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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — April 1996


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 21, no. 4 (April 1996)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Low-level eruptive activity from Tavurvur

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1996. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 21:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199604-252140


Papua New Guinea

4.2459°S, 152.1937°E; summit elev. 688 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

During April, low-level eruptive activity continued from Tavurvur as in the past several months (BGVN 21:02 and 21:03). Weak to moderate explosions produced pale- to dark-gray ash-and-vapor clouds every few minutes. These clouds rose ~400-1,000 m before drifting 15-20 km to the S and SW and producing fine ashfalls in villages downwind. Roaring noises were heard, at times from as far as 15 km away. Observers occasionally noticed sprays of incandescent lava fragments at night. Vulcan only produced weak fumarole emissions.

Seismicity remained at approximately the same level as in February (BGVN 21:02). A total of 5,210 low-frequency (explosion) earthquakes occurred during April. Seismicity peaked during the second and third weeks of the month. Eighteen high-frequency earthquakes were recorded, and nearly 50% of them occurred on 3 April. Most of these events originated immediately NE of the caldera, but three earthquakes occurred N, W, and S of the caldera, respectively. Ground-deformation measurements showed no significant changes.

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 asymmetrical 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 1,400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7,100 years ago is thought to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the N and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and W 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: H. Patia, Rabaul Volcanological Observatory (RVO), P.O. Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.