February 6, 2013 - Eruption of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

Eruption of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea

In late January, 2013, the dangerous Rabaul volcano began erupting with moderate ash emissions and explosions, including some ash plumes that soared up to 2 km high. On January 19, about 15 minutes of roaring and rumbling noises were reported from the Tavurvur cone of Rabaul’s caldera, according to the Smithsonian/USGS activity summary. On January 20, small explosions generated ash clouds that rose about 500 m above the caldera and drifted east and southeast.

As the ash clouds drifted across Blanche Bay on January 20, the Terra satellite passed overhead, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard to capture this true-color image of the wafting plumes. Rabaul (Tavurvur) can be seen at the tip of a backward “L” shaped peninsula, with a dark plume rising from the caldera. The plume broadens and lightens as it blows across East New Britain Province and the Bismarck Sea.

From January 20-22 rumblings and light gray ash emissions, which indicate mostly water vapor with low ash content, occurred at irregular intervals. Flights to Tokua airport were cancelled on January 21, due to increasing activity. Since the January awakening, intermittent rumblings and eruptive activity have continued.

Due to its location near populated areas, the Rabaul volcano is considered to be dangerous. It exploded violently in 1994, devastating the city of Rabaul, Papua New Guinea. Since then, the cone (Tavurvur) has continued activity, primarily small strombolian and vulcanian ash eruptions. The volcano settled in August, 2011, and had stayed inactive until the January 19 re-awakening.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 1/20/2013
Resolutions: 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC