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Report on Merapi (Indonesia) — October 2019


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 44, no. 10 (October 2019)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke. Edited by Janine B. Krippner.

Merapi (Indonesia) Low-volume dome growth continues during April-September 2019 with rockfalls and small block-and-ash flows

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2019. Report on Merapi (Indonesia) (Krippner, J.B., and Venzke, E., eds.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 44:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN201910-263250



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Merapi is an active volcano north of the city of Yogyakarta (figure 79) that has a recent history of dome growth and collapse, resulting in block-and-ash flows that killed over 400 in 2010, while an estimated 10,000-20,000 lives were saved by evacuations. The edifice contains an active dome at the summit, above the Gendol drainage down the SE flank (figure 80). The current eruption episode began in May 2018 and dome growth was observed from 11 August 2018-onwards. This Bulletin summarizes activity during April through September 2019 and is based on information from Balai Penyelidikan dan Pengembangan Teknologi Kebencanaan Geologi (BPPTKG, the Center for Research and Development of Geological Disaster Technology, a branch of PVMBG), Sutopo of Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana (BNPB), MAGMA Indonesia, along with observations by Øystein Lund Andersen and Brett Carr of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 79. Merapi volcano is located north of Yogyakarta in Central Java. Photo courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 80. A view of the Gendol drainage where avalanches and block-and-ash flows are channeled from the active Merapi lava dome. The Gendol drainage is approximately 400 m wide at the summit. Courtesy of Brett Carr, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

At the beginning of April the rate of dome growth was relatively low, with little morphological change since January, but the overall activity of Merapi was considered high. Magma extrusion above the upper Gendol drainage resulted in rockfalls and block-and-ash flows out to 1.5 km from the dome, which were incandescent and visible at night. Five block-and-ash flows were recorded on 24 April, reaching as far as 1.2 km down the Gendol drainage. The volume of the dome was calculated to be 466,000 m3 on 9 April, a slight decrease from the previous week. Weak gas plumes reached a maximum of 500 m above the dome throughout April.

Six block-and-ash flows were generated on 5 May, lasting up to 77 seconds. Throughout May there were no significant changes to the dome morphology but the volume had decreased to 458,000 by 4 May according to drome imagery analysis. Lava extrusion continued above the Gendol drainage, producing rockfalls and small block-and-ash flows out to 1.2 km (figure 81). Gas plumes were observed to reach 400 m above the top of the crater.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 81. An avalanche from the Merapi summit dome on 17 May 2019. The incandescent blocks traveled down to 850 m away from the dome. Courtesy of Sutopo, BNPB.

There were a total of 72 avalanches and block-and-ash flows from 29 January to 1 June, with an average distance of 1 km and a maximum of 2 km down the Gendol drainage. Photographs taken by Øystein Lund Andersen show the morphological change to the lava dome due to the collapse of rock and extruding lava down the Gendol drainage (figures 82 and 83). Block-and-ash flows were recorded on 17 and 20 June to a distance of 1.2 km, and a webcam image showed an incandescent flow on 26 June (figure 84). Throughout June gas plumes reached a maximum of 250 m above the top of the crater

Figure (see Caption) Figure 82. The development of the Merapi summit dome from 2 June 2018 to 17 June 2019. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 83. Photos taken of the Merapi summit lava dome in June 2019. Top: This nighttime time-lapse photograph shows incandescence at the south-facing side of the dome on the 16 June. Middle: A closeup of a small rockfall from the dome on 17 June. Bottom: A gas plume accompanying a small rockfall on 17 June. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 84. Blocks from an incandescent rockfall off the Merapi dome reached out to 1 km down the Gendol drainage on 26 June 2019. Courtesy of MAGMA Indonesia.

Analysis of drone images taken on 4 July gave an updated dome volume of 475,000 m3, a slight increase but with little change in the morphology (figure 85). Block-and-ash flows traveled 1.1 km down the Gendol drainage on 1 July, 1 km on the 13th, and 1.1 km on the 14th, some of which were seen at night as incandescent blocks fell from the dome (figure 86). During the week of 19-25 July there were four recorded block-and-ash flows reaching 1.1 km, and flows traveled out to around 1 km on the 24th, 27th, and 31st. The morphology of the dome continued to be relatively stable due to the extruding lava falling into the Gendol drainage. Gas plumes reached 300 m above the top of the crater during July.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 85. The Merapi dome on 30 July 2019 producing a weak plume. Courtesy of MAGMA Indonesia.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 86. Incandescent rocks from the hot lava dome at the summit of Merapi form rockfalls down the Gendol drainage on 14 July 2019. Courtesy of Øystein Lund Andersen.

During the week of 5-11 August the dome volume was calculated to be 461,000 m3, a slight decrease from the week before with little morphological changes due to the continued lava extrusion collapsing into the Gendol drainage. There were five block-and-ash flows reaching a maximum of 1.2 km during 2-8 August. Two flows were observed on the 13th and 14th reaching 950 m, out to 1.9 km on the 20th and 22nd, and to 550 m on the 24th. There were 16 observed flows that reached 500-1,000 m on 25-27 August, with an additional flow out to 2 km at 1807 on the 27th (figure 87). Gas plumes reached a maximum of 350 m through the month.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 87. An incandescent rockfall from the Merapi dome that reached 2 km down the Gendol drainage on 27 August 2019. Courtesy of BPPTKG.

Brett Carr was conducting field work at Merapi during 12-26 September. During this time the lava extrusion was low (below 1 m3 per second). He observed small rockfalls with blocks a couple of meters in size, traveling about 50-200 m down the drainage every hour or so, producing small plumes as they descended and resulting in incandescence on the dome at night. Small dome collapse events produced block-and-ash flows down the drainage once or twice per day (figure 88) and slightly larger flows just over 1 km long a couple of times per week.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 88. A rockfall on the Merapi dome, towards the Gendol drainage at 0551 on 20 September 2019. Courtesy of Brett Carr, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

The dome volume was 468,000 m3 by 19 September, a slight increase from the previous calculation but again with little morphological change. Two block-and-ash flows were observed out to 600 m on 9 September and seven occurred on the 9th out to 500-1,100 m. Two occurred on the 14th down to 750-900 m, three occurred on 17, 20, and 21 September to a maximum distance of 1.2 km, and three more out to 1.5 km through the 26th. A VONA (Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation) was issued on the 22nd due to a small explosion producing an ash plume up to approximately 3.8 km altitude (about 800 m above the summit) and minor ashfall to 15 km SW. This was followed by a block-and-ash flow reaching as far as 1.2 km and lasting for 125 seconds (figure 89). Preceding the explosion there was an increase in temperature at several locations on the dome. Weak gas plumes were observed up to 100 m above the crater throughout the month.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 89. An explosion at Merapi on 22 September 2019 was followed by a block-and-ash flow that reached 1.2 km down the Gendol drainage. Courtesy of BPPTKG.

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: Balai Penyelidikan dan Pengembangan Teknologi Kebencanaan Geologi (BPPTKG), Center for Research and Development of Geological Disaster Technology (URL: http://merapi.bgl.esdm.go.id/, Twitter: @BPPTKG); 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/); MAGMA Indonesia, Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral (URL: https://magma.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/, Twitter: https://twitter.com/BNPB_Indonesia); Øystein Lund Andersen (Twitter: @OysteinLAnderse, URL: http://www.oysteinlundandersen.com); Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, BNPB (Twitter: @Sutopo_PN, URL: https://twitter.com/Sutopo_PN); Brett Carr, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY, USA (URL: https://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/user/bcarr).