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Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) — August 2000


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 25, no. 8 (August 2000)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) Eruption on 29 September causes the evacuation of nearby towns

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2000. Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 25:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200008-252120


Papua New Guinea

5.05°S, 151.33°E; summit elev. 2334 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The previous Ulawun activity report from June 2000 stated that mainly thin, white vapor was emitted from the volcano and that seismicity was moderate (BGVN 25:07). There were no reports of anomalous activity until 29 September 2000 when a moderate-sized eruption occurred.

A Post Courier news article stated that the eruption began at 0230 on 29 September, but due to communication problems with the Rabaul Volcano Observatory's Mount Ulamona monitoring station they did not receive reports of the eruption until about 0800. The Darwin VAAC issued a volcanic ash advisory stating that volcanic activity was reported to them at 0605 through an air report from Air New Guinea airline, but there was evidence of an ash cloud in satellite imagery starting at about 0400.

Initially the ash cloud rose to ~10.7 km, rapidly grew at the top, and spread ~55 km from the N to the SW. Starting at about 0940 satellite imagery showed that the ash cloud spread to a width of ~110 km in an arc-shape oriented counterclockwise from the ENE to the WSW. The shape and width of the ash cloud were relatively constant until about 1840 when the ash cloud became too diffuse to separate from the surrounding meteorological clouds. At 0830 on 30 September ash emissions were limited to infrequent puffs. By 1223 there was no evidence of ash clouds in the proximity of Ulawan and continual satellite surveillance did not identify any ash from the initial eruption.

The Rabaul Volcano Observatory put Ulawun at stage two alert. Heavy ash fall from the eruption prompted government officials to evacuate 3,750 residents of areas near the volcano including Ubili town, Noau town, Voluvolu villages, and Navo plantations. As of 5 October activity had declined and was relatively stable, but the evacuation orders were still in effect. Several news articles have linked the volcanism at Ulawun to the increased level of activity at Rabaul which is ~150 km to the NE of Ulawun, but according to a Post Courier article the East New Britain Provincial Disaster Committee stated that there was no correlation between the volcanoes' activity.

Geological Summary. The symmetrical basaltic-to-andesitic Ulawun stratovolcano is the highest volcano of the Bismarck arc, and one of Papua New Guinea's most frequently active. The volcano, also known as the Father, rises above the N coast of the island of New Britain across a low saddle NE of Bamus volcano, the South Son. The upper 1,000 m is unvegetated. A prominent E-W escarpment on the south may be the result of large-scale slumping. Satellitic cones occupy the NW and E flanks. A steep-walled valley cuts the NW side, and a flank lava-flow complex lies to the south of this valley. Historical eruptions date back to the beginning of the 18th century. Twentieth-century eruptions were mildly explosive until 1967, but after 1970 several larger eruptions produced lava flows and basaltic pyroclastic flows, greatly modifying the summit crater.

Information Contacts: Darwin VAAC, Regional Director, Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory Regional Office, PO Box 40050, Casuarina, Northern Territory 0811, Australia (URL: http://www.bom.gov.au/info/vaac/); Post Courier (URL: http://www.postcourier.com.pg); Australian Broadcasting Corporation News (URL: http://www. abc.net.au/news/).