Strong eruptions at Sakurajima volcano, Japan

Strong eruptions at Sakurajima volcano, Japan

Strong eruptions continue at Minamidake crater of Sakurajima volcano in Japan since April 27, 2020. A Level 3 near-crater warning is in effect in the area since 2016.

A strong explosion at 13:46 UTC (22:52 LT) on April 27 generated an ash plume that rose over 3 km (9 843 feet) above the crater rim and ejected blocks some 600 to 900 m (1 969 to 2 953 feet) from the top of the volcano. 

Incandescence has been visible at night since then.

At 21:00 UTC on May 1 (06:00 LT on May 2), JMA reported a powerful eruption as explosive activity continued from the active crater.

The dense dark ash plume reached around 2 743 m (9 000 feet) a.s.l., dispersing northward. Blocks were emitted as far as 900 m (2 952 feet) away.


Image credit: USGS/Landsat-8, Antonio Vecoli.

At 22:04 UTC on May 7 (07:04 LT on May 8), the volcano spewed a dense, dark ash plume up to 2 000 m (6 561 feet) above the summit.

The following day, at 20:32 UTC on May 8 (05:32 LT on May 9) it ejected ash plumes up to 4 200 m (13 780 feet) a.s.l. Blocks were ejected as far as 1 000 m (3 280 feet) away.

Yet another eruption was reported at 12:11 UTC (21:11 LT) on May 11. Ash was ejected around 2 450 m (8 000 feet) a.s.l., drifting northeast.

The volcano emits about 2 300 tonnes of sulfur dioxide per day, JMA said.

A Level-3 near-crater warning is in effect since February 5, 2016. Residents and tourists are urged to refrain from entering the danger zone.

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 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 4 850 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: EarthQuakes Time/Twitter


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