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Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) — 3 August-9 August 2011


Smithsonian Institution / US Geological Survey
Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 3 August-9 August 2011
Managing Editor: Sally Sennert.

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2011. Report on Rabaul (Papua New Guinea) (Sennert, S, ed.). Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 3 August-9 August 2011. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Weekly Report (3 August-9 August 2011)


Papua New Guinea

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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

RVO reported that white vapor plumes rose from Rabaul caldera's Tavurvur cone during 1-3 August. An explosion on 3 August produced a gray ash plume that rose 1 km above the crater and drifted NNW. Sustained emissions of pale-gray ash continued for about an hour afterwards. In addition, ash deposited at the former airport was re-suspended and blown NW into the E part of Rabaul town (3-5 km NW) and towards Namanula hill (3 km W). Seismicity was very low, although two periods of harmonic tremor on 2 August and the explosion and ash emissions on 3 August were detected.

During 4-5 August gray ash emissions periodically continued, punctuated by a few large and notable explosions. Ash plumes from the explosions rose 1 km above the crater and drifted N and NW producing fine ashfall in the E part of Rabaul town, Namanula Hill, and further downwind towards Tavui Point. Moderate seismicity consisting of low-frequency earthquakes, explosions, and volcanic tremors with variable durations was detected. During 5-9 August activity increased, characterized by an increased frequency and duration of ash emissions and more explosions. About 34 explosions were recorded between 5 and 8 August. Ash-rich clouds that rose 1.5 km above the crater drifted NW causing ashfall in most parts of Rabaul town and in areas between Toliap and Nonga (10 km NW). GPS measurements on Matupit Island continued to show long-term inflation; about 10-11 cm of uplift had been recorded since August 2010.

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.

Source: Rabaul Volcano Observatory (RVO)