Sinabung volcano (Sumatra): eruption news and activity updates
Sinabung volcano (Sumatra) - continuing lava effusion forms large lava lobe and pyroclastic flows
Thu, 30 Jan 2014, 11:2311:23 AM | BY: T
The lava flow from Sinabung has reached the base of the mountain
Pyroclastic flow this morning
Zoom onto the upper part of the lava lobe originating at the dome
The new lava lobe descending the SE flank of Sinabung
Lava effusion continues at the volcano and pyroclastic flows occurred this morning. During the past 7-10 days, the growing lava dome has effused an impressive thick extrusion lobe that managed to form a massive, approx. 800 m long coherent lava flow reaching the base of the mountain.
The unstable front of the lava lobe (26 Jan)
The sticky lava flow followed and almost completely filled the deep ravine on the SE side of the volcano which before channeled the rockfalls and pyroclastic flows.
However, this steep, blocky lava flow is highly unstable. Collapsing material from the flow still generates frequent rock avalanches and sometimes pyroclastic flows, although the latter ones have been significantly smaller in size than those during late Dec until mid January.
This suggests that the arriving magma is already more degassed and less prone to fragmentation, i.e. explosive activity and pyroclastic flows.
Another significant difference is the changed geometry of the crater and the lava dome. Until 10-11 January, the dome had been confined inside a circular crater with steep outer slopes, which forced all overspilling lava to break apart from the main mass to disintegrate (and partially explode due to gas contained in the lava) into the frequent pyroclastic flows (as opposed to a coherent lobe as now).
This changed probably during the night of 10-11 January, when a major collapse or a sequence of collapse events occurred. It resulted in the formation of the large V-shaped crater breach and the removal of much of the lava dome. A deep canyon starting at the breached crater channeled from then on all rockfalls and pyroclastic flows. The formation of this lower-lying and increasingly eroded "outlet" for the sticky lava also made for an overall less steep path.
Blog Culture Volcan has posted a beautiful description with comparative photos illustrating this evolution of the crater geometry during January.
In combination with a currently less gas-rich (and less prone to explode) magma, the changed geometry allowed the viscous lava from the dome to remain coherent and flow out as a lobe. For the time being, this means that the eruption is in a more stable phase and less dangerous (as pyroclastic flows although they still occurring are less likely).
It is impossible to predict how the eruption will continue. It could come to an gradual end with slowly decreasing lava effusion, but it could also enter a new phase of more explosive activity, if new batches of fresh, gas-rich magma arrive at the summit. As it continues to grow, the risk of a major collapse of the dome and even the lava lobe remains as well.
The situation of the evacuees (about 30,000 according to official numbers) remains difficult. The Indonesian president visited the site last week and promised help and announced that the area in a 3 km radius around the volcano should remain as a permanently depopulated area.
Wed, 29 Jan 2014, 10:18
Weak ash emissions occurred this morning. ... read all
Wed, 29 Jan 2014, 10:14
New explosions produced an ash plume this morning rising to 12,000 ft (3.6 km) and drifting 40 nautical miles to the southeast (VAAC Darwin). ... read all
Tue, 28 Jan 2014, 19:31
Tue, 28 Jan 2014, 19:00
The volcano seems slowly to produce more powerful vulcanian explosions again. An eruption yesterday morning at 2am local time ejected an ash plume that rose to 12,000 ft (3.6 km) and covered the crater with incandescent material. It was the 10th explosion in 2014: read all