 km N less than 1.3 ≤ 9
23 Oct 2012 ≤ 2 km SE less than 1 ≤ 3
30 Oct 2012 ≤ 4 km E less than 1.2 ≤ 4
06 Nov 2012 ≤ 5 km SE less than 0.2 ≤ 9
13 Nov 2012 ≤ 3 km E less than 0.6 ≤ 2
20 Nov 2012 ≤ 3 km E less than 1.9 ≤ 6
04 Dec 2012 ≤ 13 km Disp. less than 1.6 ≤ 12
11 Dec 2012 ≤ 5 km Disp. less than 0.6 ≤ 10
18 Dec 2012 ≤ 6 km Cent. -- less than 1
26 Dec 2012 Cent. less than 1.1 less than 2
26 Dec 2012 N less than 1.1 ≤ 9
see figure caption Figure 17. A total of 97 volcano-tectonic earthquakes were located during December 2012 within the region of Cumbal volcano. Five seismic stations (dark red squares) were online near the volcano: LIMC (Limones), MEVZ (La Mesa), NIEV (Nieve), VIEZ (Punta Vieja), and CUMZ (the RSNC Cumbal station). Earlier in the month, VTs were primarily dispersed in the region while later in the month, they were more clustered around the edifice and N (table 3). Courtesy of SGC.

In September, October, and November 2012, during field investigations at various locations around Cumbal’s flanks, SGC scientists also noted increased emissions from the summit fumaroles. In particular, white plumes were strong from El Verde and El Rastrojo fumaroles.

Geodetic monitoring during 2009-2010. Electronic tilt data available during 2009 showed oscillations within the expected range of the instruments. During 2010, while instrumentation was reduced and electronic problems persisted, tilt records continued to show minor variations. In July, a decreasing trend was observed from the tangential component of La Mesa tiltmeter (figure 18). Unfortunately, the instrument was offline from August through November. When monitoring resumed in December, no deformation trends were noted.

see figure caption Figure 18. The two components of the La Mesa electronic tiltmeter recorded stable conditions from Cumbal’s SW flank (in the Mundo Nuevo region) during 1 January-31 July 2010. The four plots, from top to bottom, contain radial tilt component (in µrad), tangential tilt component (in µrad), temperature (°C), and voltage (V) data. Note that minor variations in temperature and daily variations in the voltage correspond to the recharging cycle controlled by the solar panels and consequent voltage drain at night. The gray shaded section represents the reporting period when the data was published online. Courtesy of SGC.

Geodetic monitoring during 2011-2012. In their April 2011 Technical Bulletin, SGC highlighted the onset of a decreasing trend in La Mesa’s tangential data; the trend began on 30 April and continued to 30 June for a total decrease of ~25 µrad (figure 19); this trend ended in July. A period of increasing tilt began on 29 September and ended on 30 November 2011 (total increase was ~35 µrad). The signal from La Mesa station (effecting electronic tilt as well as seismic records) was intermittent in August. From December 2011 through December 2012, fluctuations persisted in the tilt data; however, stable conditions were characteristic of 2012 deformation.

see figure caption Figure 19. Tilt record of Cumbal during 2011 (tangential component on top plot, radial on bottom). In their Technical Bulletins, SGC highlighted several trends that became apparent in the tangential data from La Mesa station; a decreasing event began at the end of April reaching a total decrease of ~25 µrad by late June. The station detected an increase in tilt of equal magnitude in late September and ending by late November. Courtesy of SGC.

References. Gardner, C.A., and Guffanti, M.C., 2006, U.S. Geological Survey’s Alert Notification System for Volcanic Activity, U.S. Geological Survey, Fact Sheet 2006-3139, Version 1.0.

Lewiki, J.L., Fischer, T., and Williams, S.N., 2000, Chemical and isotopic compositions of fluids at Cumbal Volcano, Colombia: evidence for magmatic contribution, Bulletin of Volcanology, 62: 347-361.

Geologic Background. Many youthful lava flows extend from the glacier-capped Cumbal volcano, the southernmost historically active volcano of Colombia. The volcano is elongated in a NE-SW direction and is composed primarily of andesitic-dacitic lava flows. Two fumarolically active craters occupy the summit ridge: the main crater on the NE side and Mundo Nuevo crater on the SW. A young lava dome occupies the 250-m-wide summit crater, and eruptions from the upper E flank produced a 6-km-long lava field. The oldest crater lies NNE of the summit crater, suggesting SW-ward migration of activity. Explosive eruptions in 1877 and 1926 are the only known historical activity. Thermal springs are located on the SE flanks.

Information Contacts: Servicio Geológico Colombiano (SGC), Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Pasto, Pasto, Colombia (URL: http://www.SGC.gov.co/Pasto.aspx).

Izu-Tobu (Japan) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



34.9°N, 139.098°E; summit elev. 1406 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Quiet prevails despite the Tohoku megathrust of March 2011

Our previous report on Izu-Tobu (BGVN 23:04) summarized the elevated seismicity that began on 20 April 1998 in the eastern Izu Peninsula and started declining around 10 May. The activity included crustal deformation, indicating inflation likely linked to shallow magmatic activity. Izu-Tobu is located 100 km SW of Tokyo and just inland from the coast on the Izu peninsula.

Recent reports from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) noted the Tohoku megathrust of March 2011, centered 400 km to the NE of Izu-Tobu, and that Izu-Tobu lacked any signs of correlated behavior as a result of that M 9.0 earthquake event and the numerous aftershocks.

Izu-Tobu had been quiet since March 2011 until 17 July when seismicity increased and small earthquakes with epicenters around Ito city (8.5 km N) were detected. Earthquakes on 18 July were M 2.5 and M 2.8 (interim values). A maximum seismic intensity of 1 on the JMA scale was observed in Ito-city and Higashi-Izu town (15 km SSW). Seismicity declined to the usual background level the following day. Ground deformation was observed around seismically active areas.

Seismicity along an area from Arai (8 km N) through offshore Shiofuki-zaki (2 km E of Ito-city), increased during 18-23 August 2011, then declined after 24 August. No earthquakes were observed until 22 September when the number of earthquakes temporarily increased at a shallower area around Usami; this activity was interpreted as not being directly related to magma intrusion.

Prior to the 22 September 2011 seismic activity, the volumetric strainmeter at Higashi-Izu town (15 km SSW) showed continuous contraction; the tiltmeter at Ito-city showed an apparent change on 18 September. The trend slowed as seismicity decreased; no change was observed after 23 September. GPS measurements did not exhibit remarkable changes and low-frequency earthquakes and tremor were not observed. The Alert Level at Izu-Tobu remained at 1.

Geologic Background. The Izu-Tobu volcano group (Higashi-Izu volcano group) is scattered over a broad, plateau-like area of more than 400 km2 on the E side of the Izu Peninsula. Construction of several stratovolcanoes continued throughout much of the Pleistocene and overlapped with growth of smaller monogenetic volcanoes beginning about 300,000 years ago. About 70 subaerial monogenetic volcanoes formed during the last 140,000 years, and chemically similar submarine cones are located offshore. These volcanoes are located on a basement of late-Tertiary volcanic rocks and related sediments and on the flanks of three Quaternary stratovolcanoes: Amagi, Tenshi, and Usami. Some eruptive vents are controlled by fissure systems trending NW-SE or NE-SW. Thirteen eruptive episodes have been documented during the past 32,000 years. Kawagodaira maar produced pyroclastic flows during the largest Holocene eruption about 3000 years ago. The latest eruption occurred in 1989, when a small submarine crater was formed NE of Ito City.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Otemachi, 1-3-4, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/).

Kilauea (United States) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report


United States

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

2009 highlights: Waikupanaha ocean entry ceases, lava enters Halema`uma`u

This report discusses eruptive highlights at Kilauea during 2009, with occasional reference to earlier and later events. Within the E rift zone, Pu`u `O`o crater was relatively quiet during 2009, while lava flows escaping from the Thanksgiving Eve Breakout (TEB) tube system continued to feed emissions along the SE coast. Along the E portion of the TEB system, the Waikupanaha ocean entry remained active for up to 363 days during 2009 before ceasing altogether on 4 January 2010. Along the W branches and ocean entries of the TEB tube system, lava emissions halted in July 2009.

At Kilauea's summit, lava returned to the active vent within Halema`uma`u crater in January 2009, ending a pause in lava emissions there that began in December 2008. The active vent's shape was explored using Lidar, and in mid-2009 the lava lake's surface sat ~200 m below the floor of Halema`uma`u crater. The active vent underwent numerous cycles of lava rise, surface cooling, and collapse. Unless otherwise noted, all information in this report is from USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) reports.

Pu`u `O`o crater quiescence. During the first four months of 2009, heavy fuming at Pu`u `O`o prevented visual observation of areas within the crater. HVO reported gas-rushing noises, but nothing unusual in available views from Forward Looking Infrared Radiometer (FLIR) thermal imaging. FLIR instruments detect infrared radiation, and produce calibrated thermal videos and still images.

On 15 May, favorable wind directions provided clear views of the crater floor. Observers reported patches of less broken, ponded surfaces near locations previously observed as spattering vents, as well as a V-shaped trough that ran SW-NE traversing the length of the crater (figure 197). They also observed an incandescent, fuming vent emitting puffing sounds in the NE part of the crater (also heard during a later visit in June), and an unseen vent distinguished by sounds on the W end of the crater floor (figure 197). Until October, further observation was limited to FLIR imagery, showing a few small, hot vents on the crater floor.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 197. Map of Pu`u `O`o crater (dark gray) and vicinity showing active vents during 2009 (red dots) and the V-shaped trough (dashed line) that was observed on 15 May 2009. The webcam (POcam) location on the crater's rim is indicated by the yellow triangle. Other mapped units correspond to previous flow fields emplaced in 1983-1986 (light gray), 1992-2007 (tan and orange), and 2008 (pink, top right); during 1986-1992, lava flows were emplaced outside of the mapped area. A small lithic debris field observed on the NE rim on 2 December 2009 is also indicated. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

Crater glow at Pu`u `O`o was observed via webcam on most nights during the last three months of 2009. Ground observation on 2 December revealed a small (estimated3) surficial deposit of lithic lapilli and small blocks on the NE rim from a small explosion estimated to have occurred as early as 23 September (figure 197). The lithic debris was most likely sourced from one of the nearby vents on the NE crater wall.

During 2009 (and possibly since August 2007), a series of collapses removed a significant portion of the N crater rim. HVO reported that the series of collapses removed some of the highest points of the summit of the Pu`u `O`o rim, thus lowering the local elevation by a few meters.

Flow field and coastal plain breakouts and changes. Lava flows emplaced during 2009 covered an area of 6.5 km2, most of which covered previous lava flows; only 0.8 km2 of vegetated land (chiefly forested kipukas within the flow field) was overrun by lava (2009 flow field changes are shown in figure 198).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 198. Map of the changes to Pu`u `O`o's 21 July 2007 eruption flow field during 2009. The pre-existing (July 2007-2008) extent of the flow field is shown in pink, and the 2009 flow field additions are shown in red. Note that the portions of 2009 lava flows that overran the 2008 flow field extent are not represented, only changes to the extent of the July 2007-2008 flow field in 2009. The TEB tube system is shown in yellow with points where lava escaped to the surface, breakout points, indicated ('B/O points'). Ocean entries are indicated and labeled along the coast. Pool 1 (green) indicates the location of a lava lake roof collapse (discussed in text). Flow fields active during 1983-86 are shown in light gray, 1986-92 shown in light yellow, and 1992-2007 shown in orange. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

The TEB vent and rootless shields (a pile of lava flows built over a known lava tube rather than over a conduit feeding magma; explained in BGVN 27:03) showed little change in early 2009, with small (most <300 m long) breakout-fed lava flows occurring occasionally during February and March on the fault scarp and cliffs (pali) in the Royal Gardens subdivision (figure 198) and the upper flow field. In early March, a breakout-fed lava flow reached the ocean, establishing the Kupapa`u ocean entry, which was active for a few months (discussed below) and consisted of several points where lava entered the sea (entry points). The long-lived Waikupanaha ocean entry (active since 5 March 2008) frequently produced littoral explosions and underwent delta collapses.

Other short-lived ocean entries occurred during this time, stemming from coastal plain breakouts from the W branch of the TEB tube system. These breakouts often slowed or stopped in harmony with deflation-inflation (DI) events at the summit. DI events, measured by tiltmeters at Kilauea's summit, are thought to result from changes in magma supply to a storage reservoir less than 1 km deep and just E of Halema`uma`u crater. These fluctuations often propagate through the magmatic system, and are usually measured by another tiltmeter at Pu`u `O`o crater a few hours later. Typically occurring over weekly timescales during 2009 (up to a few days of deflation, followed by up to a few days of inflation; figure 199), DI events often correlate to pulses and/or pauses in lava emission at E rift zone vents.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 199. Radial deformation recorded by tiltmeters at Kilauea's summit (blue) and Pu`u `O`o crater (pink) during 2009. The sawtooth patterns delineate what have come to be called deflation-inflation (DI) events, which typically occurred over weekly timescales during 2009. The timing and behavior of DI events often coincided with vent collapses at Kilauea's summit and decreases or pauses in lava effusion along the E rift zone. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

On 8 March 2009, the pool 1 lava lake roof (labeled in figure 198, feeding a perched lava channel - a lava channel with walls built up from previous overflows - from the 21 July 2007 fissure eruption, BGVN 34:03) collapsed. Subsequent cooling and further collapses during 11-19 March caused the channel to seal. No further active lava was observed in pool 1.

By 29 April, surface lava flows leading to the Kupapa`u ocean entry were no longer visible. This observation was taken to indicate that a tube branch leading to the Kupapa`u entry had been established. Later, during May-June, the multiple entries at Kupapa`u coalesced into one entry point. This entry was weaker and less persistant than the Waikupanaha entry and never formed a significant delta. Lava flows at the Kupapa`u entry pulsated in a manner closely correlated to DI events, unlike flows at the Waikupanaha entry, and the Kupapa`u ocean entry ceased by 21 July.

The onset of a strong DI event correlated with a breakout on June 1 from the Waikupanaha branch of the TEB tube system. Although beginning slowly, it remained active through mid-August. As is common, the flows slowed during deflation stages of DI events, and advanced further during inflation stages.

The Waikupanaha entry underwent common delta collapses throughout the year. The vigor of lava effusion at the entry, however, made up for the area lost to collapses, and the size of the delta continued to increase. The only known pause in lava entering the sea at Waikupanaha during 2009 occurred during a DI event, when the entry stopped for two days during 28-29 September.

On 31 October, surface lava flows reached the ocean ~700 m W of Waikupanaha, and established the W Waikupanaha entry. The new entry point was fed by an inferred secondary lava tube crossing over the main Waikupanaha tube branch (see the dashed portion of the yellow line labeled 'E Tube Branch', figure 198). Following the termination of the W Waikupanaha entry on 17 December, HVO concluded that its feeder tube had eroded down into the main Waikupanaha tube, thus tapping off its supply. Breakouts and surface flows during the end of the year continued to be affected by DI events.

Second longest ocean entry ceases. A large and prolonged DI event at Kilauea's summit in December correlated with a brief pause in lava effusion at the E rift zone. As a result, by 4 January 2010, lava ceased entering the ocean at Waikupanaha after 22 months of near-continuous lava entry. This was the second longest ocean entry in the history of the eruption, being about half a month shorter than the 2005-2007 E Lae`apuki entry.

Lava lake returns to Kilauea's summit. A lull in activity at Halema`uma`u crater began in mid-December 2008; on 14 January 2009, rockfall sounds returned to the summit, attributed to rising lava digesting talus slopes along the steep walled vent. Four days later, gas-rushing sounds, increased temperature, and collapses of the vent rim (figure 200) occurred, dusting nearby areas with ash and further marking the summit's re-awakening.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 200. Time lapse photographs of a collapse of a portion of the Halema`uma`u vent rim, Kilauea, taken one minute apart (at 1528 and 1529) on 18 January 2009. The black line in the left frame indicates the area of collapse, which is absent in the right frame. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

Vent glow, temperature increases, gas-rushing noises, and production of vitric ash continued during early 2009, indicating fresh lava had ascended to a shallow level in the vent. These eruption related processes fluctuated in a manner that suggested that they were moderated by in-falling crater walls burying the vent bottom.

Onset of a DI event on 3 February correlated with the retreat of the lava within the vent, removing support for the rubble clogging the vent cavity and collapsing the rubble into the cavity. This disturbance was accompanied by an ash plume that was sustained for 8 minutes. FLIR images captured the following day disclosed a lava lake situated deep within the vent (the rubble clogging the vent cavity was gone). HVO noted upwelling on the lake's E side, draining and filling events (figure 201) and spattering from the lake. Similar fluctuations at Halema`uma`u occurred in concert with DI events through late April.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 201. Observational and geophysical data highlight filling (pink) and draining (gray) cycles at Kilauea's summit vent within Halema`uma`u crater. (a) Filling and draining cycles over 3 hours on 6 February 2009 were observed with FLIR, and compared with seismicity (Realtime Seismic Amplitude Measurement - RSAM - , top) and infrasound (sound at lower than audible frequencies, bottom). RSAM provides rapid analysis of ground-motion amplitudes across multiple stations; measurements are unitless and usually reported as 'RSAM units'. (b) Filling and draining cycles over ~1 hour on 7 February 2009 were observed via acoustic noises and compared with tilt (top), seismicity (middle, reported in instrument counts, here representing the seismometer response to the vertical component of ground motion velocity), and infrasound (bottom). Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

On 28-29 April 2009, a series of collapses at the vent within Halema`uma`u dislodged rubble and tephra covering the lava surface within the vent. As a result, for the next two months, particle emissions became > 50% juvenile (figure 202). Tephra emissions (juvenile, or glassy, and lithic components) have been measured nearly daily at Halema`uma`u since April 2008 by collecting passively emitted tephra (i.e. derived from non-explosive activity) in an array of buckets deployed around the vent. The resulting assessments led to the compilation of isomass maps and calculations of the total mass emitted (Swanson and others, 2009). By 6 May, bubbling and churning at the lava lake surface was visible with the naked eye.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 202. Calculated monthly ejected mass of tephra from Kilauea's summit during April 2008-January 2010. The histogram excludes any explosive eruptions during that period. Collected tephra were assigned to one of two components: juvenile (glass, shown in black) and lithic (lava, shown in gray). Note that more than half of the mass ejected during May-June 2009 was juvenile, following a series of collapses on 28-29 April. See text or Swanson and others (2009) for a description of the daily tephra emission measurement technique. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

A strong DI event in early June (reflected in the E rift zone by breakouts on the pali on 1 June, see above) marked the peak of lava activity within Halema`uma`u crater during 2009. The vent's lava lake showed strong upwelling in the NE, at times forming a dome-shaped fountain. The surface of the lava lake was circulating rapidly enough to prevent any significant crust from forming. The lava lake's circulation and activity slowed near the end of June and its surface appeared almost completely crusted over. A tripod mounted Lidar (T-Lidar) survey of the vent during 10-12 June indicated that the lava surface was ~207 m below the floor of Halema`uma`u crater (figure 203).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 203. 2-D projection of 3-D reconstruction of the Halema`uma`u crater vent as measured by a T-Lidar survey on 10-12 June 2009. The reconstruction (gray) is shown on a black background. The T-Lidar was shot from the Halema`uma`u crater rim, adjacent to the active vent. The plane projected here trends approximately NNE-SSW. The lava surface (indicated in purple at the bottom) was measured to be ~207 m below the floor of Halema`uma`u crater (indicated in green). Various other dimensions of the vent's geometry are shown. Image by Todd Ericksen, University of Hawaii-Manoa; courtesy of USGS-HVO.

On 30 June, a series of significant collapses of the vent wall again clogged the vent with rubble. For the following several days, lava appeared through the rubble and established a ponded surface. The lava retreated during a DI event on 4 July, and the vent became very quiet until mid-August. On the night of 9 August, the vent emitted a faint glow. Areas of degassing appeared within days, but the vent floor lacked visible molten material.

On 13 September, lava reappeared briefly, but a DI event a few days later coincided with another vent-wall collapse, again covering the lava surface. The vent floor collapsed further on 26 September, and two days later, lava had re-entered the vent and webcam videos confirmed the filling and draining behavior of the lava surface. This collapse coincided with a strong hybrid earthquake with large very-long-period waveforms. Hybrid earthquakes at Kilauea typically begin as high-frequency earthquakes (similar to local earthquakes or rockfalls), then transition to long- and sometimes very-long-period oscillations. During 2009, hybrid earthquakes (i.e. the 26 September event) and ongoing very-long-period tremor at Kilauea's summit suggested a source location beneath the summit, and within ~500 m above or below sea level.

The lava level within the vent fluctuated until the lava surface froze and sealed shut. It collapsed again on 18 November, revealing a fresh and mobile lava surface. Similar fluctuations and crusting of the lava surface continued through the end of 2009, when the lava level again dropped out of view deep below the Halema`uma`u crater floor.

2009 deformation trends. Satellite based radar interferometry determined that broad-scale deformation at Kilauea during 2009 was marked by subsidence of the summit and E rift zone (figure 204; see the report on Mauna Loa, BGVN 37:05, for an explanation of the technique). This pattern was interpreted as deflation of the magma system, with displacement of the S flank towards the sea. Deflation also occurred in the E rift zone, but ceased by September. 64 DI events were recorded during 2009, a record number of short-lived DI events since they have been monitored. The largest and longest DI events tended to coincide with decreases or pauses in lava effusion in the E rift zone, and vent collapses at the summit (discussed above, figure 199).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 204. Subsidence and deflation of Kilauea and the E rift zone during 2009, as seen in an ENVISAT interferrogram spanning 12 January 2009 to 3 February 2010. Approximately 8 cm of subsidence occurred at Kilauea's summit (Halema`uma`u crater, which is labeled), and ~6 cm of subsidence occurred in the E rift zone near Pu`u `O`o crater. Colored stripes indicate offsets as shown in the scale, top right (see Mauna Loa report in BGVN 37:05 for an explanation of the technique). The image was acquired with an incidence angle of 18° with the ground, looking W to E. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

Hexahydrite spherules discovered at Kilauea's summit.While collecting Pele's hair on 30 March, HVO scientists discovered and collected small (less than 3 mm diameter), extremely fragile, white spherules that were stuck into wads of Pele's hair (figure 205).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 205. Hexahydrite (MgSO4·6H2O) spherules discovered and collected from just S of Kilauea's summit vent in 2009. Photomicrographs (a, b) with scales show surface and textural details of the spherules. An in-situ photograph (c, key for scale) shows the spherules as they were found, within wads of Pele's hair. From Hon and Orr (2011).

X-ray diffraction revealed that the spherules were nearly pure magnesium-sulfate hexahydrite (MgSO4·6H2O). Hon and Orr (2011) proposed that the spherules form from the percolation of rainwater through vesicular vent rocks, enriching the water in soluble sulfates. Magnesium sulfate resists precipitation owing to its higher solubility, and most other hydrothermal minerals would precipitate from the enriched fluid sooner. Hon and Orr (2011) suggested that boiling of the residual magnesium sulfate enriched fluids formed a foam of magnesium sulfate-coated bubbles, which formed the spherules when the bubbles were subsequently entrained into the eruptive plume.

Petrologic trends, shallow magma mixing. Through long-term petrologic monitoring and analysis of Kilauea's summit and E rift zone lavas, HVO scientists noted that the weight percent MgO (an indicator of the temperature of tapped magmas) of E rift zone lavas indicated well-buffered, shallow magma conditions that were maintained by "near-continuous recharge and eruption." Similarly, textural and compositional evidence highlighted pre-eruptive magma mixing between a shallow, cooler, degassed component and a gaseous, hotter, recharge magma component. Combined, the two components are erupted as a hybrid lava at the E rift zone.

Interestingly, since 2001, increased magma supply (interpreted from cross-summit extension distance) has correlated with an increase in the shallower, degassed magma component in the E rift zone lavas (interpreted from MgO weight percent; figure 206). HVO reported that this inverse relationship (higher magma supply coincident with cooler erupted lavas) is explained by more efficient flushing of the shallow edifice during times of increased magma supply.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 206. MgO weight percent (green points and blue trend, left axis) plotted versus Kilauea's cross-summit extension distance (red, right axis) during 2000-2009 shows an inverse relationship between magma supply (i.e. variations in cross-summit extension) and the temperature of erupted lavas (i.e. variation in MgO weight percent). Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

Summit gas emissions exceed health standards. Based on Flyspec measurements, the total SO2 emissions from Kilauea in 2009 (~0.72 x 106 tons) were 35% less than in 2008 (the highest annual SO2 emissions since measurements began in 1979, correlating to the opening of a new vent in Halema`uma`u crater; BGVN 35:01). Of the total 2009 emissions, ~60% and ~40% were attributed to the E rift and the summit, respectively (figure 207). Although 2009 emissions were down from the previous year, a record number of Ambient Air Quality exceedences occurred at the summit during 2009 (figure 208).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 207. Daily average SO2 emissions from Kilauea's summit (green) and from the E rift (pink) during 1992-2009. The total daily average emissions are shown in blue. 2008 marked an increase in emissions from the summit (and the highest annual SO2 emissions since measurements began in 1979) correlating with the opening of a new vent in Halema`uma`u crater (BGVN 35:01). In 2009, although total emissions were down 35% from 2008, summit emissions remained elevated. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 208. Histograms show the number of days per year that the Ambient Air Quality standard was exeeded, as monitored at the HVO building (left) and at the Kilauea Visitor Center (right) since 2001. Since air quality monitoring began, the standard was exceeded most often in 2009. Courtesy of USGS-HVO.

Vog health concerns. A recent clinic study by Longo and others (2010) highlighted the health effects of increased volcanic air pollution (volcanic smog, or 'vog') exposure at Kilauea, and identified population subgroups who are more susceptible to the effects of vog. They found that periods of increased vog emission and exposure coincide with increases in medical visits for "cough, headache, acute pharyngitis, and acute airway problems." Among previously identified population subgroups with increased susceptibility to health problems from exposure to vog, Longo and others (2010) found a specific correlation with Pacific Islander children living in exposed rural communities. The native children showed higher rates of acute respiratory effects both in times of low- and high-vog emissions. Longo and others (2010) suggested that this unique population showed the highest vulnerability due to physiological and genetic contributions, as well as the built environment and a lack of prevention efforts for vog exposure.

References. Hon, K., and Orr, T., 2011, Hydrothermal hexahydrite spherules erupted during the 2008-2010 summit eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawai`i, Bulletin of Volcanology, 73(9), pgs. 1369-1375.

Longo, B.M., Yang, W., Green, J.B., Crosby, F.L., and Crosby, V.L., 2010, Acute health effects associated with exposure to volcanic air pollution (vog) from increased activity at Kilauea in 2008, Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part A, 73(20), pgs. 1370-1381.

Swanson, D., Wooten, K., and Orr, T.R., 2009, Mass flux of tephra sampled frequently during the ongoing Halema'uma'u eruption [abs.], Eos, Transactions, American Geophysical Union, v. 90, no. 52 (fall meeting supplement), abstract no. V52B-01.

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: Michael Poland, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), U.S. Geological Survey, PO Box 51, Hawai'i National Park, HI 96718, USA (URL: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/).

Kusatsu-Shiranesan (Japan) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



36.618°N, 138.528°E; summit elev. 2165 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Minor tremor and small earthquakes during 2011-2012

On 7 February 1996, hydrophone data and water level changes suggested that a small hydrothermal ejection may have occurred at Kusatsu-Shirane (also known as Kusatsu-Shiranesan) at Yugama crater's pond (BGVN 21:02). Several months later, on 8 July, numerous small earthquakes were detected by the Kusatsu-Shirane Volcano Observatory (BGVN 21:07). The volcano is about 150 km NW of Tokyo (figures 6 and 7; also refer to the sketch map in figure 1, SEAN 07:10). This report summarizes seismicity between May 2011 and February 2013 based on available reports from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 6. A sketch map showing the location of Kusatsu-Shirane (Kusatsu-Shiranesan) in Honsho, Japan. Courtesy of JMA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 7. An aerial photo of Kusatsu-Shirane, as viewed from the S. The photo, taken on 29 May 2008, shows the overlapping pyroclastic cones and two of the three crater lakes. Courtesy of Flickr user rangaku1976.

On 27 May 2011, tremor was detected at Kusatsu-Shirane; no further information was provided. During 5-7 June 2011, an elevated number of microearthquakes with low amplitude occurred around Yugama crater (the main crater). No volcanic tremor or significant deformation was detected during this time. Thereafter, activity gradually diminished to background levels.

Field surveys during 27-29 June and 12-13 July 2011 revealed that elevated thermal anomalies persisted inside Yugama crater's N flank, the N fumarole area, and the slope located N to NE of Mizunuma crater. Ground temperatures around fumaroles remained high.

On 18 July 2011, a short period of tremor (duration 2.5 min) was detected. No change in fumarole activity was observed.

On 10 August 2011, an aerial survey was conducted in cooperation with Gunma prefecture. The survey found that the distribution of thermal anomalies and fumaroles in Yugama crater and the N fumarole area had not changed.

During 16-18 August, an elevated number of microearthquakes with low amplitude occurred near and to the S of Yugama crater. Significant deformation was not detected. Seismicity remained at background levels during the other days in August. High temperatures persisted on the N flank inside the main crater.

A field survey on 8 March 2012 found that the high temperatures on the N slope of Mizugama crater and the N fumarole area were the same as those found during a previous survey conducted during 27-29 June 2011. Very weak steam plumes at the N fumarole area of Yugama were sometimes observed by a camera at Okuyamada, though bad weather and mechanical trouble prevented their observation for long periods. The ground temperature in the fumarole area NE of Yugama crater remained elevated since its rapid rise in May 2009, despite occasional fluctuations.

According to JMA, the occurrence of small amplitude volcanic earthquakes occasionally increased during March 2012. The hypocenters were located just beneath the S part of Yugama crater. No tremor or significant crustal change was noted in GPS data.

During 1-2 April 2012, seismicity increased slightly, then subsided. No tremor, change in fumarole activity, or crustal change was observed, and no further reports have been issued on activity at Kusatsu-Shirane as of February 2013.

Geologic Background. The Kusatsu-Shiranesan complex, located immediately north of Asama volcano, consists of a series of overlapping pyroclastic cones and three crater lakes. The andesitic-to-dacitic volcano was formed in three eruptive stages beginning in the early to mid-Pleistocene. The Pleistocene Oshi pyroclastic flow produced extensive welded tuffs and non-welded pumice that covers much of the E, S, and SW flanks. The latest eruptive stage began about 14,000 years ago. Historical eruptions have consisted of phreatic explosions from the acidic crater lakes or their margins. Fumaroles and hot springs that dot the flanks have strongly acidified many rivers draining from the volcano. The crater was the site of active sulfur mining for many years during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Information Contacts: Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), Otemachi, 1-3-4, Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 100-8122, Japan (URL: http://www.jma.go.jp/); rangaku1976, Flickr (URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rangaku1976/).

Sabancaya (Peru) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



15.787°S, 71.857°W; summit elev. 5960 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Increased seismic and fumarolic activity in late 2012 and early 2013

Sabancaya volcano, located 72 km NW of Arequipa city, is one of the most active volcanoes of the Central Andes (figure 10). Our last report of Sabancaya described ashfall during July 2003 (BGVN 29:01). This report describes an increase in anomalous seismic and fumarolic activity, beginning in late 2012 and continuing through the end of March 2013. The restlessness spurred increased monitoring of the volcano.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 10. A map illustrating hazards at the Ampato-Sabancaya volcanic complex (high danger, red; moderate danger, orange; and low danger, yellow). Types of volcanic hazards include pyroclastic flows (including debris flows), mudflows, lava flows, and avalanches. The overall thickness of ash deposits from eruptions during 1990-1998 is indicated by 1 and 0.1 cm isopachs. Major roads and highways are shown as thick, dark red lines; thin lighter red lines are elevation contours. The map shown is featured on a poster with more details. From Mariño and others (2013).

Between 1988 and 1997, activity at Sabancaya was intermittent and characterized by low to moderate Vulcanian eruptions (VEI 2) and mainly modest eruption columns (less than 5 km above the summit) with local ashfall (e.g., SEAN 13:06; BGVN 19:03). After this eruptive episode, between 1998 and 2012, minor and intermittent fumarolic emissions rose from the active crater. During the last months of 2012, a slight increase of fumarolic activity was observed during a field campaign by Peru's Instituto Geológico Minero y Metalúrgico (INGEMMET) volcanologists and their counterparts from the Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans (Clermont-Ferrand, France).

The Instituto Geofisico del Peru (IGP) reported that inhabitants from Sallalli hamlet, ~ 11 km S of Sabancaya, observed an increase in fumarolic emissions beginning 5 December 2012. Meteorological conditions prevented IGP scientists from visiting the area during the rainy season.

In mid-February 2013, local residents reported an increase in fumarolic activity, which was confirmed by INGEMMET scientists that visited the volcano on 15 and 22-23 February (figure 11). Scientists also reported a strong sulfur odor within an 8-km radius, and felt several strong earthquakes probably associated with the volcano's unrest.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 11. Photograph taken of a gas plume above the active vent of Sabancaya, as seen from the SE flank on 17 February 2013. Courtesy of Pablo Samaniego, IRD.

IGP reported that within a span of 95 minutes on 22 February 2013, three earthquakes, of M 4.6, 5.2, and 5.0 respectively, were registered at Sabancaya (figure 12). This activity prompted IGP to install a network of close proximity seismic stations. Earthquakes continued through the following day (23 February) and caused damage at Maca village, 20 km NE of the crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 12. The principal earthquakes (red dots) registered at Sabancaya on 22 February 2013. Of these, three earthquakes of M 4.6, 5.2, and 5.0 occurred within a span of 95 minutes. Courtesy of IGP.

During 22-23 February, a seismic station installed by INGEMMET registered more than 500 small volcano tectonic (VT) seismic events at Sabancaya. On 23 February IGP separately reported 560 events at the Cajamarcana seismic station (CAJ on figure 13b) on the SE flank. According to a Reuters article from 27 February, 80 homes were damaged by the seismicity during 22-23 February, leading to some evacuations. During that seismicity, a plume rose ~100 m above Sabancaya. After 24 February, VT, long period (LP), and hybrid seismicity continued (figure 13).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. (a) Plot of daily earthquakes at Sabancaya, showing the number of volcano tectonic, long period, and hybrid events that occurred during 24 February-27 March 2013. (b) The locations of earthquake epicenters on 27 March 2013 (red dots) and the seismic stations that were monitoring the volcano as of that date (yellow triangles). Courtesy of IGP.

Reference. Mariño J., Samaniego P., Rivera M., Bellot N., Manrique N., Macedo L., Delgado R., 2013, Mapa de peligros del Complejo Volcánico Ampato-Sabancaya, Esc. 1:50.000. Edit. INGEMMET-IRD.

Geologic Background. Sabancaya, located in the saddle NE of Ampato and SE of Hualca Hualca volcanoes, is the youngest of these volcanic centers and the only one to have erupted in historical time. The oldest of the three, Nevado Hualca Hualca, is of probable late-Pliocene to early Pleistocene age. The name Sabancaya (meaning "tongue of fire" in the Quechua language) first appeared in records in 1595 CE, suggesting activity prior to that date. Holocene activity has consisted of Plinian eruptions followed by emission of voluminous andesitic and dacitic lava flows, which form an extensive apron around the volcano on all sides but the south. Records of historical eruptions date back to 1750.

Information Contacts: Instituto Geológico Minero y Metalúrgico (INGEMMET), Av. Dolores (Urb. Las Begonias B-3), J.L. Bustamante y Rivero, Arequipa, Perú (URL: http://www.ingemmet.gob.pe); Pablo Samaniego Eguiguren, Laboratoire Magmas et Volcans, Université Blaise Pascal, Le Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), Casilla 18-1209, Calle Teruel 357 - Miraflores, Lima 18 - PERU (URL: https://lmv.univ-bpclermont.fr/en/); Reuters, report by Lima Newsroom; Orlando Macedo, PhD, Chief of Volcanology Research Department, Instituto Geofisico del Peru, (IGP), Arequipa Volcano Observatory, Urb. La Marina B-19, Cayma, Arequipa, Peru.

Saunders (United Kingdom) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report


United Kingdom

57.8°S, 26.483°W; summit elev. 843 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Eruption from ‘new’ vent

Matthew Patrick (USGS-HVO) notified Bulletin editors that in late 2012 images from thermal sensing satellites showed a 'new' active vent on Mount Michael on Saunders Island in the South Sandwich Islands (see location map, figure 1 in BGVN 28:02). This prompted scrutiny of the same vent in earlier images. Patrick noted that, although the vent was first identified in the 2012 images, it also appeared as activity in satellite images starting in 2006. The South Sandwich Islands are generally devoid of vegetation and habitants, and are largely ice-bound. Thus, satellite thermal alerts are strong evidence of volcanism.

Patrick shared with us the following information from a paper by Patrick and Smellie (2013) about the vent, labeled as Old Crater (SE and outside of main crater, see figure 2 in BGVN 28:02). ASTER [Advance Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer] imagery provided "new information on the small subordinate crater, marked as 'Old Crater' by Holdgate and Baker (1979), presumably because it was inactive at the time of their observations." An ASTER image on 28 October 2006 showed an apparent SWIR [short-wave infrared] anomaly at Old Crater. The crater itself appeared to be snow-free and was approximately 150 m in diameter. An ASTER image from 5 January 2008, showed a steam plume coming from this vent, which appeared to be about 190 m wide, as well as a TIR [thermal infrared] anomaly. A very high resolution image from November 2009 available on Google Earth showed a small steam plume emanating from the crater, which is about 190 m wide (figure 8). An ASTER image from 17 November 2010, showed apparently recent eruptive activity in Old Crater, evidenced by tephra fallout emanating from the crater and a small TIR anomaly (at the time there was also a TIR anomaly in the main crater). According to Patrick and Smellie, the plume, tephra fall, SWIR anomalies, and crater enlargement (from 150 to 190 m) indicated that this vent had reactivated by late 2006.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 8. Annotated Google Earth imagery of Michael volcano (Saunders Island) acquired on 19 November 2009. (a) Saunders Island is mostly glacier covered, and steam plumes rose from the summit area. The scale bar indicates a distance of ~2.4 km. (b) A close up of the summit area that clearly shows steam plumes emanating from both the summit crater as well as the snow-filled 'Old Crater' (as termed by Holdgate and Baker, 1979). The scale bar indicates a distance of ~0.5 km. Courtesy of Google Earth.

MODVOLC satellite thermal alerts measured from the volcano since our last Bulletin report (BGVN 33:04, activity through May 2008) and to 4 April 2013 are shown in Table 3. A solitary alert appeared 25 October 2008, followed by a four year period of apparent inactivity. Then, another solitary alert was measured in late June 2012, followed by alerts for two days in October 2012 and two days in November 2012. Patrick noted that occasional and sporadic alerts are very typical for Michael.

Table 3. Satellite thermal alerts measured by MODVOLC over Michael from 2008-February 2013. Pixel sizes generally range from 1-1.5 km2. Note that previous satellite thermal alerts for Michael were listed in BGVN 31:10 (October 2005-November 2006) and 33:04 (August 2000-May 2008). Courtesy of MODVOLC.

Date Time (UTC) Number of pixels Satellite
25 Oct 2008 0100 1 Terra
30 Jun 2012 0100 1 Terra
02 Oct 2012 0110 1 Terra
28 Oct 2012 0200 2 Aqua
28 Oct 2012 1125 2 Terra
14 Nov 2012 0055 3 Terra
22 Nov 2012 1120 2 Terra

References. Patrick, M.R., and Smellie, J.L., 2013, A spaceborne inventory of volcanic activity in Antarctica and southern oceans, 2000-2010, Antarctic Science, v. 25, no. 4, p. 475-500.

Holdgate, M.W., and Baker, P.E., 1979. The South Sandwich Islands: I. General description, British Antarctic Survey Scientific Reports, No. 91, pp. 1-76.

Geologic Background. Saunders Island is a volcanic structure consisting of a large central edifice intersected by two seamount chains, as shown by bathymetric mapping (Leat et al., 2013). The young constructional Mount Michael stratovolcano dominates the glacier-covered island, while two submarine plateaus, Harpers Bank and Saunders Bank, extend north. The symmetrical Michael has a 500-m-wide summit crater and a remnant of a somma rim to the SE. Tephra layers visible in ice cliffs surrounding the island are evidence of recent eruptions. Ash clouds were reported from the summit crater in 1819, and an effusive eruption was inferred to have occurred from a N-flank fissure around the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. A low ice-free lava platform, Blackstone Plain, is located on the north coast, surrounding a group of former sea stacks. A cluster of parasitic cones on the SE flank, the Ashen Hills, appear to have been modified since 1820 (LeMasurier and Thomson, 1990). Analysis of satellite imagery available since 1989 (Gray et al., 2019; MODVOLC) suggests frequent eruptive activity (when weatehr conditions allow), volcanic clouds, steam plumes, and thermal anomalies indicative of a persistent, or at least frequently active, lava lake in the summit crater. Due to this observational bias, there has been a presumption when defining eruptive periods that activity has been ongoing unless there is no evidence for at least 10 months.

Information Contacts: Matthew Patrick, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), U.S. Geological Survey, PO Box 51, Hawai'i National Park, HI 96718, USA (URL: https://volcanoes.usgs.gov/observatories/hvo/); MODVOLC, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) 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/).

Telica (Nicaragua) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report



12.606°N, 86.84°W; summit elev. 1036 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Degassing continues in 2012; increased micro-earthquake activity in March 2013

Degassing that followed the May 2011 explosive eruption of Telica (figure 29; see also BGVN 36:11) continued through 2012 and into 2013. The following information summarizes observations by the Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies (INETER) for 2012 and through March 2013.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 29. A location map of Telica, Nicaragua, in Central America. Telica (red triangle) is located ~105 km NW of the capitol, Managua. It last erupted in May 2011 (BGVN 36:11), but no major damage was reported. Gases emitted by Telica normally affect communities in the nearby provinces of Leon and Chinandega. Small black triangles in the figure depict other known Holocene volcanos in the region. Courtesy of USGS.

INETER issues a monthly bulletin, Boletín mensual Sismos y Volcanes de Nicaragua (Newsletter, Earthquakes and Volcanoes in Nicaragua), reporting on monitoring of Nicaraguan volcanoes including San Cristóbal, Telica, Cerro Negro, Momotombo, Masaya, and Concepcion (figure 30). In the Boletín, INETER presents monitoring data for Telica crater and adjacent fumarol temperatures, seismic activity, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) fluxes. In addition, visual observations are made during periodic field trips. Generally, the time difference between the arrival of P (primary) and S (secondary) waves from local earthquakes ranges from 0.5 to 2 sec, suggesting a source depth of 4 to 10 km.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 30. An oblique view of a schematic map of Nicaragua with high vertical exaggeration highlights the locations of Nicaraguan volcanoes. Courtesy of INETER.

As an example of normal ongoing activity at Telica, INETER reported that during 10-11 September 2012, 'jet' sounds were heard from the volcano, and two incandescent fumaroles were observed, along with gas-and-steam plumes rising 100-200 m above the crater. On 11 September two small explosions occurred in the crater. During 12-14 and 17 September gas plumes rose 30-150 m and incandescence from the crater was observed. Gas measurements on 14 and 17 September showed normal levels of SO2 flux.

2012 Sulfur dioxide flux. Average daily SO2 flux measurements made using the Mini-DOAS (differential optical absorption spectroscopy) mobile technique in 2012 were 303 metric tons per day in April, 627 metric tons per day in June, 377 metric tons per day in August, and 130 metric tons per day in October.

2012 Seismic Events. INETER has developed some novel ways for grouping seismic events at Telica. The types of seismic events monitored at Telica and activity during 2012 are shown in tables 5 and 6, respectively.

Table 5. Types of seismic activity monitored at Telica volcano, with characteristics as recorded and interpreted during 2012. Courtesy of Virginia Tenorio, INETER.

Activity type nomenclature (abbreviations) Frequency range/peak (Hz) Duration Possible explanation for 2012 events
Long period (LP) 1.0-4.5/4.0 20-40 sec Magma movement at depth 6-10 km
Tremor 5.0-7.0 short Degassing and magma movement
Volcano-tectonic (VT; VTA+VTB) 10.0-20.0+/12 1+ min Rupture of rock at depth 6-10 km
Double earthquake (S.DO) 4.0-7.0/4.0 and 7.0 40-60 sec Fracture of brittle soil followed by magma displacement
Gas explosion (E.G) 4.0-10.0 Hz 1-2 min Release of gas in volcano duct
Swarms of seismic events (trenes de sismos) (TS) 5.0-7.0 Hz 1-3 min Breaking rocks combined with LP-type events (average of 10 events per swarm)
Degasification signal (S.D) 5.0-10.0 1 min --

Table 6. Total volcano-seismic events and numbers of various types of events (see table 5 for descriptions) that were reported at Telica during 2012; percentages indicate the contribution of each type of event to the total recorded number of events during that month. Courtesy of INETER.

Activity type 18-31 March April May June July
Total events 1,986 3,222 3,544 5,754 4,112
LP 535 (27%) 953 (30%) 1,077 (30%) 827 (14%) 332 (8%)
S.DO 658 (33%) 638 (20%) 635 (18%) -- --
Tremor 0 (0%) 72 (2%) 78 (2%) 0 (0%) 125 (3%)
E.G 625 (32%) 609 (19%) 686 (19%) -- --
VT (VTA + VTB) 168 (8%) 299 (9%) 315 (9%) 2,418 (42%) 997 (24%)
S.D -- 651 (20%) 753 (21%) -- --
TS -- -- -- 2,519 (44%) 2,658 (65%)

2012 Temperature measurements. Figure 31 shows INETER staff members measuring crater and fumarole vent temperatures at Telica; temperatures are measured approximately once per month (figure 32). Temperatures measured during 2012 at the 4 fumaroles (figure 33), vents located E and outside of Telica crater, ranged between 52° and 79°C.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. INETER staff measuring temparatures at the Telica crater using a thermal imaging camera (left) and one of the fumarole vents using an IR thermometer (right). Courtesy of INETER.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 32. (a) Maximum monthly temperatures for Telica crater during January 2011-February 2012, and (b) average monthly temperatures during 2012. Courtesy of INETER.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 33. A W looking Google Earth view of Telica showing the approximate location of the fumarole vents E of Telica crater (lower arrow) and the location of temperature measurements in the crater (upper arrow). Courtesy of INETER.

2013 activity. The Costa Rica News reported on 24 March 2013 that Virginia Tenorio of INETER announced that Telica was experiencing increased micro-earthquakes. According to the INETER report, dozens of micro-earthquakes had occurred per day since 17 March. The increase continued to at least 24 March; 20 earthquakes occurred on 22 March, but only one reached as high as M 2.1. Tenorio was reported to state that, although earthquakes were located within the volcano's structure, an imminent eruption was not indicated. She further stated that while some changes may occur in the magmatic system and in the expulsion of gases, conditions were stable. Local observers reported elevated vapor and gas emissions associated with the spike in seismicity and incandescence in a fissure at the bottom of the active crater. Since 21 March 2013, the member institutions of the National System for Prevention, Mitigation and Attention to Disasters (SINAPRED), have been ordered to monitor Telica's activity and keep it under close observation.

Geologic Background. Telica, one of Nicaragua's most active volcanoes, has erupted frequently since the beginning of the Spanish era. This volcano group consists of several interlocking cones and vents with a general NW alignment. Sixteenth-century eruptions were reported at symmetrical Santa Clara volcano at the SW end of the group. However, its eroded and breached crater has been covered by forests throughout historical time, and these eruptions may have originated from Telica, whose upper slopes in contrast are unvegetated. The steep-sided cone of Telica is truncated by a 700-m-wide double crater; the southern crater, the source of recent eruptions, is 120 m deep. El Liston, immediately E, has several nested craters. The fumaroles and boiling mudpots of Hervideros de San Jacinto, SE of Telica, form a prominent geothermal area frequented by tourists, and geothermal exploration has occurred nearby.

Information Contacts: Virginia Tenorio, Instituto Nicaragüense de Estudios Territoriales (INETER), Apartado Postal 2110, Managua, Nicaragua (URL: http://www.ineter.gob.ni); Costa Rica News, San Jose, Costa Rica (URL: http://thecostaricanews.com); Sistema Nacional para la Prevención, Mitigación y Atención de Desastres (SINAPRED), Managua, Nicaragua (URL: http://www.sinapred.gob.ni/); MODVOLC, Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) 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/).

Turrialba (Costa Rica) — February 2013 Citation iconCite this Report


Costa Rica

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Decreased seismicity and emissions in 2012

As noted by our previous report (BGVN 37:06), on 12 January 2012 Turrialba emitted ash for a few hours due to the opening of a vent, named 2012 Vent, on the SW inside slope of Central Crater. Since then, 2012 Vent has been an active contributor to the regular plume generation at the volcano. Our previous report noted activity through May 2012. This report primarily highlights activity through December 2012, based on online documents from the Observatorio Vulcanologico Sismologica de Costa Rica-Universidad Nacional (OVSICORI-UNA) showing a diminution in activity during 2012 compared to 2010 and 2011.

Seismicity. According to OVSICORI-UNA, the seismic activity at Turrialba in 2012 was characterized primarily by shallow and volcano-tectonic events concentrated in the upper part of the edifice, and minor seismicity in nearby faults. In general, seismicity was lower in 2012 than in 2011, and notably lower than that in 2010. Seismic activity climbed slightly during September-October 2012 (from about 20/day, peaking at 150/day on 13 October, and then declining back to normal values after 1 November; figure 30). OVSICORI-UNA noted that seismic activity in 2012 was caused by water and heat interactions causing gas pressure.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 30. The number of seismic events registered per day at Turrialba during 2012. Courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA.

Deformation. OVSICORI-UNA reported that during 2012 the distances between the Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) station "Pilar" and several nearby reflectors contracted from 2 to 7 cm/year, with the highest value at the N reflector and lowest at the ENE and NE reflectors (see figure 31 for EDM station locations).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 31. The location of geodetic monitoring stations at Turriabla during 2012. Red circles are reflectors of the EDM network, and measurements were made from the Pilar station (red square). Blue circles are permanent GPS stations (CAPI and GIBE). Courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA.

Emissions. According to OVSICORI-UNA, the opening of the 2012 vent was not associated with new magmatic activity. Vent temperatures measured with a thermocouple were similar during 2010-2012, suggesting to OVSICORI-UNA a sustained and common magmatic source. Measured vent temperatures also correlated with CO2 and H2S gas emissions (figure 32).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 32. (Background image) Thermal image of Turrialba's W wall in Cráter Central (Central Crater) on 27 October 2012. Two vents are indicated, Boca 2012 (2012 Vent) and Cráter Oeste (West Crater). (Plots) For the measurement locations indicated by arrows, plots compare CO2 flux measurements (black) to both H2S flux measurements (blue) and thermal measurements acquired at 10-cm depth (red). Courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA; thermal photo taken by G. Avard.

OVSICORI-UNA noted that gas emissions during 2012 had decreased considerably compared to those during 2010 and 2011. OVSICORI-UNA suggested that this decrease might be due to various factors, including a decline in rainfall that resulted in less water vapor, the primary component of the emissions. In a report discussing activity during January-February 2013, OVSICORI-UNA noted that the emissions from 2012 Vent had decreased, even though nighttime incandescence could be observed. Emissions drifted primarily NW during 2012.

Figures 33 and 34 summarize SO2 measurements from both miniature Differential Optical Absorption Spectrometer (mini-DOAS, fluxes) and OMI satellite data (masses). SO2 fluxes were lower than those in 2010-2011 when fluxes often reached above 1,000 tons/day (and in one case, nearly 4,000 tons/day; figure 34).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 33. (Left) Daily SO2 flux (metric tons/day) at Turrialba measured by a mini-DOAS station at La Central school, ~2.2 km SW of West Crater, between 1 May 2012 and 1 January 2013. (Right) SO2 mass (uncorrected for any noise) emitted by Turrialba as recorded by NASA's Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) aboard the AURA satellite during 2012. The SO2 mass corresponds to the total mass detected by the OMI sensor in the Central America area at 1800-1900 UTC. According to OVSICORI, both mini-DOAS and OMI measurements were consistent and of the same magnitude. The red-shaded area in the satellite data represents the time period corresponding to that of the mini DOAS data. Courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA and NASA-OMI.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 34. SO2 mass emitted by Turrialba as recorded by NASA's OMI instrument aboard the AURA satellite between 1 October 2008 and 6 November 2012. These represent masses in the atmospheric column that are thought to have roughly 1 day residence times. Courtesy of NASA-OMI.

As in previous years, rain and fog absorbed volcanic gases in 2011 and 2012, producing acid rain with consequent damage and destruction to vegetation, especially in downwind areas in the sector sweeping clockwise from SW to N from the vents (figure 35).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 35. Annotated photo of Turrialba taken on 26 August 2012. The vegetation on the top and on the flanks of the edifice (zone 1) showed severe effects such as necrosis. The pasture vegetation (zone 2), used for milk production, turned yellowish (chlorosis). Interestingly, part of the native vegetation such as the tall trees (Quercus species) showed a stronger resistance to environmental acidification. Courtesy of OVSICORI-UNA; photo taken by G. Avard.

OVSICORI-UNA observed that hydrothermal activity modified the mineralogy and decreased the cohesion of the rocks in contact with the fluids, which alter and reduce the stability of the slopes of the volcanic edifice, triggering gravitational collapses, rockfalls, and strong erosion during the main rain events. These phenomena were especially observed after storms on 15 August and in November 2012, when coarse and fine material was transported from the walls to the bottom of Central Crater, deepening the W and NW gullies.

In an M.S. thesis, Rivera (2011) compared SO2 concentrations in Turriabla's volcanic plume using a ground-based mini-DOAS and three new data analysis techniques using NASA's OMI instrument. The three new techniques were the MODIS smoke estimation, OMI SO2 lifetime, and OMI SO2 transect techniques. All four techniques involve UV sensor analysis. She found that the OMI SO2 lifetime technique provided qualitative agreement between the ground-based and satellite-based data, while the OMI transect technique provided occasional quantitative agreements with the mini-DOAS measurements. The MODIS smoke estimation technique was inaccurate in estimating SO2 emission rates.

Reference. Rivera, A.M., 2011, Comparisons between OMI SO2 data and ground-based SO2 measurements at Turrialba volcano, M.S. Thesis, Michigan Technological University.

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/).

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


False Report of New Volcano




La Lorenza Mud Volcano

Pacific Ocean (Chilean Islands)

False Report of Submarine Volcanism

West Indies

Mid-Cayman Spreading Center

Atlantic Ocean (northern)

Northern Reykjanes Ridge


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


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


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


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



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



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/).