The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report: December 12 - 18, 2018

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report: December 12 - 18, 2018

New activity/unrest was reported for 4 volcanoes between December 12 and 18, 2018. During the same period, ongoing activity was reported for 14 volcanoes.

New activity/unrest: Ambrym, Vanuatu | Cleveland, Chuginadak Island (USA) | Planchon-Peteroa, Central Chile-Argentina border | Soputan, Sulawesi (Indonesia)

Ongoing activity: Aira, Kyushu (Japan) | Dukono, Halmahera (Indonesia) | Ebeko, Paramushir Island (Russia) | Krakatau, Indonesia | Kuchinoerabujima, Ryukyu Islands (Japan) | Merapi, Central Java (Indonesia) | Pacaya, Guatemala | Sabancaya, Peru | Sangay, Ecuador | Sheveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Turrialba, Costa Rica | Veniaminof, United States

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program. Updated by 23:00 UTC every Wednesday, notices of volcanic activity posted are preliminary and subject to change as events are studied in more detail. This is not a comprehensive list of all of Earth's volcanoes erupting during the week. Carefully reviewed, detailed reports on various volcanoes are published monthly in the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network.

New activity/unrest

Ambrym, Vanuatu

16.25°S, 168.12°E, Summit elev. 1334 m

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards Department (VMGD) reported that a fissure eruption in the ESE part of the Ambrym summit caldera near the Lewlembwi crater (4 km SE of Marum) began at 0600 on 15 December, heralded by elevated seismicity detected by the seismic network and ash emissions visible in the webcam. A notice issued later that day by VMGD stated that lava flows and lava fountains were visible, and explosions were occurring. John Tasso, a local guide, visited the caldera a few hours after the new activity started and observed lava fountains from a fissure eruption; his video was posted to his website. The lava fountains were about 40 m high; lava flows spread to the E part of the caldera. Although partially obscured by a steam plume directly above the eruption site, infrared imagery from the Sentinel-2 satellite on 15 December showed lava filling much of the 500 x 900 m Lewlembwi crater and a lava flow almost as large a few hundred meters SW of that crater. VMGD raised the Alert Level to 3 and stated that the eruption was characterized as “small scale.” The eruption continued during 16-17 December, though reports on 17 December only described ongoing ash-and-gas emissions.

Geological summary: Ambrym, a large basaltic volcano with a 12-km-wide caldera, is one of the most active volcanoes of the New Hebrides arc. A thick, almost exclusively pyroclastic sequence, initially dacitic, then basaltic, overlies lava flows of a pre-caldera shield volcano. The caldera was formed during a major plinian eruption with dacitic pyroclastic flows about 1900 years ago. Post-caldera eruptions, primarily from Marum and Benbow cones, have partially filled the caldera floor and produced lava flows that ponded on the caldera floor or overflowed through gaps in the caldera rim. Post-caldera eruptions have also formed a series of scoria cones and maars along a fissure system oriented ENE-WSW. Eruptions have apparently occurred almost yearly during historical time from cones within the caldera or from flank vents. However, from 1850 to 1950, reporting was mostly limited to extra-caldera eruptions that would have affected local populations.

Cleveland, Chuginadak Island (USA)

52.825°N, 169.944°W, Summit elev. 1730 m

A small explosion at Cleveland was recorded by the seismic network at 1155 on 8 December. A second small explosion with a higher peak amplitude was detected at 1153 on 12 December, prompting AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code to Orange and the Volcano Alert Level to Watch. No ash cloud was observed, though weather clouds obscured views of the volcano. Elevated surface temperatures were visible in satellite data on 15 December. A small explosion which occurred at 0737 on 16 December generated a minor ash cloud that drifted NE.

Geological summary: The beautifully symmetrical Mount Cleveland stratovolcano is situated at the western end of the uninhabited, dumbbell-shaped Chuginadak Island. It lies SE across Carlisle Pass strait from Carlisle volcano and NE across Chuginadak Pass strait from Herbert volcano. Joined to the rest of Chuginadak Island by a low isthmus, Cleveland is the highest of the Islands of the Four Mountains group and is one of the most active of the Aleutian Islands. The native name, Chuginadak, refers to the Aleut goddess of fire, who was thought to reside on the volcano. Numerous large lava flows descend the steep-sided flanks. It is possible that some 18th-to-19th century eruptions attributed to Carlisle should be ascribed to Cleveland (Miller et al., 1998). In 1944 Cleveland produced the only known fatality from an Aleutian eruption. Recent eruptions have been characterized by short-lived explosive ash emissions, at times accompanied by lava fountaining and lava flows down the flanks.

Planchon-Peteroa, Central Chile-Argentina border

35.223°S, 70.568°W, Summit elev. 3977 m

Observatorio Volcanológico de los Andes del Sur (OVDAS)-SERNAGEOMIN and ONEMI reported increased activity at Planchón-Peteroa beginning in the morning of 16 December. Low-intensity pulses of tremor were detected by the seismic network and associated with pulsating grayish gas emissions which rose no higher than 800 m above the vent rim. Webcams recorded crater incandescence during the night of 15-16 December. The Alert Level remained at Yellow (the middle level on a three-color scale) for the volcano, and ONEMI maintained Alert Level Yellow for the communities of Molina (66 WNW), Curicó (68 km NW), Romeral (75 km NW), and Teno (68 km NW).

Geological summary: Planchón-Peteroa is an elongated complex volcano along the Chile-Argentina border with several overlapping calderas. Activity began in the Pleistocene with construction of the basaltic-andesite to dacitic Volcán Azufre, followed by formation of basaltic and basaltic-andesite Volcán Planchón, 6 km to the north. About 11,500 years ago, much of Azufre and part of Planchón collapsed, forming the massive Río Teno debris avalanche, which traveled 95 km to reach Chile's Central Valley. Subsequently, Volcán Planchón II was formed. The youngest volcano, andesitic and basaltic-andesite Volcán Peteroa, consists of scattered vents between Azufre and Planchón. Peteroa has been active into historical time and contains a small steaming crater lake. Historical eruptions from the complex have been dominantly explosive, although lava flows were erupted in 1837 and 1937.

Soputan, Sulawesi (Indonesia)

1.112°N, 124.737°E, Summit elev. 1785 m

PVMBG reported that seismic activity at Soputan rapidly and significantly increased at 1700 on 15 December. An eruption began at 0102 on 16 December though dark and foggy conditions prevented views of emissions. The event lasted for almost 10 minutes, and thunderous sounds were heard at the Soputan Volcano Observation Post located in Silian Raya (about 10 km SW). The conditions improved about two hours later, and a dense ash plume was visible rising 3 km above the summit and drifting SE. Incandescence from the summit was also visible. An event that began at 0540 produced dense gray-to-black ash plumes that rose as high as 7 km above the summit and drifted SE. The event lasted for 6 minutes and 10 seconds based on the seismic network. Ash plumes from events at 0743 and 0857 rose as high as 7.5 km and drifted SW. The Alert Level remained at 3 (on a scale of 1-4). Residents and tourists were advised not to approach the craters within a radius of 4 km, or 6.5 km on the WSW flank.

Geological summary: The Soputan stratovolcano on the southern rim of the Quaternary Tondano caldera on the northern arm of Sulawesi Island is one of Sulawesi's most active volcanoes. The youthful, largely unvegetated volcano rises to 1784 m and is located SW of Riendengan-Sempu, which some workers have included with Soputan and Manimporok (3.5 km ESE) as a volcanic complex. It was constructed at the southern end of a SSW-NNE trending line of vents. During historical time the locus of eruptions has included both the summit crater and Aeseput, a prominent NE-flank vent that formed in 1906 and was the source of intermittent major lava flows until 1924.

Ongoing activity

Aira, Kyushu (Japan)

31.593°N, 130.657°E, Summit elev. 1117 m

JMA reported that there were seven events and an additional five explosions at Minamidake crater (at Aira Caldera’s Sakurajima volcano) during 10-17 December, with ash plumes rising as high as 2 km above the crater rim and material ejected as far as 700 m. Crater incandescence was occasionally visible at night. The Alert Level remained at 3 (on a 5-level scale).

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.

Dukono, Halmahera (Indonesia)

1.693°N, 127.894°E, Summit elev. 1229 m

Based on satellite data, wind model data, and notices from PVMBG, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 14 and 16-17 December ash plumes from Dukono rose to altitudes of 1.5-2.1 km (5,000-7,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted mainly SW, S, and SE. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4), and visitors were warned to remain outside of the 2-km exclusion zone.

Geological summary: Reports from this remote volcano in northernmost Halmahera are rare, but Dukono has been one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes. More-or-less continuous explosive eruptions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows, occurred from 1933 until at least the mid-1990s, when routine observations were curtailed. During a major eruption in 1550, a lava flow filled in the strait between Halmahera and the north-flank cone of Gunung Mamuya. This complex volcano presents a broad, low profile with multiple summit peaks and overlapping craters. Malupang Wariang, 1 km SW of the summit crater complex, contains a 700 x 570 m crater that has also been active during historical time.

Ebeko, Paramushir Island (Russia)

50.686°N, 156.014°E, Summit elev. 1103 m

Volcanologists in Severo-Kurilsk (Paramushir Island), about 7 km E of Ebeko, observed explosions during 7-14 December that sent ash plumes to 3.5 km (11,500 ft) a.s.l. Ash plumes drifted E. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange (the second highest level on a four-color scale).

Geological summary: The flat-topped summit of the central cone of Ebeko volcano, one of the most active in the Kuril Islands, occupies the northern end of Paramushir Island. Three summit craters located along a SSW-NNE line form Ebeko volcano proper, at the northern end of a complex of five volcanic cones. Blocky lava flows extend west from Ebeko and SE from the neighboring Nezametnyi cone. The eastern part of the southern crater contains strong solfataras and a large boiling spring. The central crater is filled by a lake about 20 m deep whose shores are lined with steaming solfataras; the northern crater lies across a narrow, low barrier from the central crater and contains a small, cold crescentic lake. Historical activity, recorded since the late-18th century, has been restricted to small-to-moderate explosive eruptions from the summit craters. Intense fumarolic activity occurs in the summit craters, on the outer flanks of the cone, and in lateral explosion craters.

Krakatau, Indonesia

6.102°S, 105.423°E, Summit elev. 813 m

PVMBG reported that events at Anak Krakatau were recorded at 1445 on 14 December and 1823 on 18 December, producing ash plumes that rose 200 and 300 m above the summit and drifted NE and E, respectively. The event on 14 December lasted 48 seconds and the ash plume was dense and black. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4), and residents were warned to remain outside of the 2-km radius hazard zone from the crater.

Geological summary: The renowned volcano Krakatau (frequently misstated as Krakatoa) lies in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. Collapse of the ancestral Krakatau edifice, perhaps in 416 CE, formed a 7-km-wide caldera. Remnants of this ancestral volcano are preserved in Verlaten and Lang Islands; subsequently Rakata, Danan and Perbuwatan volcanoes were formed, coalescing to create the pre-1883 Krakatau Island. Caldera collapse during the catastrophic 1883 eruption destroyed Danan and Perbuwatan volcanoes, and left only a remnant of Rakata volcano. This eruption, the 2nd largest in Indonesia during historical time, caused more than 36,000 fatalities, most as a result of devastating tsunamis that swept the adjacent coastlines of Sumatra and Java. Pyroclastic surges traveled 40 km across the Sunda Strait and reached the Sumatra coast. After a quiescence of less than a half century, the post-collapse cone of Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatau) was constructed within the 1883 caldera at a point between the former cones of Danan and Perbuwatan. Anak Krakatau has been the site of frequent eruptions since 1927.

Kuchinoerabujima, Ryukyu Islands (Japan)

30.443°N, 130.217°E, Summit elev. 657 m

JMA reported that at 1637 on 18 December an eruption at Kuchinoerabujima’s Shindake Crater produced an ash plume that rose 2 km and then disappeared into a weather cloud. The event ejected material that fell in the crater area, and generated a pyroclastic flow that traveled 1 km W. The Alert Level remained at 3 (on a scale of 1-5).

Geological summary: A group of young stratovolcanoes forms the eastern end of the irregularly shaped island of Kuchinoerabujima in the northern Ryukyu Islands, 15 km west of Yakushima. The Furudake, Shindake, and Noikeyama cones were erupted from south to north, respectively, forming a composite cone with multiple craters. The youngest cone, centrally-located Shintake, formed after the NW side of Furutake was breached by an explosion. All historical eruptions have occurred from Shintake, although a lava flow from the S flank of Furutake that reached the coast has a very fresh morphology. Frequent explosive eruptions have taken place from Shintake since 1840; the largest of these was in December 1933. Several villages on the 4 x 12 km island are located within a few kilometers of the active crater and have suffered damage from eruptions.

Merapi, Central Java (Indonesia)

7.54°S, 110.446°E, Summit elev. 2910 m

PVMBG reported that during 7-13 December the lava dome in Merapi’s summit crater grew at a rate of 2,200 cubic meters per day. By 13 December the volume of the dome, based on photos taken from the SE, was an estimated 359,000 cubic meters. White emissions of variable density rose a maximum of 200 m above the summit. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4), and residents were warned to remain outside of the 3-km exclusion zone.

Geological summary: Merapi, one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, lies in one of the world's most densely populated areas and dominates the landscape immediately north of the major city of Yogyakarta. It is the youngest and southernmost of a volcanic chain extending NNW to Ungaran volcano. Growth of Old Merapi during the Pleistocene ended with major edifice collapse perhaps about 2000 years ago, leaving a large arcuate scarp cutting the eroded older Batulawang volcano. Subsequently growth of the steep-sided Young Merapi edifice, its upper part unvegetated due to frequent eruptive activity, began SW of the earlier collapse scarp. Pyroclastic flows and lahars accompanying growth and collapse of the steep-sided active summit lava dome have devastated cultivated lands on the western-to-southern flanks and caused many fatalities during historical time.

Pacaya, Guatemala

14.382°N, 90.601°W, Summit elev. 2569 m

In a special notice posted on 13 December INSIVUMEH reported that rumbling at Pacaya was heard within a radius of 8 km, and weak Strombolian explosions at Mackenney Crater ejected material as high as 50 m above the crater rim. Active lava flows were 200-300 m in length and traveled down the NW flank, generating avalanches of blocks that were as large as 1 m in diameter. The report also noted that the cone in the crater continued to grow, filling the crater, and was 75 m above the crater rim. During 15-16 December lava continued to flow NW and Strombolian explosions ejected material 5-25 m high.

Geological summary: Eruptions from Pacaya, one of Guatemala's most active volcanoes, are frequently visible from Guatemala City, the nation's capital. This complex basaltic volcano was constructed just outside the southern topographic rim of the 14 x 16 km Pleistocene Amatitlán caldera. A cluster of dacitic lava domes occupies the southern caldera floor. The post-caldera Pacaya massif includes the ancestral Pacaya Viejo and Cerro Grande stratovolcanoes and the currently active Mackenney stratovolcano. Collapse of Pacaya Viejo between 600 and 1500 years ago produced a debris-avalanche deposit that extends 25 km onto the Pacific coastal plain and left an arcuate somma rim inside which the modern Pacaya volcano (Mackenney cone) grew. A subsidiary crater, Cerro Chino, was constructed on the NW somma rim and was last active in the 19th century. During the past several decades, activity has consisted of frequent strombolian eruptions with intermittent lava flow extrusion that has partially filled in the caldera moat and armored the flanks of Mackenney cone, punctuated by occasional larger explosive eruptions that partially destroy the summit of the growing young stratovolcano.

Sabancaya, Peru

15.787°S, 71.857°W, Summit elev. 5960 m

Observatorio Vulcanológico del Sur del IGP (OVS-IGP) and Observatorio Vulcanológico del INGEMMET (OVI) reported that an average of 18 explosions per day occurred at Sabancaya during 10-16 December. Long-period seismic events were recorded, and hybrid earthquakes were infrequent and of low magnitude. Gas-and-ash plumes rose as high as 2.2 km above the crater rim and drifted 40 km W and SW. MIROVA detected five thermal anomalies, and on 13 December the sulfur-dioxide gas flux was high at 3,100 tons per day. The report noted that the public should not approach the crater within a 12-km radius.

Geological summary: Sabancaya, located in the saddle NE of Ampato and SE of Hualca Hualca volcanoes, is the youngest of these volcanic centers and the only one to have erupted in historical time. The oldest of the three, Nevado Hualca Hualca, is of probable late-Pliocene to early Pleistocene age. The name Sabancaya (meaning "tongue of fire" in the Quechua language) first appeared in records in 1595 CE, suggesting activity prior to that date. Holocene activity has consisted of Plinian eruptions followed by emission of voluminous andesitic and dacitic lava flows, which form an extensive apron around the volcano on all sides but the south. Records of historical eruptions date back to 1750.

Sangay, Ecuador

2.005°S, 78.341°W, Summit elev. 5286 m

IG reported that the eruption at Sangay that began on 8 August ended on 7 December after about four months of activity. The eruption was characterized by the extrusion of lava flows, and ash emissions that rose between 0.5-1.4 km (and occasionally higher than 2 km) and mainly drifted W and NW. Minor amounts of ash fell in Guayaquil on 18 September. Lava flows traveled 1-2 km down the ESE flank, and both block avalanches and possible small pyroclastic flows from the flow fronts traveled additionally as far as 7 km.

Geological summary: The isolated Sangay volcano, located east of the Andean crest, is the southernmost of Ecuador's volcanoes and its most active. The steep-sided, glacier-covered, dominantly andesitic volcano grew within horseshoe-shaped calderas of two previous edifices, which were destroyed by collapse to the east, producing large debris avalanches that reached the Amazonian lowlands. The modern edifice dates back to at least 14,000 years ago. It towers above the tropical jungle on the east side; on the other sides flat plains of ash have been sculpted by heavy rains into steep-walled canyons up to 600 m deep. The earliest report of a historical eruption was in 1628. More or less continuous eruptions were reported from 1728 until 1916, and again from 1934 to the present. The almost constant activity has caused frequent changes to the morphology of the summit crater complex.

Sheveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia)

56.653°N, 161.36°E, Summit elev. 3283 m

KVERT reported that a thermal anomaly over Sheveluch was identified in satellite images during 7-8 and 11-13 December. A small explosion, recorded at 1222 on 12 December, generated an ash plume that rose 6.5-6.8 km (21,300-22,300 ft) a.s.l. That same day a gas-and-steam plume, containing a small amount of ash and drifting 150 km NE, was visible in satellite data. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange (the second highest level on a four-color scale).

Geological summary: The high, isolated massif of Sheveluch volcano (also spelled Shiveluch) rises above the lowlands NNE of the Kliuchevskaya volcano group. The 1300 km3 volcano is one of Kamchatka's largest and most active volcanic structures. The summit of roughly 65,000-year-old Stary Shiveluch is truncated by a broad 9-km-wide late-Pleistocene caldera breached to the south. Many lava domes dot its outer flanks. The Molodoy Shiveluch lava dome complex was constructed during the Holocene within the large horseshoe-shaped caldera; Holocene lava dome extrusion also took place on the flanks of Stary Shiveluch. At least 60 large eruptions have occurred during the Holocene, making it the most vigorous andesitic volcano of the Kuril-Kamchatka arc. Widespread tephra layers from these eruptions have provided valuable time markers for dating volcanic events in Kamchatka. Frequent collapses of dome complexes, most recently in 1964, have produced debris avalanches whose deposits cover much of the floor of the breached caldera.

Turrialba, Costa Rica

10.025°N, 83.767°W, Summit elev. 3340 m

OVSICORI-UNA reported semi-continuous activity at Turrialba during 11-16 December. Ash emissions rose as high as 500 m above the vent rim and drifted NW and SW during 11-12 December. Ashfall was reported in Guadalupe (32 km WSW) on 13 December. Pulsing ash emissions were visible on 13 December and caused ashfall in areas of Valle Central. During 14-16 December emissions had diffuse amounts of ash and drifted W and SW.

Geological summary: Turrialba, the easternmost of Costa Rica's Holocene volcanoes, is a large vegetated basaltic-to-dacitic stratovolcano located across a broad saddle NE of Irazú volcano overlooking the city of Cartago. The massive edifice covers an area of 500 km2. Three well-defined craters occur at the upper SW end of a broad 800 x 2200 m summit depression that is breached to the NE. Most activity originated from the summit vent complex, but two pyroclastic cones are located on the SW flank. Five major explosive eruptions have occurred during the past 3500 years. A series of explosive eruptions during the 19th century were sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows. Fumarolic activity continues at the central and SW summit craters.

Veniaminof, United States

56.17°N, 159.38°W, Summit elev. 2507 m

AVO reported that seismic data indicated that the eruption of lava from the cone in Veniaminof’s ice-filled summit caldera possibly paused on 6 December. Satellite data acquired on 10 December suggested lava effusion had stopped, though weak explosive activity from the vent possibly still occurred. No eruptive activity was evident in satellite and webcam images on the morning of 13 December. However, beginning in the afternoon intermittent tremor appeared and gradually became continuous. A plume, possibly containing ash, and elevated surface temperatures were identified in satellite and webcam images. A strong thermal anomaly was visible in satellite and webcam data during 14-15 December, and together with an eruption plume, was consistent with lava fountaining at the summit vent. By 16 December a lava flow was erupting from the vent. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange (the second highest level on a four-color scale) and the Volcano Alert Level remained at Watch (the second highest level on a four-level scale).

Geological summary: Massive Veniaminof volcano, one of the highest and largest volcanoes on the Alaska Peninsula, is truncated by a steep-walled, 8 x 11 km, glacier-filled caldera that formed around 3700 years ago. The caldera rim is up to 520 m high on the north, is deeply notched on the west by Cone Glacier, and is covered by an ice sheet on the south. Post-caldera vents are located along a NW-SE zone bisecting the caldera that extends 55 km from near the Bering Sea coast, across the caldera, and down the Pacific flank. Historical eruptions probably all originated from the westernmost and most prominent of two intra-caldera cones, which rises about 300 m above the surrounding icefield. The other cone is larger, and has a summit crater or caldera that may reach 2.5 km in diameter, but is more subdued and barely rises above the glacier surface.

Source: GVP

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