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Karkar update, 27 November 2009: the eruption that wasn’t? 27 November 2009

Posted by admin in activity reports, eruptions, Karkar, Papua New Guinea.
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Has Karkar volcano in Papua New Guinea erupted or not? We have dramatic reports from Darwin VAAC of towering plumes, but absolutely no information whatsoever from anywhere else.

Karkar is no desolate speck but a populated island: this Papua New Guinea government web page (cached version here in case, as is not uncommon with PNG government sites, the original isn’t working) says that ‘In 1979 the population of Karkar Island was about 23,000. Today the population has almost doubled to about 42,000’. Sadly it doesn’t say when ‘today’ was, but clearly there is a population, and a substantial one, so if the island’s volcano were blowing its top you’d expect to hear about it. A resident of Madang province comments on Erik Klemetti’s Eruptions blog: ‘We felt a minor earthquake at the time mentioned. However, though obscured by some clouds, we looked in vain for any action at Kar Kar Island, which I can see clearly from my veranda. We called friends who live on Kar Kar island and they told us that nothing was happening’.

So, local residents say nothing is happening and there are no reports in the PNG or other regional press, no MODIS hotspots, no SO2 traces, no satellite imagery (satellite imagery for this part of the world is not easy to find: Terra, Aqua and MERIS haven’t quite covered Karkar for the past few days). The weather has been overcast in the area, which doesn’t help.

So what, if anything, happened? This could have been a substantial steam-and-gas emission rather than an eruption plume; Darwin VAAC’s sources could have exaggerated the height of the emissions; it could have been an entirely different phenomenon such as an unusual cloud formation; or it could have been nothing at all. The VAACs have to respond to reports, have to err on the side of aviation safety, and cannot always be definite about when an eruption has ended or an eruption cloud dissipated, particularly when satellite coverage is limited or unavailable (the original source of Darwin’s information was satellite data, but there has been no fresh satellite information since their initial report).

Darwin’s latest volcanic ash advisory, issued 26 November at 17:14 UTC, reports no fresh observations of the supposed eruption plumes since 25 November at 22:32 UTC (that report was in this advisory), and concludes, as have all recent reports, that ‘volcano and latest VA plume not identifiable due to meteorological cloud’.

More news here (and at Eruptions, doubtless) as it comes in – if it comes in.

UPDATE: Commenter Chance Metz has provided a link to this obscure US Navy satellite site which gives MTSAT data covering Papua New Guinea. A quick review – all I have time for – of the images covering the last two days seems to show nothing unusual. Can anyone else find any sign of this supposed activity?

Global Volcanism Program: Karkar – summary information for Karkar (0501-03=)

The Volcanism Blog



1. Chance Metz - 27 November 2009

Thanks for mentioning the link I gave you. I see the same thing,nothing which is a suprise given that if there was a eruption you would think there would be some evidence it happened.

2. Kenny Nalu - 28 November 2009

Hi, I live in Mount Hagen, Western Highlands PNG, and have been with friends near Bogia along the coast from Kar Kar Island for the past few days, and met with people who live on Kar Kar. I can say for sure that there has been no eruption on Kar Kar. We had thunderstorms with many clouds, and this might be the reason for reports of an eruption cloud?

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