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Report on Merapi (Indonesia) — July 2018


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 43, no. 7 (July 2018)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke. Research and preparation by Paul Berger.

Merapi (Indonesia) Lahar in October 2016; phreatic explosions May-June 2018

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2018. Report on Merapi (Indonesia) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 43:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN201807-263250



7.54°S, 110.446°E; summit elev. 2910 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

After a major eruption on 26 October 2010 that subsided in early December of that year, Merapi erupted regularly amid elevated seismicity between 13 June 2011 and April 2014; seismicity returned to normal levels in May 2014 (BGVN 39:10). Renewed activity in the form of phreatic explosions took place during May-June 2018.

Lahar in October 2016. According to the Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB) (National Disaster Management Agency), a lahar on 27 October 2016 induced by moderate to heavy rain swept nine sand mining trucks down the Bebeng River on the SW flank; at least one truck was buried and six were severely damaged. There were no fatalities as the miners and other people at the scene escaped. Material at the summit and on the flanks produced during the October-November 2010 eruption was an estimated 20-25 million cubic meters, contributing to the continuing high potential of lahars during heavy rain. BNPB recommended that the public remain vigilant during rainy weather because a lahar formed on the upper flanks of Merapi can reach the bottom in less than 30 minutes. The Alert Level remained at 1 (on a scale of 1-4).

Phreatic explosions during May-June 2018. The volcano was apparently quiet between November 2016 and April 2018. According to the Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as CVGHM), an explosion occurred at 0740 on 11 May 2018. The eruption began with a small roar and vibrations that were felt at the observation post for 10 minutes. A plume rose to 5.5 km above the summit. There was no seismic precursor and no subsequent seismic activity. According to a news account (The Jakarta Post) on 11 May, the increased activity caused Yogyakarta's Adisutjipto International Airport (27 km S) to close, resulting in the cancellation of eight Garuda Indonesia flights. PVMBG did not increase the alert level from Green/Normal; they interpreted the explosion as being a minor event triggered by the accumulation of volcanic gases, and unlikely to result in subsequent explosions. High levels of sulfur dioxide in the vicinity of the volcano were detected by the satellite-based Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on 11 May; concentrations reached as high as 2.0 Dobson Units.

On 21 May a phreatic explosion began at 0125 and lasted for 19 minutes, generating an ash plume that rose 700 m above the crater and drifted W. At 0938, another phreatic explosion began that lasted six minutes and produced an ash plume that rose 1.2 km above the crater. Ashfall from both events was reported in areas 15 km downwind. A third event, detected at 1750, lasted three minutes and produced a plume of unknown height. After these events, one volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquake and one tremor event were recorded. The seismicity along with increased phreatic events prompted PVMBG to raise the Alert Level to 2.

According to PVMBG, on 23 May, at 1349 the Babadan observation post heard a two-minute-long phreatic explosion. A plume was not visible due to inclement weather, though minor ashfall was reported at the Ngepos observation post. On 24 May an event at 0256 generated an ash plume that rose 6 km above the crater rim and drifted W. Roaring was heard at all the Merapi observation posts. A two-minute-long event at 1048 produced an ash plume that rose 1.5 km and drifted W. PVMBG recommended the evacuation of everyone within 3 km of the summit.

PVMBG reported that on 1 June, at 0820, an event generated an ash plume that rose at least 6 km above the crater rim and drifted NW, then SW (figure 68). Ashfall was reported at the Selo observation post. Observers noted white smoke rising from a forested area 1.5 km NW, possibly indicating burning vegetation. PVMBG indicated that VT events were occurring at about 3 km below the crater. Later that day at 2024, an ash plume from a 1.5-minute-long event rose 2.5 km above the crater rim and drifted NE and W. At 2100, an ash plume rose 1 km and drifted NW. The Alert Level remained at 2.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 68. Photo of an explosion at Merapi on 1 June 2018. Courtesy of Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), National Disaster Management Agency.

Geological Summary. Merapi, one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, lies in one of the world's most densely populated areas and dominates the landscape immediately north of the major city of Yogyakarta. It is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending NNW to Ungaran volcano. Growth of Old Merapi during the Pleistocene ended with major edifice collapse perhaps about 2,000 years ago, leaving a large arcuate scarp cutting the eroded older Batulawang volcano. Subsequent growth of the steep-sided Young Merapi edifice, its upper part unvegetated due to frequent activity, began SW of the earlier collapse scarp. Pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the steep-sided active summit lava dome have devastated cultivated lands on the western-to-southern flanks and caused many fatalities.

Information Contacts: Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG, also known as Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation, CVGHM), Jalan Diponegoro 57, Bandung 40122, Indonesia (URL: http://www.vsi.esdm.go.id/); Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), National Disaster Management Agency, Graha BNPB - Jl. Scout Kav.38, East Jakarta 13120, Indonesia (URL: http://www.bnpb.go.id/); The Jakarta Post (URL: http://www.thejakartapost.com/); NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/).