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Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea) — May 1992


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 5 (May 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Manam (Papua New Guinea) Strong explosions from summit craters; lava flows; avalanches

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199205-251020


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"The eruption continued strongly in May with new paroxysmal phases of activity at Southern Crater on 10, 14, 16, 23, and 31 May. Main Crater was active 2-7 May, 14-16 May, and 26 May through the end of the month. New lava flows were emitted into the NE valley during these periods. Unlike former episodes of strong eruptive activity (i.e. 1974, 1984), the current episode involves both summit craters, in an intermittent pattern. Following a period of strong, lava-producing activity from Main Crater in April, Southern Crater was reactivated on 2 May. This crater had been blocked by sluggish lava and/or rubble from its last paroxysmal phase (11 April), and was re-opened after several loud explosions and ejection of dark, ash-laden columns with incandescent blocks up to 980 m high. On 3 May, and for a few days after, activity at Southern Crater consisted of intermittent explosions producing debris avalanches that were channelled into the upper SW valley. Main Crater became the center of activity again on 4 May. At approximately 1100, it started to produce a strong, sustained ash column that rose 1,000-3,000 m above the summit, deep roaring sounds, and an increase in the level of seismicity. At night, a bright glow and incandescent projections (to 125 m) were visible from Tabele Observatory . . . , but an aerial inspection on 5 May revealed that a new lava flow was being emitted from a fissure on the flank of the dark scoria cone now occupying Main Crater, at ~1,600 m elev. The lava flow overrode earlier flows emitted in April down to ~500 m elev, then followed a stream channel on the S side of the valley. Summit activity waned on 6 May and the flow stopped on 7 May, at ~60 m elevation, after advancing 4.5 km.

"On the following day (8 May), the level of activity increased in Southern Crater with Strombolian projections up to 300 m above the crater rim. At 1415 on 9 May, a second vent became active. Both vents then displayed sub-continuous Strombolian projections up to 100 m (N vent) and 500 m (Iabu vent), while the level of seismicity, which consisted of a succession of low-frequency events and microtremor, increased. This activity culminated in a paroxysmal phase on the night of 9-10 May. At 0040, a deep roaring sound was heard. This became louder and was followed by the outrush of incandescent lava fragments up to 1,000 m above the crater. During the following hours, the high output rate of lava spatter was maintained, accompanied by very loud explosion sounds that shook walls and windows at the Observatory . . . . Concurrently, lightning-and-thunder effects were occurring in the 3,000-m-high vapor-and-tephra cloud generated by the eruption and by the pyroclastic avalanches into both the SE and SW valleys. A lava flow poured out of Iabu vent, tumbled into the SW valley, and progressed down to 600 m elev during the following day.

"Seismicity and eruptive activity were low for the three following days but another paroxysmal phase of activity occurred in the early morning of 14 May. From 0200, weak roaring and explosion sounds were heard and Strombolian projections (50-125 m above the crater rim) resumed from the N vent of Southern Crater, while seismicity steadily built. Between 0430 and 0700, continuous incandescent projections were reaching heights of 500 m (Iabu vent) to 1,100 m (N vent), with spatter falling back as far as the foot of the terminal cone. A lava flow from Iabu vent tumbled into the SW valley. Even after the Strombolian activity stopped at the summit, the lava flow continued throughout the day and the following night, progressing down the valley to 200 m elev, a total length of 3.8 km. After 0700 on 14 May, emissions from Southern Crater had changed to produce a silent ash column that died out at about 0900. In the afternoon, explosions related to deep Strombolian activity in Main Crater were observed at ~10/minute, and at night the incandescent projections were seen rising to 400 m above the crater rim. By the morning of 15 May, Main Crater was emitting a silent, thick, billowy column of grey ash that lasted until 16 May. In the afternoon of 16 May, Southern Crater entered yet another paroxysmal phase, similar to the one on 14 May. This time only Iabu vent was active, displaying a glowing ribbon of new lava flowing into the SW valley, to an estimated 400 m elev. Strombolian activity died out around 2030 on 16 May, as did the lava flow the next afternoon.

"After a few uneventful days with only white and blue vapours released from multiple cracks around the craters, the eruption resumed from Southern Crater on 20 May. This time a new vent on the W side of the crater was active. Until 23 May, it produced weak, intermittent, ash-laden explosions, with nighttime incandescent projections up to 180-250 m above the crater. The seismicity built up from 0300 on 23 May. By 1130, after a marked increase in activity over 30 minutes, Southern Crater entered yet another phase of intense Strombolian eruption that lasted until 1430. This was followed by discontinuous Strombolian eruptions until late afternoon. A new lava flow from Iabu vent progressed into the SW valley to an estimated 600 m elevation. There was weak fluctuating activity in Southern Crater for another week, during which Main Crater was reactivated, producing weak to strong Strombolian eruptions with variable amounts of ash. Another paroxysmal phase of activity occurred at Southern Crater on 31 May, between 1330 and 1700. It produced a thick, dark-grey cloud and was accompanied by continuous roaring sounds and another lava flow into the SW valley.

"Water-tube tilt measurements at Tabele Observatory first showed a 2 µrad radial deflation, then a steady recovery throughout the month. Other dry tilt and levelling lines around the island were checked repeatedly but showed no significant change.

"The intermittent, recurring activity in the two craters has the effect of markedly modifying their configuration between each aerial reconnaissance. Following the ash eruption in mid-May, the scoria and spatter cone that initially occupied Main Crater was changed into a somma-type feature, with a 50-m-wide vertical crater in the center. Likewise, repeated emissions of lava flows into the SW and NE valleys are significantly modifying their topography; the volumes of erupted material are being calculated. Each eruptive phase also produced a few mm to cm of ash and lapilli falls onto coastal areas on the NW and SE sides of the island. These deposits are not yet significant enough to dangerously affect villages and subsistence gardens."

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

Information Contacts: P. de Saint-Ours and C. McKee, RVO.