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Report on Unzendake (Japan) — October 1994


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

Unzendake (Japan) Relative quiet on the 4th anniversary of the current eruption

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Unzendake (Japan) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:10. Smithsonian Institution.



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The 4th anniversary of Unzen's current eruptive episode took place on 17 November. During the first half of November, Unzen's surface activity reached the lowest level seen in the course of 3.5 years of lava dome growth; earthquakes also reached a low level. From mid-October through mid-November the eruption had a low rate of lava extrusion (<104 m3/day) and a low frequency of pyroclastic flows.

During November, only the N slope moved, and the dome's slow endogenous growth produced velocities as low as a few meters in several tens of days. During mid-October to mid-November the top of the endogenous dome occupied an area 400 x 300 m that was covered with oxidized lava fragments and blocks. During this interval the dome's top became flat to partly convex downward. A small spine 20 m across sprouted near the center of the flat dome top in early October. Extrusion during October caused the spine to rise at the rate of 1 m/day, double the November rate. By mid-November the spine had reached ~50 m high.

Small rockfalls originated at the uppermost NE slopes on the endogenous dome. They typically took place episodically, with many falls confined to a few days during intervals of 2-3 weeks. Some of them developed into pyroclastic flows with travel distances <2 km. During mid-October through mid-November pyroclastic flows lacked accompanying pyroclastic surges. On 26 and 27 October, partial collapses of lava blocks from old lobes generated pyroclastic flows, which traveled ~2.5 km SE and ~2.2 km NE. No pyroclastic flows took place in early to mid-November, which probably reflects the low extrusion rate during this period; in contrast to earlier large Merapi-type pyroclastic flows that seemed to result from large collapses driven by high extrusion rates.

COSPEC analysis by the Tokyo Institute of Technology in late September showed that SO2 flux from the dome had remained at the low value of ~40 t/d since February 1994. Based on air-photograph measurements by the Geographical Survey Institute of Japan, the total volume of magma erupted from May 1991 to September 1994 was 0.20 km3 (dense-rock-equivalent value), twice the volume of the current dome (0.10 km3). The average eruption rate from February until the beginning of September (7 months) was 6 x 104 m3/day (±2 x 104 m3/day).

During October, microearthquakes detected 3.6 km W of the dome (station A) totaled 993; seven pyroclastic flows were caused by dome collapse. The pyroclastic flows were detected remotely using a seismic station 1 km WSW of the dome and four sets of visible and infrared video cameras.

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: S. Nakada, Kyushu Univ; JMA.