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Report on Bagana (Papua New Guinea) — April 1989


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 4 (April 1989)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Bagana (Papua New Guinea) Lava flow advances; new avalanche deposits

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1989. Report on Bagana (Papua New Guinea) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 14:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198904-255020


Papua New Guinea

6.137°S, 155.196°E; summit elev. 1855 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"Observer reports and recorded seismicity indicate that increased activity . . . is continuing. Inspections on 3 and 4 March by personnel from Bougainville Island Copper Ltd. revealed that a new deposit of avalanche debris was present on the SE flank. The deposit was dark in colour and extended from the summit . . . to the mid-flank level (~1,000 m altitude). Vegetation around the edges of the deposit had been killed. The avalanche occurred sometime between 3 February and 3 March. The profile of E flank lava flow's terminus had changed, suggesting overriding of older parts of the flow by new lobes and possible advance of the flow nose.

"On 18 March, the pilot of a passing aircraft reported a lava flow on the SE flank and copious ash around and above the volcano. However, an inspection on 12 April indicated that the deposit was probably formed by a rockfall from the inactive nose of of the E flank lava flow (at ~880 m altitude). The proximal part of the flow was still active. It appeared that a new thin lobe was overriding older lava in the main flow channel. An ash mantle on the upper E flank indicated that rockfalls (detected seismically) were occurring in this area. The flow was bent to the S at ~1,150 m altitude. It may be significant that the first lobe of this now compound flow terminated at about this point.

"Since 8 March (when seismic recording . . . was restored) seismicity has been dominated by relatively long-duration, low-frequency, spindle-shaped events. This activity is attributed to rockfalls on the margin of the active lava flow. Daily totals of these events ranged between ~90 and 300. Summit activity has continued to consist of moderate to strong emission of white vapour rich in sulphur dioxide."

Geological Summary. Bagana volcano, occupying a remote portion of central Bougainville Island, is one of Melanesia's youngest and most active volcanoes. This massive symmetrical cone was largely constructed by an accumulation of viscous andesitic lava flows. The entire edifice could have been constructed in about 300 years at its present rate of lava production. Eruptive activity is frequent and characterized by non-explosive effusion of viscous lava that maintains a small lava dome in the summit crater, although explosive activity occasionally producing pyroclastic flows also occurs. Lava flows form dramatic, freshly preserved tongue-shaped lobes up to 50 m thick with prominent levees that descend the flanks on all sides.

Information Contacts: C. McKee, RVO.