The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report: September 23 - 29, 2020

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report: September 23 - 29, 2020

New activity/unrest was reported for 2 volcanoes from September 23 - 29, 2020. During the same period, ongoing activity was reported for 12 volcanoes.

New activity/unrest: Grimsvotn, Iceland | Sangay, Ecuador.

Ongoing activity: Aira, Kyushu (Japan) | Copahue, Central Chile-Argentina border | Dukono, Halmahera (Indonesia) | Ebeko, Paramushir Island (Russia) | Ibu, Halmahera (Indonesia) | Laguna del Maule, Central Chile-Argentina border | Langila, New Britain (Papua New Guinea) | Nevados de Chillan, Chile | Sabancaya, Peru | Sheveluch, Central Kamchatka (Russia) | Suwanosejima, Ryukyu Islands (Japan) | Villarrica, Chile.

The Weekly Volcanic Activity Report is a cooperative project between the Smithsonian's Global Volcanism Program and the US Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program. Updated by 23:00 UTC every Wednesday, these reports are preliminary and subject to change as events are studied in more detail. This is not a comprehensive list of all of Earth's volcanoes erupting during the week, but rather a summary of activity at volcanoes that meet criteria discussed in detail in the "Criteria and Disclaimers" section. Carefully reviewed, detailed reports about recent activity are published in issues of the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network.

New activity/unrest

Grimsvotn, Iceland

64.416°N, 17.316°W, Summit elev. 1719 m

The Icelandic Meteorological Office raised the Aviation Color Code for Grímsvötn to Yellow on 30 September, noting that activity had been increasing over time and was above background levels. The report stated that seismicity increased over the past month, cauldrons had deepened in several places around the caldera signifying increased geothermal activity, surface deformation surpassed the level prior to the 2011 eruption, and magmatic gases were present in emissions over the summer. Additionally, water levels in the subglacial lake were comparable to levels prior to floods in 2004 and 2010.

Geological summary: Grímsvötn, Iceland's most frequently active volcano in historical time, lies largely beneath the vast Vatnajökull icecap. The caldera lake is covered by a 200-m-thick ice shelf, and only the southern rim of the 6 x 8 km caldera is exposed. The geothermal area in the caldera causes frequent jökulhlaups (glacier outburst floods) when melting raises the water level high enough to lift its ice dam. Long NE-SW-trending fissure systems extend from the central volcano. The most prominent of these is the noted Laki (Skaftar) fissure, which extends to the SW and produced the world's largest known historical lava flow during an eruption in 1783. The 15-cu-km basaltic Laki lavas were erupted over a 7-month period from a 27-km-long fissure system. Extensive crop damage and livestock losses caused a severe famine that resulted in the loss of one-fifth of the population of Iceland.

Sangay, Ecuador

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

IG issued a report with additional information about the large explosive event at Sangay on 20 September. The event began at 0440 and ended at 0610 and produced an ash plume that rose 15 km (49,200 ft) a.s.l., or about 9.7 km above the summit. The lower part of the plume was the most ash-rich and drifted W, causing significant ashfall in areas W (especially in the Cebadas parish, Guamote district). The gas-rich higher part of the plume drifted E. Parts of the plume also drifted S. Researchers visited several sites to measure ashfall and collect samples, allowing them to estimate the volume of the deposits at 1.5-3.4 million cubic meters, signifying a VEI 2 event.

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.

Ongoing activity

Aira, Kyushu (Japan)

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

JMA reported that very small eruptive events at Minamidake Crater (at Aira Caldera’s Sakurajima volcano) were occasionally recorded during 14-21 September. Crater incandescence was visible at night. The daily sulfur dioxide emission rate was high at 2,000 tons per day on 25 September. 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.

Copahue, Central Chile-Argentina border

37.856°S, 71.183°W, Summit elev. 2953 m

SERNAGEOMIN reported continuing activity at Copahue during 1-15 September. Webcams recorded gas-and-ash plumes rising as high as 1.1 km, sometimes associated with nighttime crater incandescence. The plumes drifted 6-15 km SW and SE. Sulfur dioxide emissions were high, averaging 1,499 tonnes per day (ranging from 1,148 to 1,850 tonnes per day), with a high value of 3,435 on 12 September. Two thermal anomalies were identified in satellite images. The Alert Level was remained at Yellow (the second lowest level on a four-color scale). ONEMI maintained the Yellow Alert (the middle level on a three-color scale) for residents of the Alto Biobío municipality and access to an area within 1 km of El Agrio Crater was restricted to the public.

Geological summary: Volcán Copahue is an elongated composite cone constructed along the Chile-Argentina border within the 6.5 x 8.5 km wide Trapa-Trapa caldera that formed between 0.6 and 0.4 million years ago near the NW margin of the 20 x 15 km Pliocene Caviahue (Del Agrio) caldera. The eastern summit crater, part of a 2-km-long, ENE-WSW line of nine craters, contains a briny, acidic 300-m-wide crater lake (also referred to as El Agrio or Del Agrio) and displays intense fumarolic activity. Acidic hot springs occur below the eastern outlet of the crater lake, contributing to the acidity of the Río Agrio, and another geothermal zone is located within Caviahue caldera about 7 km NE of the summit. Infrequent mild-to-moderate explosive eruptions have been recorded since the 18th century. Twentieth-century eruptions from the crater lake have ejected pyroclastic rocks and chilled liquid sulfur fragments.

Dukono, Halmahera (Indonesia)

1.693°N, 127.894°E, Summit elev. 1229 m

Based on satellite and wind model data, the Darwin VAAC reported that during 23-28 September ash plumes from Dukono rose 2.1 km (7,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted W and WNW. 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 20-23 September that sent ash plumes up to 3.5 km (11,500 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SE, E, and NE. A thermal anomaly over the volcano was visible in satellite data on 21 and 22 September. 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.

Ibu, Halmahera (Indonesia)

1.488°N, 127.63°E, Summit elev. 1325 m

PVMBG reported that at 0554 on 26 September a white-to-gray ash plume from Ibu rose 600 m and drifted S. At 0641 on 27 September and at 0554 on 28 September ash plumes rose 500 m and drifted N. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a scale of 1-4), and the public was warned to stay at least 2 km away from the active crater, and 3.5 km away on the N side.

Geological summary: The truncated summit of Gunung Ibu stratovolcano along the NW coast of Halmahera Island has large nested summit craters. The inner crater, 1 km wide and 400 m deep, contained several small crater lakes through much of historical time. The outer crater, 1.2 km wide, is breached on the north side, creating a steep-walled valley. A large parasitic cone is located ENE of the summit. A smaller one to the WSW has fed a lava flow down the W flank. A group of maars is located below the N and W flanks. Only a few eruptions have been recorded in historical time, the first a small explosive eruption from the summit crater in 1911. An eruption producing a lava dome that eventually covered much of the floor of the inner summit crater began in December 1998.

Laguna del Maule, Central Chile-Argentina border

36.058°S, 70.492°W, Summit elev. 2162 m

SERNAGEOMIN reported that during 1-15 September inflation continued to be detected at the Laguna del Maule Volcanic Complex, although at a lower rate of 0.7 cm per month which is below the 2 cm per month average for this year. Seismicity in the S sector was low in both number and magnitude of events. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the second lowest color on a four-color scale, as activity remained above baselines. ONEMI recommended restricted access within a radius of 2 km from the emission center.

Geological summary: The 15 x 25 km wide Laguna del Maule caldera contains a cluster of small stratovolcanoes, lava domes, and pyroclastic cones of Pleistocene-to-Holocene age. The caldera lies mostly on the Chilean side of the border, but partially extends into Argentina. Fourteen Pleistocene basaltic lava flows were erupted down the upper part of the Maule river valley. A cluster of Pleistocene cinder cones was constructed on the NW side of the Maule lake, which occupies part of the northern portion of the caldera. The latest activity produced an explosion crater on the E side of the lake and a series of Holocene rhyolitic lava domes and blocky lava flows that surround it.

Langila, New Britain (Papua New Guinea)

5.525°S, 148.42°E, Summit elev. 1330 m

Based on analyses of satellite imagery and wind-model data, the Darwin VAAC reported that on 23 September an ash plume from Langila rose to an altitude of 2.7 km (9,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted NW.

Geological summary: Langila, one of the most active volcanoes of New Britain, consists of a group of four small overlapping composite basaltic-andesitic cones on the lower E flank of the extinct Talawe volcano in the Cape Gloucester area of NW New Britain. A rectangular, 2.5-km-long crater is breached widely to the SE; Langila was constructed NE of the breached crater of Talawe. An extensive lava field reaches the coast on the N and NE sides of Langila. Frequent mild-to-moderate explosive eruptions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows, have been recorded since the 19th century from three active craters at the summit. The youngest and smallest crater (no. 3 crater) was formed in 1960 and has a diameter of 150 m.

Nevados de Chillan, Chile

36.868°S, 71.378°W, Summit elev. 3180 m

SERNAGEOMIN reported that activity at Nevados de Chillán’s Nicanor Crater was ongoing during 1-15 September. Explosions at the lava dome in the crater produced plumes that rose less than 1.5 km. Ashfall was mainly distributed within 300 m E and NE. Deposits from larger explosions were visible to the ESE. Incandescence at the E part of the crater was visible. The lava flow on the NNE flank (L5) was 500 m long and was advancing at a rate of 1.7 meters per hour by 15 September. The W levee of the flow channel ruptured, causing the channel to widen and the toe of the flow to thicken. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the second lowest level on a four-color scale, and residents were reminded not to approach the crater within 3 km. ONEMI stated that Alert Level Yellow (the middle level on a three-color scale) remained in place for the communities of Pinto and Coihueco, noting that the public should stay at least 3 km away from the crater on the W and SW flank and 5 km away on the NE flank.

Geological summary: The compound volcano of Nevados de Chillán is one of the most active of the Central Andes. Three late-Pleistocene to Holocene stratovolcanoes were constructed along a NNW-SSE line within three nested Pleistocene calderas, which produced ignimbrite sheets extending more than 100 km into the Central Depression of Chile. The largest stratovolcano, dominantly andesitic, Cerro Blanco (Volcán Nevado), is located at the NW end of the group. Volcán Viejo (Volcán Chillán), which was the main active vent during the 17th-19th centuries, occupies the SE end. The new Volcán Nuevo lava-dome complex formed between 1906 and 1945 between the two volcanoes and grew to exceed Volcán Viejo in elevation. The Volcán Arrau dome complex was constructed SE of Volcán Nuevo between 1973 and 1986 and eventually exceeded its height.

Sabancaya, Peru

15.787°S, 71.857°W, Summit elev. 5960 m

Instituto Geofísico del Perú (IGP) reported a daily average of 36 explosions at Sabancaya during 21-27 September. Gas-and-ash plumes rose as high as 2.5 km above the summit and drifted NE, E, SE, SW, and NW. Eleven thermal anomalies over the crater were identified in satellite data. Minor inflation was detected in areas N of Hualca Hualca (4 km N) and on the SE flank. Ashfall was reported in Lluta (30 km SW) and Huanca (75 km SSE) on 24 September. The Alert Level remained at Orange (the second highest level on a four-color scale) and the public were warned to stay outside of a 12-km radius.

Geological summary: Sabancaya, located in the saddle NE of Ampato and SE of Hualca Hualca volcanoes, is the youngest of these volcanic centers and the only one to have erupted in historical time. The oldest of the three, Nevado Hualca Hualca, is of probable late-Pliocene to early Pleistocene age. The name Sabancaya (meaning "tongue of fire" in the Quechua language) first appeared in records in 1595 CE, suggesting activity prior to that date. Holocene activity has consisted of Plinian eruptions followed by emission of voluminous andesitic and dacitic lava flows, which form an extensive apron around the volcano on all sides but the south. Records of historical eruptions date back to 1750.

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 18-25 September. 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.

Suwanosejima, Ryukyu Islands (Japan)

29.638°N, 129.714°E, Summit elev. 796 m

JMA reported nighttime incandescence at Suwanosejima’s Ontake Crater during 18-25 September. An explosion at 0923 on 25 September generated a gray-white ash plume that rose 600 m above the crater rim and disappeared into weather clouds. Ashfall was reported in Toshima village, 4 km SSW. The Alert Level remained at 2 (on a 5-level scale).

Geological summary: The 8-km-long, spindle-shaped island of Suwanosejima in the northern Ryukyu Islands consists of an andesitic stratovolcano with two historically active summit craters. The summit is truncated by a large breached crater extending to the sea on the east flank that was formed by edifice collapse. Suwanosejima, one of Japan's most frequently active volcanoes, was in a state of intermittent strombolian activity from Otake, the NE summit crater, that began in 1949 and lasted until 1996, after which periods of inactivity lengthened. The largest historical eruption took place in 1813-14, when thick scoria deposits blanketed residential areas, and the SW crater produced two lava flows that reached the western coast. At the end of the eruption the summit of Otake collapsed forming a large debris avalanche and creating the horseshoe-shaped Sakuchi caldera, which extends to the eastern coast. The island remained uninhabited for about 70 years after the 1813-1814 eruption. Lava flows reached the eastern coast of the island in 1884. Only about 50 people live on the island.

Villarrica, Chile

39.42°S, 71.93°W, Summit elev. 2847 m

SERNAGEOMIN reported that activity at Villarrica was characterized by an active lava lake, minor explosions, and gas emissions during 1-15 September. Webcam images showed whitish gas emissions rising no higher than 500 m above the crater rim during the day, with occasional nighttime crater incandescence and ejected material seen at night. Satellite images showed tephra deposits around the crater extending from the rim up to 36 m on the E and SE flanks on both 5 and 7 September. Two thermal anomalies were visible in satellite images on 14 September. At 1350 on 25 September the seismic network recorded a long-period earthquake associated with a moderate explosion. The explosion generated an ash plume that rose 800 m above the vent and drifted ENE, and ejected blocks onto the flanks. Another long-period event and explosion were recorded at 1829 later that day that generated another ash plume, though weather clouds obscured views. The Alert Level remained at Yellow, the second lowest level on a four-color scale. ONEMI maintained an Alert Level Yellow (the middle level on a three-color scale) for the municipalities of Villarrica, Pucón (16 km N), Curarrehue, and the commune of Panguipulli, and the exclusion zone for the public of 500 m around the crater.

Geological summary: Glacier-clad Villarrica, one of Chile's most active volcanoes, rises above the lake and town of the same name. It is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes that trend perpendicular to the Andean chain. A 6-km-wide caldera formed during the late Pleistocene. A 2-km-wide caldera that formed about 3500 years ago is located at the base of the presently active, dominantly basaltic to basaltic-andesitic cone at the NW margin of the Pleistocene caldera. More than 30 scoria cones and fissure vents dot the flanks. Plinian eruptions and pyroclastic flows that have extended up to 20 km from the volcano were produced during the Holocene. Lava flows up to 18 km long have issued from summit and flank vents. Historical eruptions, documented since 1558, have consisted largely of mild-to-moderate explosive activity with occasional lava effusion. Glaciers cover 40 km2 of the volcano, and lahars have damaged towns on its flanks. (GVP)


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