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Report on Aira (Japan) — July 1985


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 10, no. 7 (July 1985)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Aira (Japan) Frequent explosions; tephra damages nearby towns

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1985. Report on Aira (Japan) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 10:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198507-282080



31.593°N, 130.657°E; summit elev. 1117 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The number of recorded explosions increased from 10 in May to 33 in June and 60 in July. Explosions caused damage on 8, 13, 16, 22, and 30 June and on 6, 10, and 21 July. Bombs fell on roads and farms, producing large craters. A bomb from an explosion on 8 June at 1316 made a 1-m-diameter crater in a road near a residential area. On 13 June lapilli up to 3 cm in diameter fell on the S foot, cracking windshields and solar water heaters on rooftops. Ash fell heavily that day at Kagoshima and closed railway crossings. After an explosion on 16 June at 1147, a bomb fell on a farm, producing a crater 4 m in diameter and 0.8 m deep. On 22 June at 1029 an ash cloud rose 3.5 km. The air shock from the explosion broke windows at a school near the foot of the volcano, and falling lapilli cracked a car windshield on the E foot. Windshields of cars at the S foot were cracked by falling lapilli from a 30 June explosion. Total June ashfall was 1,510 g/m2 at JMA's Kagoshima Observatory.

Observations of the eruption column heights and quantity of ejecta were prevented by bad weather in early July. Debris flows from the volcano on 2 July blocked roads at three places after a heavy rainfall. On 6 July at 1720 a bomb fell on a house 3 km from the crater, briefly setting it afire and making a 2-m hole in the roof; no casualties or injuries occurred. On 10 July, incandescent rocks fell on an inhabited area in Arimura, at the S foot. One broke into pieces and cracked roof tiles on a house.

An airshock from a 21 July explosion broke windowpanes of a high school and a restaurant in the central part of Kagoshima. The explosion was followed by continuous emission of ash, which was carried toward Kagoshima. Early the next day, a Japan National Railway crossing gate in the N part of the city malfunctioned because of ash deposits on the rails; a car was struck by a train, but the car's driver was only slightly injured. Debris flows on 27 July blocked a road and broke buried water pipes at the S foot.

Ashfall was observed daily at the Kagoshima Observatory in late July. During the 24 hours beginning 28 July at 0900, ashfall was 2,476 g/m2, the largest daily total, raising monthly and yearly totals to the largest since measurements of ash deposits started in April 1969.

On 31 July, three explosions with large eruption columns at 0700, 0848, and 0951 were followed by vigorous ash emission that continued until about 1200. Driven by a SE wind, the ash fell over the W coast of Kyushu (figure 13).

Figure (see Caption) Figure 13. Ashfall from 31 July 1985 explosions at Sakura-jima. Courtesy of JMA.

Geological Summary. The Aira caldera in the northern half of Kagoshima Bay contains the post-caldera Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan's most active. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow accompanied formation of the 17 x 23 km caldera about 22,000 years ago. The smaller Wakamiko caldera was formed during the early Holocene in the NE corner of the Aira caldera, along with several post-caldera cones. The construction of Sakurajima began about 13,000 years ago on the southern rim of Aira caldera and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kitadake summit cone ended about 4850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minamidake. Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76.

Information Contacts: JMA, Tokyo.