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Report on Yasur (Vanuatu) — March 2020

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 45, no. 3 (March 2020)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke. Edited by Janine Krippner.

Yasur (Vanuatu) Strombolian activity continues during June 2019 through February 2020

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2020. Report on Yasur (Vanuatu) (Krippner, J.B., and Venzke, E., eds.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 45:3. Smithsonian Institution.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin


Yasur

Vanuatu

19.532°S, 169.447°E; summit elev. 361 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Yasur has remained on Alert Level 2 (on a scale of 0-4) since 18 October 2016, indicating "Major Unrest; Danger Zone remains at 395 m around the eruptive vents." The summit crater contains several active vents that frequently produce Strombolian explosions and gas plumes (figure 60). This bulletin summarizes activity during June 2019 through February 2020 and is based on reports by the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD), visitor photographs and videos, and satellite data.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 60. The crater of Yasur contains several active vents that produce gas emissions and Strombolian activity. Photo taken during 25-27 October 2019 by Justin Noonan, used with permission.

A VMGD report on 27 June described ongoing Strombolian explosions with major unrest confined to the crater. The 25 July report noted the continuation of Strombolian activity with some strong explosions, and a warning that volcanic bombs may impact outside of the crater area (figure 61).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 61. A volcanic bomb (a fluid chunk of lava greater than 64 mm in diameter) that was ejected from Yasur. The pattern on the surface shows the fluid nature of the lava before it cooled into a solid rock. Photo taken during 25-27 October 2019 by Justin Noonan, used with permission.

No VMGD report was available for August, but Strombolian activity continued with gas emissions and explosions, as documented by visitors (figure 62). The eruption continued through September and October with some strong explosions and multiple active vents visible in thermal satellite imagery (figure 63). Strombolian explosions ejecting fluid lava from rapidly expanding gas bubbles were recorded during October, and likely represented the typical activity during the surrounding months (figure 64). Along with vigorous degassing producing a persistent plume there was occasional ash content (figure 65). At some point during 20-29 October a small landslide occurred along the eastern inner wall of the crater, visible in satellite images and later confirmed to have produced ashfall at the summit (figure 66).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 62. Different views of the Yasur vents on 7-8 August 2019 taken from a video. Strombolian activity and degassing were visible. Courtesy of Arnold Binas, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 63. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images show variations in detected thermal energy emitting from the active Yasur vents on 18 September and 22 December 2019. False color (bands 12, 11, 4) satellite images courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 64. Strombolian explosions at Yasur during 25-27 October 2019. Large gas bubbles rise to the top of the lava column and burst, ejecting volcanic bombs – fluid chunks of lava, out of the vent. Photos by Justin Noonan, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 65. Gas and ash emissions rise from the active vents at Yasur between 25-27 October 2019. Photos by Justin Noonan, used with permission.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 66. Planet Scope satellite images of Yasur show a change in the crater morphology between 20 and 29 October 2019. Copyright of Planet Labs.

Continuous explosive activity continued in November-February with some stronger explosions recorded along with accompanying gas emissions. Gas plumes of sulfur dioxide were detected by satellite sensors on some days through this period (figure 67) and ash content was present at times (figure 68). Thermal anomalies continued to be detected by satellite sensors with varying intensity, and with a reduction in intensity in February, as seen in Sentinel-2 imagery and the MIROVA system (figures 69 and 70).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 67. SO2 plumes detected at Yasur by Aura/OMI on 21 December 2019 and 31 January 2020, drifting W to NW, and on 14 and 23 February 2020, drifting W and south, and NWW to NW. Courtesy of Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, NASA.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 68. An ash plume erupts from Yasur on 20 February 2020 and drifts NW. Courtesy of Planet Labs.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 69. Sentinel-2 thermal satellite images show variations in detected thermal energy in the active Yasur vents during January and February 2020. False color (bands 12, 11, 4) satellite images courtesy of Sentinel Hub Playground.
Figure (see Caption) Figure 70. The MIROVA thermal detection system recorded persistent thermal energy emitted at Yasur with some variation from mid-May 2019 to May 2020. There was a reduction in detected energy after January. Courtesy of MIROVA.

Geologic Background. Yasur, the best-known and most frequently visited of the Vanuatu volcanoes, has been in more-or-less continuous Strombolian and Vulcanian activity since Captain Cook observed ash eruptions in 1774. This style of activity may have continued for the past 800 years. Located at the SE tip of Tanna Island, this mostly unvegetated pyroclastic cone has a nearly circular, 400-m-wide summit crater. The active cone is largely contained within the small Yenkahe caldera, and is the youngest of a group of Holocene volcanic centers constructed over the down-dropped NE flank of the Pleistocene Tukosmeru volcano. The Yenkahe horst is located within the Siwi ring fracture, a 4-km-wide, horseshoe-shaped caldera associated with eruption of the andesitic Siwi pyroclastic sequence. Active tectonism along the Yenkahe horst accompanying eruptions has raised Port Resolution harbor more than 20 m during the past century.

Information Contacts: Geo-Hazards Division, Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-Hazards Department (VMGD), Ministry of Climate Change Adaptation, Meteorology, Geo-Hazards, Energy, Environment and Disaster Management, Private Mail Bag 9054, Lini Highway, Port Vila, Vanuatu (URL: http://www.vmgd.gov.vu/, https://www.facebook.com/VanuatuGeohazardsObservatory/); MIROVA (Middle InfraRed Observation of Volcanic Activity), a collaborative project between the Universities of Turin and Florence (Italy) supported by the Centre for Volcanic Risk of the Italian Civil Protection Department (URL: http://www.mirovaweb.it/); Sentinel Hub Playground (URL: https://www.sentinel-hub.com/explore/sentinel-playground); Planet Labs, Inc. (URL: https://www.planet.com/); Global Sulfur Dioxide Monitoring Page, Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (NASA/GSFC), 8800 Greenbelt Road, Goddard, Maryland, USA (URL: https://so2.gsfc.nasa.gov/); Justin Noonan (URL: https://www.justinnoonan.com/, Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justinnoonan_/); Doro Adventures (Twitter: https://twitter.com/DoroAdventures, URL: http://doroadventures.com/).