Logo link to homepage

Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea) — October 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 10 (October 1994)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Manam (Papua New Guinea) Intermittent activity followed by a mid-October eruption with lava flow

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Manam (Papua New Guinea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199410-251020


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Following intermittent periods of minor eruptive activity during the previous months, activity at S Crater was low during the first week of September. Weak white-pale grey emissions returned, accompanied by occasional roaring sounds and low-level seismicity (~1,000 small long-period events/day, with a scaled amplitude of 7-10 mm). Periods of stronger activity occurred on 8-11, 14-20, 22, and 29 September.

"Starting at 1845 on 8 September, a loud explosion accompanied a period of incandescent projections to 150 m above the crater, followed by the sounds of blocks tumbling into the radial valleys. For the next three days, grey ash-laden clouds were intermittently ejected above the crater, with weak glow and incandescent projections at night. The eruptive sequence ended with one hour of loud explosions and incandescent projections to 500 m above the crater on the 11th. This was accompanied by a marked rise in seismic amplitude (up to 16 mm), but little change in the event rate (950-1,300/day).

"From 14-20 September, S Crater emitted ash-laden vapour up to 600 m above the crater, and there was light ashfall on the NW flank and on coastal villages. It was accompanied by weak-loud roaring sounds and a moderate level of seismicity (~850-1,200 events/day, with amplitudes of 12-14 mm). When this active phase ended on the 20th, the amplitude of the background seismicity rose markedly to ~15 mm. With the outbreak of the next eruptive phase, the amplitude decreased but the daily event count rose to ~1,500.

"Very thin white and blue vapour is all that was emitted by S Crater on 21 September, but from then onwards, large dark ash clouds were rising at 10-20-minute intervals, to 800-1,000 m above the crater. No sound or night glow was visible for the first few days. On the 26th, the ash column reached 2,000 m above the crater and weak incandescent projections were seen throughout the night, reaching ~200 m above the crater at intervals of 1-2 hours. This level of activity, with a background seismicity of 1,400 events/day of moderate amplitude (11-13 mm), lasted until the 28th. The dark emissions became continuous on the 29th but then died out progressively.

"South Crater was mildly active in early October. Weak to moderate emissions of white and grey vapour were released at intervals of 10-20 minutes, resulting in light ashfall downwind. A weak glow and incandescent projections were visible on the nights of 2-3 and 7 October. Throughout this time the seismicity was at a moderately low eruptive level of 1,300-1,500 events/day of 10-14 mm maximum amplitude. The water-tube tiltmeter at Tabele Observatory showed no trend.

"Starting on 14 October, seismicity increased to 15 mm maximum amplitude and Strombolian explosions occurred at intervals of 2-15 minutes, with roaring and explosion sounds. On the 16th, seismicity rose to 1,640 events of 16 mm maximum amplitude, accompanying Strombolian projections 125-320 m above the crater. Through the 17th, the moderately strong and loud Strombolian activity became sub-continuous. Ballistic blocks cascaded down the headwall of SW Valley and into the upper SE Valley. After 1500, a forceful column of ash was rising 6-10 km above the vent. At nightfall, continuous incandescent projections reached 1,100-2,000 m above the crater. The strength of the eruption seemed to increase after midnight until daybreak, with explosions rattling the walls of the . . . observatory. Seismicity peaked-up simultaneously with innumerable events of relative maximum amplitude of 130 mm. A lava flow poured out at a very high rate through a breach on the E side of S Crater and followed the N wall of the SE valley.

"Activity declined during the 18th. The ash column was still rising 4-6 km, with moderately strong roaring sounds and explosions, and the amplitude of earthquakes was still up to 30 mm. The eruption gradually waned after 1630. In the evening, explosions were 2-4 minutes apart, accompanied by weak incandescent projections. The lava flow entered the sea sometime during the night. On the 19th, S Crater had only weak-to-moderate, less forceful emission and seismicity had dropped to non-eruptive levels (~1,000 events/day of 10 mm maximum amplitude). Interestingly, there was no response of the tiltmeter to this eruption.

"Aerial and field inspections on the 18th (R. Middleton) and 19-20th (B. Talai) revealed an absence of pyroclastic-flow deposits, which is unusual for an eruption of this intensity at Manam. The lava flow was of aa-type, <50 m wide up-slope and bounded by levees. It broadened when reaching the base of the terminal cone, between 800 and 600 m elev. It reached a maximum width of ~300 m at 260 m elev where the main front stopped, and a thickness of 3-5 m. The smaller lobe that progressed to the sea following a dry creek on the N side of the valley had a flow front ~100 m wide and 4-5 m high. It extended the coast out by 10-15 m, but had stopped flowing by the 19th. The only damage was to the forest and a copra dryer.

"In the SW valley, effects were limited to a large build-up of talus at the foot of the rock face, down to ~900 m elevation. On the NW side of the island, downwind ash deposits were limited to ~3 mm of fine grey ash with scattered scoria fragments of <1 cm, in a fan area only ~1 km wide. After a 3-day period of inactivity and through the rest of October, weak white and blue vapour emission and weak glow at night recurred.

"All through September, activity at Main Crater consisted of weak, thin to moderately thick emissions of white vapour, without noise or night glow, as in the previous months. There was, somewhat surprisingly, no significant change in the trend and fluctuations of tilt measurements. Activity in Main Crater also remained undisturbed during October, as it released only occasional thin white vapour."

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