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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — August 2005


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 30, no. 8 (August 2005)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Minor ash plumes reach Rabaul Town

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2005. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 30:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200508-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The February 2005 eruption from the Tarvurvur cone at Rabaul and its aftermath were previously described (BGVN 30:07). In late August and September 2005 Tavurvur continued to produce discrete light to pale gray ash emissions. Emissions occurred at irregular intervals and with varying frequency. Discrete explosions also occurred. Ash plumes rose between 800 and 1500 m before they were blown to the N and NW, resulting in some ashfall on the eastern half of Rabaul Town. Areas further downwind were also affected. Roaring and rumbling noises accompanied the activity. Projections of incandescent lava fragments were visible at night but were less conspicuous compared to previous weeks.

Seismicity was at moderate to high levels, with most earthquakes associated with ash emissions and explosions. Small low frequency earthquakes not associated with ash emissions were also recorded. Ground deformation measurements from global positioning system (GPS) and tide gauge instruments fluctuated but the general trend showed a very slow rate of uplift.

One high frequency earthquake occurred on 12 September NE of Tavurvur. Prevailing SE winds during the last several months caused the ash plumes to drift to the N and NW. During 12-18 September there were some brief periods of NW winds that could mark the beginning of gradual wind transition from SE to NW winds, directions that would blow ash plumes away from Rabaul Town.

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: Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO), P.O. Box 386, Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.