Indonesia Heats Up


As I write this at 2:21 pm Florida time an earthquake is ongoing in northern Sumatra with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 and 30 miles west of the Toba supervolcano caldera. This just after a 5.1 quake further south August 31st. We sure wouldn’t want that one to start up again.

Indonesia is one of the most volcanic places in the world and became even more so over this last summer. There are 127 volcanoes in Indonesia, and currently 18 of them have become much more active, with five of those having been recently upgraded in alert status, those being Mount Lokon, Soputan, and Karangetang in North Sulawesi, Mount Ibu in North Maluku, and Mount Papandayan in West Java.

Mt. Soputan venting in the distance

Soputan is one of Indonesia’s more active volcanoes and last July erupted forcibly sending ash 5000 meters into the air shutting down the local airport. Karengetang has not been so outspoken of late, but it’s alert level was raised to 3 just the same last month. It erupted last March producing pyroclastic flows.

Active fumaroles at one of Papandyan's craters

Papandayan in west Java is also on the watch list, and authorities have warned people to stay away, banning tourists from the area, not so much because it’s expected to erupt soon but because of dangerous hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide gas levels, but determined tourists have ignored such warnings in the past, and it will not surprise me if they do so again.

Lokon volcano on the northern tip of Sulawesi erupted in July and again in mid-August, and evacuations were necessary. Daijiworld news on August 29th tells us:

Mount Lokon erupted as many as 12 times on Sunday, but it only erupted once on Monday at around 10.35 a.m. local time, spewing out volcanic materials about 250 meters (820 feet) high, volcano monitoring post staff member Jemmy Runtuwene told the Antara news agency.

On Sunday, monitoring staff recorded 65 deep volcanic earthquakes and 93 shallow earthquakes. During the first six hours of Monday, only seven earthquakes were registered in the area near the volcano.”

Mt. Lokon, on Sulawesi sends up ash

Another Indonesian volcano that has become more active over the last few months is the infamous Mt. Tambora, responsible for the biggest eruption in recorded history, and the most deaths as well, by some estimates as many as 92,000 globally. Sumbawa residents living at the base of the volcano are not taking warnings seriously.

Elsewhere in Indonesia Mt. Ibu in West Halmahera regency has been emitting thick smoke, causing its alarm status to be raised on Sunday with increased seismic activity over the last two weeks, many tremors having been recorded. There is a very obvious lava dome in the crater of Ibu, never a good sign. This one bears watching.

Lava dome in the crater of Mt. Ibu

The region is not just more active volcanically of late, but seismically as well, with significant quakes in the Banda Sea and the subduction zone between Vanuatu and New Caledonia where a 7.0 quake was registered Sept. 3rd not far from the Gemini Seamount.

The magnitude 6.8 quake in the Banda Sea on August 30 was followed by three more, a 4.8 the same day and a 4.4 and 4.3 two days later. A magnitude 4.3 quake rattled Jakarta also on August 30th, a 4.6 hit just south of the Indonesian subduction zone on Sept. 1st, a 6.1 hit the island of Simeulue just south of west Sumatra August 31st.

So Indonesia is hopping and has become quite interesting for me, and I’m sure others as well. I’ll be updating as news becomes available.


About Martina Vaslovik

Volcano nerd and seismogeek
This entry was posted in Indonesia, super volcano, Tambora, Toba supervolcano, Uncategorized, Volcanology. Bookmark the permalink.

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