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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — November 1984


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 11 (November 1984)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) Activity declines; alert reduced to Stage 1

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1984. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 9:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198411-252140


Papua New Guinea

4.2459°S, 152.1937°E; summit elev. 688 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"The level of activity subsided again following the seismic and ground deformation crisis on 18 October. Caldera seismicity in November consisted of 3,985 earthquakes with total energy of about [6 x 1015] ergs (maximum ML, [2.9]). Most of the energy was released during small swarms on 6, 8, 10, 18, 19, and 27 November. Seismicity was concentrated in the N half of the caldera seismic zone. Meanwhile, ground deformation measurements reflected slow steady inflation at both shallow magma reservoirs, under the mouth of Greet Harbour and immediately E of Vulcan. In the Greet Harbour area, maximum uplift was 19 mm, maximum tilt was 30 µrad, and maximum horizontal strain was 20 ppm.

"In view of the general decrease in activity at Rabaul since the beginning of June 1984, the RVO advised government authorities on 22 November that the situation was considered to have returned to a stage-1 volcanological level of alert in which the anticipated eruption is not now expected to occur before several months to a few years."

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 asymmetrical 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 1,400 years ago. An earlier caldera-forming eruption about 7,100 years ago is thought to have originated from Tavui caldera, offshore to the north. Three small stratovolcanoes lie outside the N and NE caldera rims. Post-caldera eruptions built basaltic-to-dacitic pyroclastic cones on the caldera floor near the NE and W 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 and P. Lowenstein, RVO.