Intensified eruption at Sinabung

Impressively glowing pyroclastic flow captured on the fifteenth of january by photographer Opss Frans.

Impressively glowing pyroclastic flow captured on the fifteenth of january by photographer Opss Frans.

Since the last post about Sinabung the eruption has continued with ever increasing amounts of pyroclastic flows and nue ardentes. On occation the extended 7 kilometer evacuation zone has been tested in the direction of the gorge that the majority of the flows has followed. There have though been no reports of them extending beyond the 7 km boundary. Also the amount of material in the individual pyroclastic flows have increased. This leads to the conclusion that the amount of extruded lava has increased over time from the initial 3.5 cubic meters per second.

Around midnight CET Sinabung suffered an explosion that was beyond any seen so far. The previous pure explosions have been rather small ranging up to a few kilometers. Todays explosion caused en ash column that according to local sources in excess of 8 kilometers. Remember that this is from eye witness reports that so far is not officially confirmed.

Image showing approximately the bottom half of the ash column during the explosive event. The image is hard to see. I hope to get a better one soon.

Image showing approximately the bottom half of the ash column during the explosive event. The image is hard to see. I hope to get a better one soon.

As some of you know the authorities in Indonesia issued a warning 10 days ago that there where seismological signs that a major eruption might be on the way. It seems that we might now be seeing the start of such a thing, or at least a more explosive phase. As I am writing this the webcam location is covered in dust.

We will get back to this as new things unfurl and as we get new data. As soon as we get something we will publish an update.

For background I refer to my main article about Sinabung and the info-page Cryphia has made:


202 thoughts on “Intensified eruption at Sinabung

  1. Two shots taken near the start:

    On the second you can catch a glimpse of the PCF in the bottom left of the image.

    • Hen and the egg I think on what caused what here. Did the large explosion cause the PF or did the PF cause the large explosion?
      In the end I do not think it really matters for the locals. It was heard 15 kilometers away by the local who was indoors, same person that estimated the height.

      • Dunno, guess that the PCF is a product of the eruption; i.e whatever caused the explosion also caused the PCF. I am hoping that some of cloud is not weather (rain).

  2. The latest webcam shots are still obscured by low levels by the settling ash cloud. However there is a strong steam cloud coming from the summit, so obviously something has blown clear and/or a fumerole has opened up. The size of the steam cloud reminds me of White Island which came from a crater about 4 m^2 in diameter so I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on the steam cloud. Nevertheless, steam is steam and indicates the presence of volatiles which have been absent in the eruption to date.

    • That is not a steam cloud I think, it is most likely the ash column, but the cam is so crappy that it transforms the grey into white when the sun shines on it. I saw a bright fluffy white pyroclastic flow a couple of days ago. Looked like a albino woolly mammoth heard running down the mountain.

      • If it is a bonafide eruption column, it is pretty tiny. I think we maybe witnessed the first explosive activity which blasted a bit off the dome but this was a single blast and not sustained. There could well be more to come.

        • well. no sooner said than done. Column looking much ashier now and it appears to be coming from the central vent. Might be another pf. So hard to tell.

          • Looks like a double, both an ash column and a PF.
            Actually pretty logical, there is quite a lot of PF material up and around, and as the explosions come those are blasted loose and go galumphing down the hill.

  3. Ok, time for locals to start thinking about visiting distant relatives. No cause for panic just yet, but keeping a respectful distance is what I would be doing.

    • According to my slightly more local source it was a rather memorable event when the first blast occured. He ran out the door thinking the house would come apart. Sounds like he is pondering to skidoo out of the place.

    • I don’t think the second column is a product of a lava dome collapsing this time :).

      I think there was definitely a dome collapse in the first eruption, but that was a product of fresher, more volatile rich magma clearing the way to start the onset of a more official eruption period.

      • The first one though caused a audible explosion sound 15 km away, so there was definitely an explosion then.

  4. Seems like I was right and that this eruption turned into Gunung Sibayak after all. This is how Sibayak erupts. Explosions hurling ash up every few minutes.

    • Sibayak hasn’t erupted for hundreds of years so you must be really old Carl if you saw them.(heh heh)
      John Seach from Volcano Live is up in Berastagi. He has some email and on twitter – Do you know him?
      He should be able to judge eruption columns.
      Don’t forget that Sinabung is already almost 1000asl on the plateau

  5. hi everyone now the real stage of the eruption might be starting. i’m wondering if this volcano might be turning into some like Pinatubo .

    • Problem is that nobody really knows. It seems like the local authorities are thinking more like Merapi or Sibayak then Pinatubo. That would be a VEI-3 eruption. But, this is an unknown entity. My guess when I wrote The Road to Sinabung was that it would go like Sibayak, and that seems likely now.

      • Keep in mind, Sibayak is sitting in a 6km wide caldera. It doesn’t always just erupt with explosions and amount to VEI-3 eruptions. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be sitting in that caldera.

        • Also – don’t mean to say i’m expecting a large pinatubo eruption with that comment. But just figured I would point out that it can really do anything at this point.

          • I agree, I was just saying what I think is most likely, and Sibayak is still rebuilding so it is not goiing poof anytime soon.
            Yes, Sinabung could in theory do something bigger, but then there would a tremendous increase in tremor and seismig signals first.

    • Despite the huge amount of ash in the webcam it is evident that there is (not yet anyway) any sustained eruption column. All of this is due to the demolition of the lava dome.

      • I do not think so, I think this is more like repeated explosions hurling ash and dislodging parts of the dome as it goes. Looks a lot like Sibayak except for the dome building.

  6. You know, I place my quatloos on a Sibayak type eruption.
    Pinatubo likely had a larger magma chamber..
    I’m impressed with the Indonesian efforts at calling this..

      • Hard to say, almost looks like smoke,might be a fire especially if it is in green foliage tends to\be whiter under certain conditions sometimes at first ignition. We all know there is a really good ignition source there… 🙂

  7. Ok, bedtime. Otherwise I’m going to be a pretty cranky individual tomorrow. Hope you people take lots of screenshots! I’ll be interested to see what awaits me tomorrow when I wake up. I hope everyone around Singabung is safe and sound and that nobody has suffered too much property loss. Let’s hope it stays that way! GN!

  8. If you’re gonna take on the lead dragon, ya better be prepared.

    This is in honor of the dragon master who had a rather remarkable weekend based on the tale. It’s a reminder of just how old we are. The key point, is that Robert Palmer (the singer in the video) died 10 years ago (or so). Talk about a slap in the face with a cold hard dose of reality.

    It’s also bait to lure out GeoLoco…

    We are dragons… don’t “F” with us. 😀

  9. Just had another huge blast. I really hope they’ve expanded the exclusion zone, especially for where the blasts are heading from since it seems to be more directional in nature.
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    The biggest worry I have is that they are getting larger and larger.
    Image embedded, chryphia

    • I gotta say, it’s too bad Sinabung waited a few extra weeks to blow it’s lid. It would have been a runaway winner for 2013’s Pliny award with what it’s already done at this point.

    • I can’t really tell for sure, but it almost looks like it’s venting from near the base of the edifice. I can’t really tell if this is just due to the fact that it’s a lateral blast (most likely) or if there is actually a newer, lower vent that has opened.

      I doubt it’s a lower vent, but the way the plume is emanating from what looks like the base, it does at least bring that thought into mind.

      • No lower vents for sure, but simply clouds rising from pyroclastic flows (known as “phoenix clouds”). Sometimes you see particularly large “phoenix clouds” even at great distance from the eruptive vent where a pyroclastic flow strikes an obstacle or plunges down into some depression like a deep valley (a pretty common feature around volcanoes especially in tropical countries where erosion is intense).

  10. I can at least say I feel a bit vindicated in my statement a few weeks back that people should be paying more attention to Sinabung instead of El Hierro :D. Not that El Hierro isn’t interesting, but this is a much better show than anything Bob ever did. Hopefully enough people in the area moved away and heeded evacuation warnings.

  11. A local news report from Sinabung: (via Google Translate)
    “On Tuesday ( 01/14/2014 ) , the mountain erupted no less than 30 times . Burst of heat clouds from the volcano had also increased to 4 to 5 kilometers . Previously , only reached 3 kilometers , ‘said Head of Public Relations Karo regency .

    Johnson said the refugees came from 34 villages and 2 hamlets in Karo District . Among the refugee village is the village Sukameriah , Master Kinayan , Selandi Lama , Kuta Rakyat , and Sigaranggarang in District Umbrella .

    Then , Village Berastepu , Sibintun , Gamber and Central Kuta , Kuta Mbelin , Kebayaken , Kuta Tonggal , and Sukanalu in District Simpang Empat . Also , the Village Tiganderket , Mardingding , Temberun , Pintubesi , Perbaji , and Kuta mbaru in District Tiganderket .

    Previously , the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Sinabung improve the status of the level of ” standby ” to ” alert ” since Sunday ( 24/11/2013 ) at 10:00 pm . Increased volcanic activity status is in line with the widespread burst of volcanic material measuring 3 to 4 centimeters with a throw distance of up to 4 kilometers .”

    So it sounds like the PFs have increased greatly in size (there is also some ash now in the town where the webcam is situated, not surprising) which means the rate of dome growth has probably increased but that last sentence sounds like there is some explosive activity happening at the vent as well.

      • Posted in Kompas Tuesday from older reports – redundant news.
        The 3 -4 kilometre zone was breached already on Tuesday.
        The exclusion zone is out to 7kms already. – Probably to be increased again judging by these latest eruptions.
        John Seach has some interesting comments on his website. He is up in the area.
        It seems that some of the locals are not aware of the risk provided by pyroclastic flows – they think they are just ash clouds.
        There are some serious economical and logistical problems expanding the exclusion zone beyond 7ks.

        • I was surprised there was so little news after what looked to us like a big escalation in activity. Obviously it wasn’t quite as dramatic as it looked. But it certainly looks like the PFs are getting bigger and extending further. Some reports talked of 20 fatalities amongst the ill and old refugees caused by the stress of relocation but this could be an exaggeration. What is certain is that quite a large number of people have lost their homes and farms as they now lie buried under the remains of all the PFs that have come down.

  12. Here is a map of previous pyroclastic and lava flows:
    Image and video hosting by TinyPic

    And this is the official hazard map (brown circle, 5 km; yellow circle, 7 km):

    The huge blue area to the left (PgP) are limestone deposits, but the QsL(1?) lava flow is going a little bit beyone the 7 km hazard zone and the QsP1 pyroclastic flow went well beyond it. It seems to have shaped the course of the river, or was stopped by it (valley?).


    • That report is a basic information sheet concerning Sinabung dating from last year.
      Interesting stuff in it though.
      Lists of previous lava flows, Pyroclastic flows and even mentions a flow left by a previous eruption of the north vent of Toba.
      It does say that Sinabung is an an area related to a fault pattern closely aligned with the Northern Toba Crater. See those slip arrows in the diagram above. Toba vocano and lake was not one main eruption it was three.
      There are seismic reports from the 2010 eruption.
      The hazard maps relate to anticipated areas of potential hazard.
      The list of hazards includes incandescent bombs.

      The incandescent bomb hazard is interesting because looking at one of the eruptions yesterday on the webcam it seems like during a particularly large event a fire started in the village that is in front of the webcam.

      The hazard maps and areas of potential damage seem to be underestimated

  13. @ Bruce
    I have 20 pics of the exact eruption you mentioned. The lateral blast seemed to be in close tandom with a really fast moving plume from the summit. I made a great .wmv movie of th entire event, but I’m it’s kinda useless for those without Windows. If anyone knows how I can make a quick movie that is universally exportable and how I can upload to VC, please give me some ideas so I can share with everyone.

    Sinabung 11/01/2014 9:18
    Video link inserted, chryphia

  14. @Chryphia,
    can i email you the .wmv movie? would this be useful?
    I can also send the 20 .jpg images if someone else can whip up a movie.
    I’ll work on making my own movie and setting up tinypic and making .gif movies in the morning.
    It’s now past 3 a.m. PST.
    Time for a few hours of shuteye before the morning call.

  15. Sinabung movie from about 11 hrs ago. I think this eruption is the one earlier posts mentioned about a flank explosion?

    First stab at making a YouTube movie, BTW. Hope this works.

      • One should bear in mind that it is hard to say if this is real explosions or very large and noisy pyroclastic flows. Most likely it is a combination. When people hear it 15 km away it is more likely to be an explosive component to them since pure PFs are not that noisy.

        • Just note that pyroclastic flows are not noisy at all. They are virtually noiseless (only when they rush through a town you would hear the crashing sound of buildings being torn and blown to smithereens, but you wouldn’t probably stay alive to hear this for long) … so if there are explosion sounds, this means some explosive activity – such as minor Vulcanian explosions – is taking place.

      • So people declare to have heard big bangs then, 15 km away?
        What does it sound like when a substantial part of the dome suddenly drops? – I have no idea if it did, but I think it is not unrealistic. The new dome is big, fast growing and seemed to be “hanging” above the ravine. So gravity will make it drop sooner or later, won’t it? If a big part of it drops, it must produce some kind of bang.
        The ash clouds / coloumns last night did not look different from what we are used to see from Sinabung now (looked at the webcam from ca. 00:30 until 2:00 UTC).
        – Due to computer problems I have not been much online the last two days so I may have missed a lot of information.

        • The explosions that where heard by a local source was the ones that was posted on the image that occured around midnight CET. I do not doubt the source at all after having seen that explosion go straight up.

        • This is also an ash column caused by a big PF, not by an explosion (Mount Redoubt, 1990):

          Image and video hosting by TinyPic

          So a big coloumn is not necessarly caused by an explosion.

  16. Hello everyone. I like to share two youtube video’s i just looked and enjoyed, might have been posted before of course.
    A fissure actually opening up in Hawaii, Kamoamoa, 8 min. Interesting to see a pretty large not erupting fissure to be filled up by lava from a adjacent erupting fissure:

    Kilauea 1993, very nice comments on what you are seeing. For example the formation of pele’s hair or other lava types like pahoehoe and A’a:

  17. The earthquakes at Askja and Herðubreiðartögl , Should they be considered as an earthquake swarm?
    Will they intensify?

    • That earthquake swarm is caused by an intrusion that is slowly its way upwards at an angle from Herdubreidartögl to Herdubreid. At occation a new blob moves in at Herdubreidartögl and then it too starts to gnaw uprads… IMO has commented that it is possible that an eruption will occur there, but most likely a few years to a decade away, if it happens.
      Askja is related to Askja, problem with Askja is that it is going from inflating to deflating and then back.

        • It will be interesting to see if and when it erupts, I just wish we could get a sample from the cone on the top before the entire Tuya is destroyed.
          The reason for that is that according to all sources Herdubreid has not erupted after glacial times, and still there is an eruption cone on top of the volcano, and nobody has taken any samples from it. The only samples are from the pillow lava at the bottom. So, I would like to check and see when that tuff was blasted out, I think it is post-glaciation.

  18. Is it just me or is every single science program presenter in Brittish television of Scottish origin?
    I am just watching a program on Brittish history with Neil Oliver. “Hrhoooohm” = Rome 🙂

    Just gotta love it. 🙂

      • And now a very slowly narrated french documentary on architecture.
        I wish the programming was like this all the time. And the best part is that it is on the state network so there is no advertisements bugging me.

    • He speaks educated scots. Now, Glaswegians in call centres are incomprehensible to anyone south of the border. But cheap. Scottish Power are you listening? ( no)

      • Haha, I lived 15 miles south of Glasgow as a youngster. Five years of HELL!!!
        Couldn’t even understand my teachers at school!!! After a year I finally understood the lingo but they never gave any quarter to a Sassenach who also had the misfortune of having a Czech father and hence an unpronounceable surname.

    • Well… if you remember the movie “Supervolcano,” the principle narrator had a “Hollywood” Scott dialect. (what Hollywood considered to be good enough)

    • Rats. I got all excited because I thought that the column which kicks in at 43 sec. was showing actvity from the last couple of days but a quick check of the surroundings shows this must have been one of the first eruptions when it woke up from its slumber. Cool footage nevertheless. Imagine something like that coming out of the ground when you thought the volcano was extinct. Would be pretty scary.

  19. Was looking at Sinabung on Google Earth and found this close by at 3°10’25.97″ N 98°25’07.53″ E

    Not sure what link people are using for the webcam, but I found this site is far more reliable (through a German server) though it is obviously the same feed.

  20. Eh… okay. I’ll write it. First of all, sorry for the OT.

    Take Back the Night is a is an internationally held march and rally intended as a protest and direct action against rape and other forms of sexual violence. For many it is a protest against violence against women.

    Now a quick side-trip into my belief structure.
    I am of the opinion that stereotypes are a natural human phenomena. Stereotypes allow one to quickly assess a given situation and quickly react in a manner that maximizes the chance of survival or best increases the odds of a good outcome for the one having the most accurate stereotype ingrained into their thinking. Fight or Flight are two of the most basic responses and are usually amplified by a surge of adrenaline, which allows the body to perform tasks that would ordinarily be impossible.

    Now… along with that stereotype phenomena, a person can become “pre-loaded” to a given situation. Darkness, and strange environments can gear a person towards certain reactions.

    Now, back to the story. Elizabeth Daly, a University of Virginia college student and some of her room-mates were at a grocery store buying bottled water, ice cream and cookie dough following a Take Back the Night rally at the college.

    They were confronted/attacked by a group of several men. Turned out the men were Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control officers who thought that the case of sparkling water was a case of beer. Scared shitless, the girls tried to flee.

    “No less than six plainclothes ABC agents surrounded Elizabeth Daly and two of her sorority sisters in a shopping mall parking lot, according to the Daily Progress. One officer drew his gun and allegedly tried to break a window of the SUV as the panicked girls sat inside. According to the legal filing, at least one officer jumped onto the hook [SIC] of the vehicle, as well. The college students were understandably afraid and thought they were being attacked by criminals.

    Daly pulled away abruptly, allegedly grazing two of the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents in the process. The young woman was ultimately arrested on three felony charges. The counts levied against her included eluding police and assaulting law enforcement officers. She spent nearly 24 hours in n Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail.”

    IMO, Virginia has a long reputation for heavy handed law enforcement actions. So… the drummed up felony charges do not surprise me.

    At least she is seeking redress.

    If she has a slimeball lawyer with enough skill, she may turn out better off.

  21. here in Oz we don’t need a volcanic eruption, a raging fire about 21.000 hectares bushfire burning in the Grampians on the Victorian/South Australian area, it is bearing down on Halls Gap.

    Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the fire has a 12km convection column which is generating its own weather conditions.
    “As we speak they are having lightning in the area generated by that convection column, they are having spot fires dropping in and around Halls Gap.”

    Thankfully I only had 39 deg today and it is still 34 deg now at 18.22, one more day and it will be back to normal

    • A headline news tonight is :
      Bernanke in his last public appearance, reckons the 2008 financial crises was like a bad car crash.

  22. 21.00 hours and it is cooling down now 25, one more day to go forcast is for 37 tomorrow but strong changing directions winds, everything is just so dry, the ground crunches under the feet when walking outside, doesn’t look that there will be much rain around

  23. A must read containing very informative text and great footage from the Sinabung eruption:

    Øystein Lund Andersen, the author, stayed 5,7 km from the volcano from 11 to 13 january.

    Quoute from the post:
    “During nighttime the flank were illuminated by hot pyroclastic debris (see photo 11 to 15.) and other material burned by the heat of the pyroclastic debris. At the time a new pyroclastic flow was initiated from the crater, the crater started to glow a few seconds before the sounds of rock-fall become evident. Judging from photography’s from the period I visited, it seems that the pyroclastic flows that I observed, were set off by partial-collapses of the growing lava-dome, and not by the collapse of an eruption plume. In fact I did only observe some ash-venting from the crater itself, most of the plumes originating from the crater, seemed to be mostly consisting of gas. Ash-fall in the areas impacted by the volcano at the period I visited, therefore, I figure was mostly or only caused by ash from produced by the pyroclastic flows.”
    This gives me the feeling of understanding much more of what we have seen on the webcam until now. One thing I wanted to ask has also been explained before I could formulate the question. The tornado-like structures rising above the hot debris downslope – they turn out to be “dust devils”!

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