The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report: December 4 - 10, 2019

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report: December 4 - 10, 2019

New activity/unrest was reported for 3 volcanoes from December 4 to 10, 2019. During the same period, ongoing activity was reported for 10 volcanoes.

New activity/unrest: Nishinoshima, Japan | Semisopochnoi, United States | White Island, North Island (New Zealand).

Ongoing activity: Aira, Kyushu (Japan) | Dukono, Halmahera (Indonesia) | Ebeko, Paramushir Island (Russia) | Karangetang, Siau Island (Indonesia) | Klyuchevskoy, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Reventador, Ecuador | Sangay, Ecuador | Sangeang Api, Indonesia | Sheveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Shishaldin, Fox Islands (USA).

New activity/unrest

Nishinoshima, Japan

27.247°N, 140.874°E, Summit elev. 25 m

A thermal anomaly at Nishinoshima was identified in satellite images on 5 December, prompting JMA to expand the marine exclusion zone around the island to 1.5 km. The Japan Coast Guard (JCG) conducted an overflight the next day and observed Strombolian explosions ejecting blocks as high as 200 m above a crater on the E side of the central pyroclastic cone. Lava flows had traveled to within 200 m of the coastline. Light gray eruption plumes drifted E. During an overflight on 7 December observers confirmed continuing Strombolian activity and saw lava entering the sea.

Geological summary: The small island of Nishinoshima was enlarged when several new islands coalesced during an eruption in 1973-74. Another eruption that began offshore in 2013 completely covered the previous exposed surface and enlarged the island again. Water discoloration has been observed on several occasions since. The island is the summit of a massive submarine volcano that has prominent satellitic peaks to the S, W, and NE. The summit of the southern cone rises to within 214 m of the sea surface 9 km SSE.

Semisopochnoi, United States

51.93°N, 179.58°E, Summit elev. 1221 m

Strong tremor at Semisopochnoi was recorded by local seismic and regional infrasound networks beginning at 0026 on 7 December, heralding the start of an eruption and prompting AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code to Orange and the Volcano Alert Level to Watch. The meteorological cloud deck over the volcano was at around 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l.; no ash signals were detected above this altitude. A period of intermittent explosions was detected, and afterwards seismicity remained elevated at least through 9 December.

Geological summary: Semisopochnoi, the largest subaerial volcano of the western Aleutians, is 20 km wide at sea level and contains an 8-km-wide caldera. It formed as a result of collapse of a low-angle, dominantly basaltic volcano following the eruption of a large volume of dacitic pumice. The high point of the island is 1221-m-high Anvil Peak, a double-peaked late-Pleistocene cone that forms much of the island's northern part. The three-peaked 774-m-high Mount Cerberus volcano was constructed during the Holocene within the caldera. Each of the peaks contains a summit crater; lava flows on the northern flank of Cerberus appear younger than those on the southern side. Other post-caldera volcanoes include the symmetrical 855-m-high Sugarloaf Peak SSE of the caldera and Lakeshore Cone, a small cinder cone at the edge of Fenner Lake in the NE part of the caldera. Most documented historical eruptions have originated from Cerberus, although Coats (1950) considered that both Sugarloaf and Lakeshore Cone within the caldera could have been active during historical time.

White Island, North Island (New Zealand)

37.52°S, 177.18°E, Summit elev. 294 m

A deadly and short-lived (1-2 minutes) eruption at White Island began around 1411 on 9 December, prompting GeoNet to raise the Alert Level to 4 and the Aviation Color Code to Orange. The eruption originated from the crater floor and generated an ash plume that rose 3.7 km (12,000 ft) above the vent. Ashfall was confined to the island and covered the crater floor based on webcam views. Activity waned after the event and within a few hours the Alert Level was lowered to 3. An exclusion zone extending just under 10 km around the island was emplaced for all (non-police) vessels.

The New Zealand Police stated that 47 local and international people in a tour group were on the island at the time of the eruption. A majority of the people in the group were seriously injured and taken to area hospitals; six were confirmed dead. On 10 December the police concluded that there likely were no additional survivors after several reconnaissance flights conducted post-eruption; nine people remained missing and assumed to be on the island.

On 10 December GeoNet reported that although seismic activity had dropped to low levels after the eruption, localized steaming and mud jetting continued from the active vents. Tremor significantly increased starting around 0400 on 11 December. Results from an overflight to collect gas emission data, along with other monitoring data collected over time, suggested that a shallow magma source was driving the tremor, gas emissions, and jetting activity.

Geological summary: The uninhabited White Island, also know as Whakaari in the Maori language, is the 2 x 2.4 km emergent summit of a 16 x 18 km submarine volcano in the Bay of Plenty about 50 km offshore of North Island. The island consists of two overlapping andesitic-to-dacitic stratovolcanoes. The summit crater appears to be breached to the SE, because the shoreline corresponds to the level of several notches in the SE crater wall. Volckner Rocks, sea stacks that are remnants of a lava dome, lie 5 km NW. Descriptions of eruptions since 1826 have included intermittent moderate phreatic, phreatomagmatic, and Strombolian eruptions; activity there also forms a prominent part of Maori legends. Formation of many new vents during the 19th and 20th centuries has produced rapid changes in crater floor topography. Collapse of the crater wall in 1914 produced a debris avalanche that buried buildings and workers at a sulfur-mining project. Explosive activity in December 2019 took place while tourists were present, resulting in many fatalities.

Ongoing activity

Aira, Kyushu (Japan)

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

JMA reported that incandescence from Minamidake Crater (at Aira Caldera’s Sakurajima volcano) was visible at night during 2-9 December. There were 15 explosions and four non-explosive eruptive events detected by the seismic network. Ash plumes rose 2.3-2.6 km above the crater rim and blocks were ejected as far as 1.7 km away. 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 and wind model data, and information from PVMBG, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 4-9 December ash plumes from Dukono rose to altitudes of 1.8-2.1 km (6,000-7,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted in multiple directions. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4), and the public was 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 30 November and 1-2 and 5 December that sent ash plumes up to 3 km (10,000 ft) a.s.l. Ash plumes drifted NE and 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.

Karangetang, Siau Island (Indonesia)

2.781°N, 125.407°E, Summit elev. 1797 m

PVMBG reported that during 2-8 December lava continued to effuse from Karangetang’s Main Crater (S), traveling as far as 1.8 km down the Nanitu, Pangi, and Sense drainages on the SW and W flanks. Sometimes dense white plumes rose to 200 m above the summit. Incandescence from both summit craters was visible at night. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4).

Geological summary: Karangetang (Api Siau) volcano lies at the northern end of the island of Siau, about 125 km NNE of the NE-most point of Sulawesi island. The stratovolcano contains five summit craters along a N-S line. It is one of Indonesia's most active volcanoes, with more than 40 eruptions recorded since 1675 and many additional small eruptions that were not documented in the historical record (Catalog of Active Volcanoes of the World: Neumann van Padang, 1951). Twentieth-century eruptions have included frequent explosive activity sometimes accompanied by pyroclastic flows and lahars. Lava dome growth has occurred in the summit craters; collapse of lava flow fronts have produced pyroclastic flows.

Klyuchevskoy, Central Kamchatka (Russia)

56.056°N, 160.642°E, Summit elev. 4754 m

KVERT reported that Strombolian activity at Klyuchevskoy was visible on 29 November and 1 December, the same days a weak thermal anomaly was identified in satellite images. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange.

Geological summary: Klyuchevskoy (also spelled Kliuchevskoi) is Kamchatka's highest and most active volcano. Since its origin about 6000 years ago, the beautifully symmetrical, 4835-m-high basaltic stratovolcano has produced frequent moderate-volume explosive and effusive eruptions without major periods of inactivity. It rises above a saddle NE of sharp-peaked Kamen volcano and lies SE of the broad Ushkovsky massif. More than 100 flank eruptions have occurred during the past roughly 3000 years, with most lateral craters and cones occurring along radial fissures between the unconfined NE-to-SE flanks of the conical volcano between 500 m and 3600 m elevation. The morphology of the 700-m-wide summit crater has been frequently modified by historical eruptions, which have been recorded since the late-17th century. Historical eruptions have originated primarily from the summit crater, but have also included numerous major explosive and effusive eruptions from flank craters.

Reventador, Ecuador

0.077°S, 77.656°W, Summit elev. 3562 m

IG reported that during 8-15 October seismic data from Reventador’s network indicated a high level of seismic activity, including explosions, long-period earthquakes, harmonic tremor, and signals indicating emissions. Weather sometimes prevented views of the summit area, although during clear conditions ash, gas, and steam plumes were visible rising sometimes higher than 1 km above the crater rim and drifting N, NW, W, and SW. Crater incandescence was periodically observed at night. Blocks rolled 500-700 m down the flanks in multiple directions during 7-10 December.

Geological summary: Reventador is the most frequently active of a chain of Ecuadorian volcanoes in the Cordillera Real, well east of the principal volcanic axis. The forested, dominantly andesitic Volcán El Reventador stratovolcano rises to 3562 m above the jungles of the western Amazon basin. A 4-km-wide caldera widely breached to the east was formed by edifice collapse and is partially filled by a young, unvegetated stratovolcano that rises about 1300 m above the caldera floor to a height comparable to the caldera rim. It has been the source of numerous lava flows as well as explosive eruptions that were visible from Quito in historical time. Frequent lahars in this region of heavy rainfall have constructed a debris plain on the eastern floor of the caldera. The largest historical eruption took place in 2002, producing a 17-km-high eruption column, pyroclastic flows that traveled up to 8 km, and lava flows from summit and flank vents.

Sangay, Ecuador

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

IG reported that the eruption at Sangay that began on 7 May was continuing as of 4 December without a notable increase or decrease in activity levels. Activity was concentrated at two eruptive centers: the Central Crater and the Ñuñurcu dome (located 190 m SSE of Central Crater). Sporadic explosions at Central Crater produced ash plumes that rose as high as 2 km above the crater rim and drifted mainly NE during the previous month. Minor ashfall was recorded in the towns of Alao (20 km NW), Cebadas (35 km WNW), and Guaguallá (Chimborazo province), in Macas (42 km SSE, Morona-Santiago province), and in the Azuay province. Almost continuous lava effusion from the Ñuñurcu dome fed lava flows that traveled down the SE flank.

Collapses along the margins of the lava flows generated small pyroclastic flows and small rockfalls that reached the upper channel of the Río Volcán. These deposits created dams which were remobilized by rainfall into lahars, which in turn partially dammed parts of the river at the confluence of the Río Upano. Parque Nacional Sangay and IG-EPN staff measured deposits at the confluence that were more than 2 m thick on 27 November; similar deposits were observed along a 16-km stretch upsteam. Sulfur dioxide emissions up to 640 tons/day were detected by satellite in recent weeks, and a strong sulfur odor was noted around 1 km above the crater rim during a 3 December overflight.

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.

Sangeang Api, Indonesia

8.2°S, 119.07°E, Summit elev. 1912 m

The Darwin VAAC reported that during 4-5 and 7-9 December discrete ash emissions from Sangeang Api rose to an altitude of 2.4 km (8,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NW, W, and SW. A thermal anomaly was visible on 27 November. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4).

Geological summary: Sangeang Api volcano, one of the most active in the Lesser Sunda Islands, forms a small 13-km-wide island off the NE coast of Sumbawa Island. Two large trachybasaltic-to-tranchyandesitic volcanic cones, Doro Api and Doro Mantoi, were constructed in the center and on the eastern rim, respectively, of an older, largely obscured caldera. Flank vents occur on the south side of Doro Mantoi and near the northern coast. Intermittent historical eruptions have been recorded since 1512, most of them during in the 20th century.

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 29 November-6 December. 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.

Shishaldin, Fox Islands (USA)

54.756°N, 163.97°W, Summit elev. 2857 m

AVO reported that elevated surface temperatures at Shishaldin were identified in satellite images during 3-4 December consistent with lava effusion, and a pilot confirmed active lava flows on the flank. Continuous tremor was recorded by the seismic network during 4-5 December. Seismicity, including Strombolian explosion signals, continued to increase until 2100 on 5 December and then afterwards was characterized by episodic tremor bursts and occasional Strombolian activity. Intermittent, very minor, and low-level ash or steam emissions near the summit and along the N flank were visible in clear webcam views on 5 December. A new lava flow had traveled 1.4 km down the NW flank. The eruption either slowed or paused during 6-7 December as evidenced by decreased seismicity and slightly elevated surface temperatures in satellite data. Temperatures again increased and were slightly elevated during 7-9 December, likely signifying renewed lava effusion. The Aviation Color Code remained at Orange and the Volcano Alert Level remained at Watch.

Geological summary: The beautifully symmetrical volcano of Shishaldin is the highest and one of the most active volcanoes of the Aleutian Islands. The 2857-m-high, glacier-covered volcano is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes along an E-W line in the eastern half of Unimak Island. The Aleuts named the volcano Sisquk, meaning "mountain which points the way when I am lost." A steady steam plume rises from its small summit crater. Constructed atop an older glacially dissected volcano, it is Holocene in age and largely basaltic in composition. Remnants of an older ancestral volcano are exposed on the west and NE sides at 1500-1800 m elevation. There are over two dozen pyroclastic cones on its NW flank, which is blanketed by massive aa lava flows. Frequent explosive activity, primarily consisting of strombolian ash eruptions from the small summit crater, but sometimes producing lava flows, has been recorded since the 18th century.

Source: GVP

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