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Merapi 2010 eruption—Chronology and extrusion rates monitored with satellite radar and used in eruption forecasting

July 1, 2013

Despite dense cloud cover, satellite-borne commercial Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) enabled frequent monitoring of Merapi volcano's 2010 eruption. Near-real-time interpretation of images derived from the amplitude of the SAR signals and timely delivery of these interpretations to those responsible for warnings, allowed satellite remote sensing for the first time to play an equal role with in situ seismic, geodetic and gas monitoring in guiding life-saving decisions during a major volcanic crisis. Our remotely sensed data provide an observational chronology for the main phase of the 2010 eruption, which lasted 12 days (26 October–7 November, 2010). Unlike the prolonged low-rate and relatively low explosivity dome-forming and collapse eruptions of recent decades at Merapi, the eruption began with an explosive eruption that produced a new summit crater on 26 October and was accompanied by an ash column and pyroclastic flows that extended 8 km down the flanks. This initial explosive event was followed by smaller explosive eruptions on 29 October–1 November, then by a period of rapid dome growth on 1–4 November, which produced a summit lava dome with a volume of ~ 5 × 106 m3. A paroxysmal VEI 4 magmatic eruption (with ash column to 17 km altitude) destroyed this dome, greatly enlarged the new summit crater and produced extensive pyroclastic flows (to ~ 16 km radial distance in the Gendol drainage) and surges during the night of 4–5 November. The paroxysmal eruption was followed by a period of jetting of gas and tephra and by a second short period (12 h) of rapid dome growth on 6 November. The eruption ended with low-level ash and steam emissions that buried the 6 November dome with tephra and continued at low levels until seismicity decreased to background levels by about 23 November. Our near-real-time commercial SAR documented the explosive events on 26 October and 4–5 November and high rates of dome growth (> 25 m3 s− 1). An event tree analysis for the previous 2006 Merapi eruption indicated that for lava dome extrusion rates > 1.2 m3 s− 1, the probability of a large (1872-scale) eruption was ~ 10%. Consequently, the order-of-magnitude greater rates in 2010, along with the explosive start of the eruption on 26 October, the large volume of lava accumulating at the summit by 4 November, and the rapid and large increases in seismic energy release, deformation and gas emissions were the basis for warnings of an unusually large eruption by the Indonesian Geological Agency's Center for Volcanology and Geologic Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM) and their Volcano Research and Technology Development Center (BPPTK) in Yogyakarta — warnings that saved thousands of lives.

Publication Year 2013
Title Merapi 2010 eruption—Chronology and extrusion rates monitored with satellite radar and used in eruption forecasting
DOI 10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2012.07.012
Authors John S. Pallister, David J. Schneider, Julia P. Griswold, Ronald H. Keeler, William C. Burton, Christopher Noyles, Christopher G. Newhall, Antonius Ratdomopurbo
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Index ID 70193590
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Volcano Science Center