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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — October 1983


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 10 (October 1983)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Large increases in seismicity and ground deformation

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1983. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 8:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198310-252140


Papua New Guinea

4.271°S, 152.203°E; summit elev. 688 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Further dramatic increases in seismicity and ground deformation rates took place in October. The total number of caldera earthquakes for the month was 5198, about 2.5 times the total for September and about 35 times the average monthly total since the last peak of activity in March 1982. A large proportion of events occurred in seismic crises on 15-16 October (daily earthquake totals of 868 and 305) and 28-29 October (daily totals of 338 and 513 events). The strongest earthquakes had magnitudes (ML) of about 4, and subterranean rumblings accompanied many of the felt events. The earthquakes continued to be concentrated in the E and NE parts of the caldera at depths of about 0-3 km.

"Tilt measurements showed maximum values around Tavurvur Cone in the NE part of the caldera. Tilts of up to about 20 µrad accumulated gradually until the seismic crisis at the end of the month, when step-wise changes of up to about 40 µrad were measured. Ground cracks were found on the W flank of Tavurvur after the seismic crisis of 28-29 October.

"Interpretation of the tilting using a point-source model indicates that the centre(s) of deformation could be immediately offshore about 1 km below the SW flank of Tavurvur. The increase in volume of the deforming source(s) is estimated to be of the order of 1 x 106 m3."

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 688-m-high asymmetrical pyroclastic 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 1400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7100 years ago is now considered to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the northern and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and western 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: C. McKee, RVO.