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Report on Merapi (Indonesia) — June 1984


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 6 (June 1984)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Merapi (Indonesia) Explosions, nuées ardentes, lahars; 1,000 evacuated

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1984. Report on Merapi (Indonesia) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 9:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198406-263250



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The quoted material is a report from Adjat Sudradjat.

"Merapi erupted 15 June between 0215 and 0600, accompanied by nuées ardentes that extended 7 km down rivers (the Batang, Bebeng, and Krasak) on the SW side of the volcano. An eruption plume rose to 6 km height and caused ashfall in Muntilan, Ambarawa, and Semarang, approximately 60 km N of the volcano. The eruption was accompanied by detonations. The first explosion was followed by a milder eruption producing a plume to 2 km height and a nuée ardente to 6 km distance at noon. The frequency of nues ardentes progressively decreased until the morning of 16 June. No eruptions were observed the following day. Lahar material estimated to exceed 4 x 106 m3 along the Bedeng, Krasak, and Putih Rivers may threaten Magelang city (population about 125,000)."

An image from the NOAA 7 polar orbiting satellite on 15 June at 1441 showed a hazy area that did not seem to be weather-related extending from 7°S to 5°S and from 110°E to the edge of the image at 106°E. The hazy area did not extend back to Merapi, nor was any tephra emission apparent at the volcano. No evidence of activity could be seen on the image returned the next day at about the same time.

Newspapers reported ashfalls at Magelang (30 km NW of Merapi) and Salatiga (35 km NE of the volcano). Visibility near Salatiga was limited to 10 m and more than a cm of ash covered roads, slowing traffic. More than 2 cm of ash fell at Solo (45 km E of the volcano) and ashfall was reported at Cilacap, on the coast 160 km SW of Merapi.

"Seismographs detected a progressive increase in seismicity from 4 counts/day on 8 June to 59 on 12 June. A warning was issued 13 June, and the evacuation of 1000 persons from forbidden zone section VI (Kemiren village) was immediately implemented. The tong-tong warning system was tested again to be sure that it was operational. The eruption was preceded by an intense lava avalanche on 13 June that caused a nuée ardente d'avalanche (nuée ardente of Merapi type)."

"As of 22 June, no volcanic A-type earthquakes had been recorded. The dominant seismicity has been continuous tremors, very shallow volcanic earthquakes, and avalanche events with multiphase signatures. Judging from this evidence, two possibilities are: (1) the 15 June eruption is the final phase of the 1969-1984 lava dome growth (effusive stage-see below); or (2) the 15 June eruption is evidence of the gas phase of a new cycle. Both possibilities would show quiescence of A-type earthquakes. The rate of dome growth, which was reported to have sharply increased 20-21 June, may tend to support the latter hypothesis if it continues."

"After the 1969 gas explosion, Merapi continued to build a lava dome in its summit crater. Since the orifice is not symmetrical, the lava dome becomes unstable as it grows, and portions slide away, producing avalanches and nuées ardentes d'avalanche. The maximum growth of the dome was 3.6 x 106 m3 and the rate of growth was seemingly constant at about 0.1 x 106 m3/month. Intensive sliding usually occurs in rainy seasons, in November annually, and removes 20-30% of the dome's total volume. The lava blocks that slide away from the dome may originate lahars, affecting a large area of the SW sector of the volcano."

Further References. Bardintzeff, J.M., 1984, Merapi volcano (Java) and Merapi-type nuée ardente: BV, v. 47, p. 433-46.

Zen, M.T., Siswowidjoyo, S., Djoharman, L., and Harto, S., 1980, Type and characteristics of the Merapi eruption: Buletin Dept. Teknik Geologi, Inst. Teknologi Bandung, v. I, p. 34-46.

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: A. Sudradjat, VSI; M. Matson, NOAA/NESDIS; Jakarta Times.