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Report on Unzendake (Japan) — November 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 11 (November 1994)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Unzendake (Japan) Endogenous lava-dome growth continues at low rate; few pyroclastic flows

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Unzendake (Japan) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:11. Smithsonian Institution.



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The period from mid-November through mid-December was characterized by a low eruption rate (~104 m3/d) and low frequency of pyroclastic-flow events. A theodolite survey indicated that lava blocks (a spine and the surrounding area) in the center of the endogenous dome had moved upward at a rate of <0.5 m/day. Movement of talus slopes on the dome was hardly detected during this period. Some geophysicists proposed that the upward movement of the spine and the surrounding area was related directly to microearthquakes, which occurred periodically within the dome in recent months. It is difficult to test this hypothesis because of the slow movement and poor weather conditions. The endogenous dome was the highest point in early December, reaching ~220 m above the former Jigokuato Crater. The height of the dome has varied but generally increased with time, and had reached 245 m in April 1994.

Oxidized lava blocks (several meters across) on the dome surface tumbled NE and SE due to inclination of the surface around the uplifting part; some developed into pyroclastic flows. During October, eight pyroclastic flows were observed to travel <=2 km SE. The Geological Survey of Japan reported that the average volume of pyroclastic-flow deposits in November was ~100 m3/day, which is the lowest since May 1991. Volume estimates were made using pyroclastic-flow seismic records (amplitude and duration of signal).

During November, microearthquakes detected 3.6 km W of the dome (station A) totaled 436, roughly half the number seen in October (993). Since mid-October, the number of hourly earthquakes has been periodic, with 38-40 hours between cycles. A corresponding periodic character was also found in tilt data at the N caldera rim, but the mechanism remains unknown. COSPEC analysis by the Tokyo Institute of Technology in late November showed that SO2 flux from the dome was ~20 t/d; half of the value in late September. The value of SO2 flux . . . is roughly concordant with the lava eruption rate throughout the last 3.5 years.

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.