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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — October 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 10 (October 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Inflation of central caldera area; small seismic swarms

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199310-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Activity in October confirmed the trend noted since April of a higher rate of inflation in the central part of the caldera and release of stress in the form of earthquake swarms in the caldera seismic zone.

"Seismicity was at its usual background level of 2-10 small events/day at the beginning of the month. Starting in mid-October, there was a steady build-up in seismicity. A small swarm of earthquakes occurred on the 28th (~40 events), and then two larger swarms on the 31st, only 3 hours apart. The last swarm contained ~600 events, including six of estimated magnitude 3-3.5, and was felt locally with intensity (MM) III-IV. This swarm, and one on 20 May this year, are the most significant events since the seismo-deformational crisis of 1983-85. Sixty-four earthquakes were located, from a total of 1,320 events recorded this month (compared to 464 in September and 781 in August). Most of them originated in the NW (Vulcan-Beehives) part of the caldera seismic zone.

"Levelling measurements have been showing a slightly accelerated rate of uplift in the central part of the caldera since early April (~12 mm/month). The swarm of 31 October resulted in uplift of ~30 mm at the benchmarks most central to the caldera (at the S end of Matupit Island). Tilt stations around Greet Harbour, near the NE quadrant of the caldera seismic zone, registered a change of 10-20 µrads. Those on the Vulcan side (W), nearer to the area of the latest seismicity, showed no significant change."

Geological Summary. The low-lying Rabaul caldera on the tip of the Gazelle Peninsula at the NE end of New Britain forms a broad sheltered harbor utilized by what was the island's largest city prior to a major eruption in 1994. The outer flanks of the 688-m-high asymmetrical pyroclastic shield volcano are formed by thick pyroclastic-flow deposits. The 8 x 14 km caldera is widely breached on the east, where its floor is flooded by Blanche Bay and was formed about 1400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7100 years ago is now considered to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the northern and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and western caldera walls. Several of these, including Vulcan cone, which was formed during a large eruption in 1878, have produced major explosive activity during historical time. A powerful explosive eruption in 1994 occurred simultaneously from Vulcan and Tavurvur volcanoes and forced the temporary abandonment of Rabaul city.

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