High-impact eruption at Manam volcano, ash to 15.2 km (50 000 feet) a.s.l., Papua New Guinea

High-impact eruption at Manam volcano, ash to 15.2 km (50 000 feet) a.s.l., Papua New Guinea

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A powerful eruption started at Papua New Guinea's Manam volcano around 04:48 UTC on January 23, 2019. The Aviation Color Code is Red.

The Darwin VAAC first reported the eruption at 04:49 UTC with ash estimated at a height of 12.2 km (40 000 feet) a.s.l.

The eruption is clearly ongoing despite widespread meteorological cloud in the area, the center said 05:32 UTC. Plume to 13.7 km (45 000 feet) appears to be moving W, lower-level emission to 7.6 km (25 000 feet) is moving northeast.

At 07:32 UTC, height was revised to 15.2 km (50 000 feet) and 6 km (20 000 feet) based on the movement of plumes. Volcanic ash to 15.2 km moving west remains discernible, However volcanic ash to 6 km, moving north and east, is obscured by meteorological cloud.

This volcano is experiencing similar high-impact eruptions over the past couple of months. The last one took place on January 11, 2019, with ash plume rising up to 15.2 km a.s.l. An even stronger eruption took place on January 7, up to 16.7 km (55 000 feet) a.s.l. It was the highest plume produced by the volcano since 2015 when VA rose to 19.8 km (65 000 feet) a.s.l.

A sudden, high-impact eruption took place on August 24, 2018, producing lava flows that forced 2 000 villagers to flee to safety.

A major eruption of this volcano forced the evacuation of some 9 000 people in 2004. Many of them still reside at a camp on the outskirts of Madang.

Geological summary

The 10-km-wide (6.2 miles) island of Manam, lying 13 km (8 miles) off the northern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea, is one of the country's most active volcanoes. Four large radial valleys extend from the unvegetated summit of the conical 1 807-m-high (5 928 feet) basaltic-andesitic stratovolcano to its lower flanks.

These "avalanche valleys" channel lava flows and pyroclastic avalanches that have sometimes reached the coast. Five small satellitic centers are located near the island's shoreline on the northern, southern, and western sides. 

Two summit craters are present; both are active, although most historical eruptions have originated from the southern crater, concentrating eruptive products during much of the past century into the SE valley.

Frequent historical eruptions, typically of mild-to-moderate scale, have been recorded since 1616. Occasional larger eruptions have produced pyroclastic flows and lava flows that reached flat-lying coastal areas and entered the sea, sometimes impacting populated areas. (GVP)

Featured image: Manam erupting on December 8, 2019. Credit: Brian Malone

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