Volcano quiet for 400 years erupts in Indonesia

Aug 29, 2010
Mount Sinabung spews volcanic smoke as it erupts in Karo, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010. The volcano spewed hot lava and sand high into the sky early Sunday in its first eruption in 400 years causing thousands of people living around its slope to evacuate their homes. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

(AP) -- A volcano in western Indonesia spewed hot lava and sand high into the sky early Sunday in its first eruption in 400 years.

Government volcanologist Surono, who uses only one name, said Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province started rumbling a few days ago and the minor morning eruption has mostly stopped.

It sent sand and ash up to a mile (1.5 kilometers) high but lava only moved near its crater. It caused no major damage and "only dust covered plants and trees," he said.

He said Mount Sinabung last erupted in 1600, so observers don't know the volcano's eruption pattern and are monitoring it closely for more activity.

Evacuations on the volcano's slopes started Friday at the first signs of activity. Up to 10,000 people who fled are staying in government buildings, houses of worship and other evacuation centers in two nearby towns.

The government has distributed 7,000 masks to refugees and set up public kitchens so people can cook food, said Priyadi Kardono, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Agency.

, the world's largest archipelago, is on the so-called "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanos and fault lines encircling the Pacific Basin.

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yyz
4.6 / 5 (5) Aug 29, 2010
I'm seeing conflicting reports on past activity of Mt. Sinabung, some saying an eruption occurred in 1600 and most saying no recorded eruption (besides a possible event in 1881): http://volcanism....ess.com/ . Wiki says both! Anyways, I guess it's been a long time. There may be some good reason to watch this one more closely. Mt. Sinabung lies in the Sunda Arc, a volcanic arc home to two of the most destructive volcanoes known: Tambora and Krakatoa.

"I suspect global warming..."

Why the suspicion?

A_Paradox
5 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2010
1600, I count that year as the start of the modern era [because Giordani Bruno was killed by the inquisition in February of that year].

The article makes no mention of the extent of the eruption 410 years ago. Re "I suspect .." it would be more reasonable to suspect a connection with the tectonic plate movement on Boxing Day of 2004.
yyz
5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2010
Looking at more accounts of this current eruption, I think some reports by the media may be responsible for the alleged 1600 eruption date. The Jakarta News for Aug 29th, 2010 has the headline:

"Mount Sinabung never erupted since 1600"

followed by the story: "Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra has never erupted since 1600, a media report says."

and

"Volcanology and Geology Disaster Mitigation Center PVMBG head Surono said the mountain had never been monitored continuously after it did not erupt since 1600." ( http://www.thejak...600.html )

Not a huge leap to see how the confusion arose, given the poor English used in the Jakarta News article. The source of the 1600 date in the Wiki entry is an AP article reported by MSNBC. Several other volcano websites, including the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Program do not list any recorded eruptions for Mt. Sinabung. Of course, given the date & location, few reports would be expected.
yyz
5 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2010
"...it would be more reasonable to suspect a connection with the tectonic plate movement on Boxing Day of 2004."

Indeed the Sunda Arc of volcanoes lies along the giant subduction zone that has produced the Java (or Sunda) Trench and is associated with the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami of 2004: http://en.wikiped...unda_Arc

Mt. Sinabung is listed as a stratovolcano. I wonder if any specific prehistoric eruptions prior to 1600 have been attributed to the volcano through examination of the geological record?
Caliban
3.3 / 5 (3) Aug 29, 2010
"...it would be more reasonable to suspect a connection with the tectonic plate movement on Boxing Day of 2004."

Indeed the Sunda Arc of volcanoes lies along the giant subduction zone that has produced the Java (or Sunda) Trench and is associated with the Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami of 2004: http://en.wikiped...unda_Arc

Mt. Sinabung is listed as a stratovolcano. I wonder if any specific prehistoric eruptions prior to 1600 have been attributed to the volcano through examination of the geological record?


Agreed on all counts. I would add that entire SE Pacific basin is a very complex area, geologically, and it would not be unreasonable to assume that most, if not all, of recent tectonic activity in the area as a whole would have played some part in this volcanism.

Magmatic intrusion can cause changes in plate centers of gravity sufficient to cause earthquakes/plate movements, and vice versa.

contd
Caliban
3 / 5 (2) Aug 29, 2010
cont'd

Additionally, it would be possible to reconstruct the history and time scale, including any periodicity, in Sinabung's activity cycle, simply by fully analysing the volcano's stratigraphy, but that would require a drilling program, which has probably never been undertaken.

I would expect that the effort will be made now- it just wouldn't do to be taken off guard by a volcano that has been quiescent during the Era of European Colonialism, but which may very well have wrought major devastation in the region only a few decades or centuries prior to European contact with that part of the world.

Given its classification as a stratovolcano, it would be wise to learn more about Sinabung's activity, as this type of volcano is usually responsible for the largest, and most destructive type of catastrophic eruption, along the lines of Krakatoa and Yellowstone. A recent example is Mt. St. Helens.

rgwalther
not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
Obviously no one checked the New York Times editions of 1600 for the relevant eruption data.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (1) Sep 04, 2010
I suspect global warming...I really do...

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