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Report on Unzendake (Japan) — February 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 2 (February 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Unzendake (Japan) Dome complex continues to grow; large pyroclastic flow

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Unzendake (Japan) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199302-282100



32.761°N, 130.299°E; summit elev. 1483 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Dome 10 . . . grew at a faster rate (1-2 x 105 m3/day) than the dome complex grew during November-January. This rate, nearly equal to the magma supply rate, is less than half of the maximum value recorded at Unzen of ~ 5 x 105 m3/day. The dome is significantly less silicic, 63.5 wt.% SiO2, than the earlier domes, which had 65 wt.% SiO2. It eventually covered the gas-emitting sites and most of the remaining surfaces of domes 1 and 3 in the topographically lower area to the N. Because dome 10 grew on the nearly flat surface of the older domes (figure 49), collapses seldom occurred, and the observed frequency of pyroclastic flows and the monthly total of seismically recorded pyroclastic flows remained low (figure 50). Relatively large collapses, though still less than 5 x 105 m3 in volume, started just after the dome began overflowing the top. During February, pyroclastic flows traveled ~ 2 km to the E, NE, and SE.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 49. NE-looking view of the lava dome complex at Unzen based on theodolite measurements October 1992-March 1993. Courtesy of Setsuya Nakada.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 50. Daily count of earthquakes (top) and pyroclastic flows (bottom) at Unzen, 1 January 1991 to 8 March 1993. The 10 longer arrows at the top mark the onset of each of the domes; the short arrow indicates a phreatic eruption. Courtesy of JMA.

A pyroclastic flow at 1642 on 9 March descended between two wings of dome 4 (figure 48). Part of the flow traveled 3.5 km E into the Mizunashi Valley. The other part traveled NE through the Oshiga Valley with an overflow out of the valley to the N. The remainder moved to the SE, eventually rejoining the Mizunashi Valley flow. It was the longest flow since 20 December and the first flow to pass through the Oshiga Valley since 15 September 1991, that flow being the largest of the current eruption. The seismic duration of the 9 March flow, 190 seconds, was the longest since 15 January. The flow remained in the evacuated area and caused no damage although a section of highway, 6 km E of the volcano, was temporarily closed. The ash cloud from the flow rose 1.5 km above the summit, the highest since April 1992. Ash fell heavily on the E foot of the volcano in Shimbara and Fukae. Kumamoto, 40 km E, received a small ashfall. Additional pyroclastic flows occurred 12 March.

The steam plume, occasionally mixed with ash, continued to rise a few hundred meters above the dome complex. The height has gradually declined since the summer of 1991 (figure 51). Mid-February work by the Tokyo Institute of Technology indicated that the SO2 flux from the dome complex remained at the low level measured at the end of 1992 (during endogenous growth) and the temperature of gases in the crater was as high as 800°C.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 51. Monthly mean height of the continuous steam plume from Jigokuato crater, Unzen, January 1991 to February 1993. The arrow indicates the onset of dome growth. Courtesy of JMA.

The number of small earthquakes beneath the dome complex declined rapidly in early February and has remained low (figure 50). The monthly total of recorded earthquakes dropped from more than 3,000 to 542. Seismicity around the volcano remained low.

Geological Summary. The massive Unzendake volcanic complex comprises much of the Shimabara Peninsula east of the city of Nagasaki. An E-W graben, 30-40 km long, extends across the peninsula. Three large stratovolcanoes with complex structures, Kinugasa on the north, Fugen-dake at the east-center, and Kusenbu on the south, form topographic highs on the broad peninsula. Fugendake and Mayuyama volcanoes in the east-central portion of the andesitic-to-dacitic volcanic complex have been active during the Holocene. The Mayuyama lava dome complex, located along the eastern coast west of Shimabara City, formed about 4000 years ago and was the source of a devastating 1792 CE debris avalanche and tsunami. Historical eruptive activity has been restricted to the summit and flanks of Fugendake. The latest activity during 1990-95 formed a lava dome at the summit, accompanied by pyroclastic flows that caused fatalities and damaged populated areas near Shimabara City.

Information Contacts: JMA; S. Nakada, Kyushu Univ.