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Report on Merapi (Indonesia) — March 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 3 (March 1994)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Merapi (Indonesia) Hazard status up: sharp increases in pyroclastic flows, glowing rock falls, and tilt

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Merapi (Indonesia) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199403-263250



7.54°S, 110.446°E; summit elev. 2910 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The number of pyroclastic flows, glowing rock falls, and tilt increased sharply in the past several months (table 7). Both pyroclastic flows and rockfalls with substantial incandescent components traveled as far as 1.8 km (more typically, 0.5-1.0 km) down the SW slopes. In March, the number of these falls increased 1,550-fold over the background value at an undisclosed time (table 7).

Table 7. Merapi activity during 1 November 1993-23 March 1994. Pyroclastic flows have a background level ("bkgd.") of ~60-120 flows/month. In 1994 they ranged from 5-47x the background level. The background level for rockfalls was undisclosed. The RSAM curve refers to a measure of seismic power output.

Date Pyroclastic Flows Rockfalls SO2 flux variation SO2 flux average RSAM background RSAM maximum
Nov 1993 bkgd. 297x 31-188 91 ~13 ~13
Dec 1993 bkgd. 409x 41-108 66 ~14 ~22 (1)
Jan 1994 5x 599x 37-151 81 ~16 ~18
Feb 1994 9x 827x 64-162 73 ~17 ~18
1-23 Mar 1994 47x 1550x 65-197 123 ~16 greater than 24 (2)

Tiltmeters were installed in November 1992 on the crater rim near the contact with the 1992 dome. Beginning in July 1993 they showed a consistent outward rotation of ~5 µrad/day, achieving a change of 1,200 µrad overall through the end of March 1994. A measure of seismic power output (RSAM) also showed cumulative increases during November 1993-Mar 1994, indicating heightened seismic activity (table 7). During this interval the SO2 flux data were less compelling, but also showed both overall and generally progressive increases in the smallest values measured for any one interval (table 7).

Based on these monitoring data VSI proposed a shift in the hazard status, from "Normal Activity" to "First Alert Level."

Geological Summary. Merapi, one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, lies in one of the world's most densely populated areas and dominates the landscape immediately north of the major city of Yogyakarta. It is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending NNW to Ungaran volcano. Growth of Old Merapi during the Pleistocene ended with major edifice collapse perhaps about 2,000 years ago, leaving a large arcuate scarp cutting the eroded older Batulawang volcano. Subsequent growth of the steep-sided Young Merapi edifice, its upper part unvegetated due to frequent activity, began SW of the earlier collapse scarp. Pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the steep-sided active summit lava dome have devastated cultivated lands on the western-to-southern flanks and caused many fatalities.

Information Contacts: W. Tjetjep and R. Sukhyar, VSI; S. Bronto, MVO; UPI.