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Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) — February 1988


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 13, no. 2 (February 1988)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) Frequent earthquakes and tremor; heavy rain

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1988. Report on Ulawun (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 13:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198802-252120


Papua New Guinea

5.05°S, 151.33°E; summit elev. 2334 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Conditions for observing Ulawun were poor in February. The mountain was obscured on most days and received very heavy rainfall between the 9th and the end of the month. A maximum of 36 cm of rain was recorded on the 22nd at the base station, 10 km from the summit. In possible association with the rainfall, the recorded seismicity increased markedly, from 10-200 small events/day at the beginning of the month to a maximum of 1400/day on the 27th. In addition, periods of sub-continuous, non-harmonic tremor started on the 11th, becoming continuous for periods of 1-2 hours daily after the 14th. During 26-28 February, the seismic pattern consisted of alternating periods of intense non-harmonic tremor lasting 1-3 hours and periods of seismic quiet. Seismicity was still strong at the end of the month.

There were no dramatic changes in the emissions from the summit crater. Occasional ground and aerial observations indicated emissions were of weak to moderate white vapours.

Geological Summary. The symmetrical basaltic-to-andesitic Ulawun stratovolcano is the highest volcano of the Bismarck arc, and one of Papua New Guinea's most frequently active. The volcano, also known as the Father, rises above the N coast of the island of New Britain across a low saddle NE of Bamus volcano, the South Son. The upper 1,000 m is unvegetated. A prominent E-W escarpment on the south may be the result of large-scale slumping. Satellitic cones occupy the NW and E flanks. A steep-walled valley cuts the NW side, and a flank lava-flow complex lies to the south of this valley. Historical eruptions date back to the beginning of the 18th century. Twentieth-century eruptions were mildly explosive until 1967, but after 1970 several larger eruptions produced lava flows and basaltic pyroclastic flows, greatly modifying the summit crater.

Information Contacts: P. de Saint-Ours and C. McKee, RVO.