Impressive Eruption in the Solomon Islands

By Erik Klemetti | October 27, 2017 10:13 am
Himawari-8 loop from October 20, showing the two blasts from Tinakula in the Solomon Islands. Meteorological Service of New Zealand

Himawari-8 loop from October 20, showing the two blasts from Tinakula in the Solomon Islands. Meteorological Service of New Zealand

Over the last month, it has been Agung in Indonesia and Aoba in Vanuatu that have captured the media’s attention. However, it has been a volcano in the Solomon Island that might be the most hazardous right now.

So, what’s going on at the two volcanoes that prompted massive evacuations? At Agung, the seismicity has begun to drop compared to the last month. Now, this doesn’t mean it is getting any safer at the volcano. Some studies of previous periods of earthquakes prior to Agung’s other eruptions suggest that it can see earthquake swarms that last months. This explains why Indonesian officials are maintaining the highest alert status for the volcano even with diminishing earthquakes. Over 130,000 people remain evacuated from the danger zone around the volcano, but many are starting to break the evacuation order. Meanwhile, the Indonesian government is trying to keep tourists from avoiding Bali altogether (mostly due to unfounded rumors spread on the internet).

Meanwhile, in Vanuatu, the eruptions at Aoba have diminished to the point that the government is allowing islanders back to their homes. This means the ~11,000 people evacuated from Ambae are safe to live along side the volcano again. Of course, without a massive eruption, people are questioning the move to evacuate the entire island’s population, but Vanuatu officials said they wanted to be safe rather than sorry. However, even with a return, many islanders are finding their homes and crops covered in volcanic ash, so aid will still be required for food and safe water.

An eruption of Tinakula in the Solomon Islands is causing the most recent volcanic crisis. People are running low on water and food on the remote island where where hundreds are being impacted by the ash from the eruption (mostly on nearby islands). Tinakula has frequent small-to-moderate eruptions, but it is not monitored, so eruptions are hard to evaluate. An eruption in 1840 killed all the inhabitants of the island but people came back to live there afterwards.

Terra image on an October 22 explosion from Tinakula in the Solomon Islands. NASA

Terra image on an October 22 explosion and plume (middle) from Tinakula in the Solomon Islands. NASA

The ash plume from two eruptions from Tinakula was seen in weather satellite images (see above) and the ash plume reached over 11 kilometers (36,000 feet). You can see a clear shockwave related to the second blast through the clouds near the volcano and the ash drifting to the northeast (upper right) in the satellite loop. The sulfur dioxide plume from the eruption may have reached even higher according to Dr. Simon Carn (MTU).

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Rocky Planet, Science, Science Blogs
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Rocky Planet covers all the geologic events that made and will continue to shape our planet. From volcanoes to earthquakes to gold to oceans to other solar systems, I discuss what is intriguing and illuminating about the rocks beneath our feet and above our heads. Ever wonder what volcanoes are erupting? How tsunamis form and where? What rocks can tell us about ancient environments? How the Earth might change in the future? You'll find these answers and more on Rocky Planet.
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