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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — May 2007


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 32, no. 5 (May 2007)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Ash plumes, crater glow, and roaring through April and May

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2007. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 32:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200705-252140


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Eruptive activity continued from the Tavurvur cone during April and May 2007, with ash plumes drifting downwind in various directions. A large Vulcanian eruption from the Tavurvur cone occurred at Rabaul on 7 October 2006 (BGVN 31:09). After activity varied in intensity through the end of December 2006 (BGVN 31:10), generally mild eruptive activity was reported by the Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO) through March 2007 (BGVN 32:02).

During 3-17 April, the RVO and Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) reported that Tavurvur emitted steam and steam-and-ash plumes that rose to a maximum of 3 km altitude. Occasional weak roaring noises accompanied the emissions. On 3 April, explosions shook buildings in Rabaul town. Incandescent material was ejected from the crater during the night of 9-10 April and moderate to strong sub-continuous roaring could be heard in Rabaul town. Small amounts of incandescent material were ejected from the crater during 13-15 April. White to gray emissions during 16-25 April generated plumes that rose a few hundred meters. A diffuse plume seen on satellite imagery rose to an altitude of 1.5 km on 18 April. Minor ashfall was reported in Rabaul town from 22 to 25 April, when moderately-sized explosions led to darker gray plumes. On 29-30 April, ash emissions generated plumes that rose to an altitude of 1.2 km. Seismicity continued to remain at low levels. There were no high-frequency events or explosions recorded, but there were some small low-frequency events associated with roaring noises.

During 1-2 May, ash plumes drifted NNW and ashfall was reported at Rabaul town and surrounding areas. After that, emissions from Tavurvur were mostly steam that only rose 500 m. After heavy rains in the first week of May, the night-time red glow disappeared, but roaring noises intensified. Roaring noises were heard throughout May, but were more intense after heavy rainfall. Weak to moderate glow was visible during the last three weeks of the month. Seismicity remained at low levels. Small low-frequency earthquakes associated with the roaring noise dominated the seismic activity. There was a gradual increase in the daily number of low-frequency events from less than 10 during the second week to a peak of 50 during the third week before declining back to less than 10 at the end of the month. Ground deformation measurements indicated no apparent changes during the month.

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: Steve Saunders and Herman Patia, Rabaul Volcanological Observatory (RVO), Department of Mining, Private Mail Bag, Port Moresby Post Office, National Capitol District, Papua New Guinea (URL: http://www.pngndc.gov.pg/); Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC), Bureau of Meteorology, Darwin, Australia.