Strongest eruption at Sakurajima since 2016, ash to 6.7 km (22 000 feet) a.s.l., Japan

Strongest eruption at Sakurajima since 2016, ash to 6.7 km (22 000 feet) a.s.l., Japan

The activity at the Sakurajima volcano has been increasing during the past few weeks, particularly since the end of October 2019. A strong eruption on November 8 generated an ash plume up to 6.7 km (22 000 feet). This is the largest eruption at the volcano since July 2016.

The eruption took place at 08:24 UTC (17:24 LT) at the volcano's 1 km (0.62 miles) high Minamidake summit crater, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, adding that the last similar eruption took place in July 2016.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, Kagoshima Prefecture officials said.

Vulcanian-type explosions have been occurring at rates of four to six times per day on average, mainly from the Minamidake summit crater. This often produces ash plumes that typically go up to 3 km (10 000 feet) or even higher.

sakurajima-volcano

Image credit: @volcanohull

A part of volcanic ash cloud to 6.7 km (22 000 feet) a.s.l. is obscured by meteorological cloud but it's otherwise continuously observed in satellite imagery, as of 18:00 UTC.

Sakurajima erupting on November 8, 2019. Credit: ESA/Sentinel-2, Anamaria Luongo

JMA reported that incandescence from the Minamidake crater at Aira Caldera was visible at night from October 28 to November 5. There were 32 explosions and 16 non-explosive eruptive events detected by the seismic network. 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 (10.5 x 14.3 miles) 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 13000 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 (5 miles) from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76. (GVP)

Featured image credit: Sakurajima erupting on November 8, 2019. Credit: ESA/Sentinel-2, Anamaria Luongo

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