JMA raises alert level for Kirishimayama (Shinmoedake) volcano, Japan

JMA raises alert level for Kirishimayama (Shinmoedake) volcano, Japan

The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) has raised the alert level for Kirishimayama (Shinmoedake) volcano from Level 1 to Level 2 on January 2, 2020.

This is a Near-crater warning, urging residents and tourists to refrain from approaching the crater in Kobayashi, Miyazaki and Kirishima, Kagoshima.

The potential eruption could launch volcanic material and produce pyroclastic flows within 2 km (1.2 miles) from the crater.

JMA raised the alert due to increasing seismicity detected since evening (local time), with 20 earthquakes occurring as of 23:00 LT (14:00 UTC).

Kirishimayama at 11:53 UTC on January 3, 2020. Credit: JMA

The last time JMA detected an increase in the number of earthquakes under the volcano was on November 17 and 18, 2019. The Alert Level was raised from 1 to 2 on November 18. Seismicity returned to low levels after that, with no other data indicating increased activity.

No changes to geothermal areas on the crater floor and below cracks on the western flank were detected during a field survey on December 12, prompting JMA to lower the Alert Level to 1 on December 20.

The last eruption of this volcano took place from March 1 to June 27, 2018; Volcanic Explosivity Index of 3.

The eruption on June 22, 2018, ejected a column of ash up to 4.6 km (14 000 feet) above sea level, and volcanic material as far as 1.1 km (0.7 miles) from the crater.

This was the first explosive eruption of this volcano since 05:44 UTC on May 14. That eruption sent ash up to 7.6 km (25 000 feet) above sea level, making it nearly 1 km (3 280 feet) higher than the April 4th eruption and the highest since the eruptive phase began on March 1.


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Geological summary

Kirishimayama is a large group of more than 20 Quaternary volcanoes located north of Kagoshima Bay. The late-Pleistocene to Holocene dominantly andesitic group consists of stratovolcanoes, pyroclastic cones, maars, and underlying shield volcanoes located over an area of 20 x 30 km (12.4 - 18.6 miles).

The larger stratovolcanoes are scattered throughout the field, with the centrally located, 1700-m-high (5 577 feet) Karakunidake being the highest.

Onamiike and Miike, the two largest maars, are located SW of Karakunidake and at its far eastern end, respectively.

Holocene eruptions have been concentrated along an E-W line of vents from Miike to Ohachi, and at Shinmoedake to the NE. Frequent small-to-moderate explosive eruptions have been recorded since the 8th century. (GVP)

Featured image credit: MORI MORI

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