Karkar volcano as seen from space.

Eruptions reader The Bobs left a note mentioning that there may have been a ‘significant’ eruption at Karkar in Papua New Guinea. The only place I can find information is John Seach’s Volcano Live:

An eruption occurred at Karkar volcano at 6:39 pm on 25th November 2009. The eruption plume reached a height of 45,000 ft. A magnitude 5.1 earthquake hit 90 km SSE of Karkar volcano 7.5 hours before the eruption.

I don’t know too much about Karkar, but the GVP says that it is a volcanic island made of a pair of calderas, with the inner caldera formed in the last 1,500 years. Volcano Live mentions a 1997 activity at the volcano (in the form of fumarolic activity), but the GVP lists the last eruption as occurring in 1980. Most eruptions look to be fairly explosive (~VEI 2) from the pyroclastic cone in the inner caldera. Weekly volcano reports from the SI/USGS lists some fumarolic activity from the inner caldera in January 2008.

If the reports are accurate for this new activity, it could definitely be a “significant” eruption. More news as I can find it.

UPDATE 5:30PM 11/23/2009: And more information is found, over at the Volcanism Blog.

UPDATE 6:45PM 11/23/2009: This isn’t really an update as such, but I did stumble across these TOMS images of SO2 from a 1979 eruption of Karkar.


  1. #1 Chance Metz
    November 25, 2009

    first eruption to 45,000 feet and another seems to have happeend. This volcano means busniess. Never heard of it myslef either. it seems the volcanoes no one knws much aobut are the ones that blow like Chaiten,go figure.

    DTG: 20091125/2316Z
    VAAC: Darwin

    VOLCANO: Karkar 0501-03
    PSN: S0439 E14558
    AREA: New_Guinea NE_of
    SUMMIT ELEV: 1839M

    ADVISORY NR: 2009/5


    FCST VA CLD +12HR:
    FCST VA CLD +18HR:

    Graphic at [lower case]
    NXT ADVISORY: NO LATER THAN 20091126/0515Z

  2. #2 Chance Metz
    November 25, 2009

    This is the more detailed advisroy they were talking about.

    Received FVAU0295 at 23:32 UTC, 25/11/09 from ADRM
    DTG: 20091125/2332Z
    VAAC: Darwin

    VOLCANO: Karkar 0501-03
    PSN: S0439 E14558
    AREA: New_Guinea NE_of
    SUMMIT ELEV: 1839M

    ADVISORY NR: 2009/6

    OBS VA DTG: 25/2315Z
    SFC/FL300 S0435 E14600 – S0435 E14510 – S0520 E14540 –
    S0435 E14600 MOV W 15KT
    SFC/FL450 S0435 E13745 – S0525 E13225 – S1030 E13235 –
    S0950 E13820 – S0435 E13745 MOV W 25KT

    FCST VA CLD +6HR: 26/0515Z
    SFC/FL300 S0440 E14600 – S0425 E14445 – S0530 E14525 – S0440 E14600
    FCST VA CLD +12HR: 26/1115Z
    SFC/FL300 S0435 E14600 – S0425 E14415 – S0540 E14500 – S0435 E14600
    FCST VA CLD +18HR: 26/1715Z
    SFC/FL300 S0435 E14600 – S0420 E14345 – S0605 E14435 – S0435 E14600

    FORECAST BOUNDERY EXTRAPOLATED Graphic at [lower case]
    NXT ADVISORY: NO LATER THAN 20091126/0515Z

  3. #3 Erik Klemetti
    November 25, 2009

    Huh … does sound like a big one right now. Still no news on the wire or anything, but I’ll keep my eyes pealed (and if any of you find anything, post it here!)

  4. #4 Chance Metz
    November 25, 2009

    Sure does and i will be sure to do that.

  5. #5 Mattias Larsson
    November 25, 2009

    I run into some information. According to wikipedia, the Karkar iland is a 25 X 19 km oval-shaped iland with a population of about 50000 people.(!)

    I don´t know if this information is correct, but it made me worried! If this is a big eruption it could be dangerous for the people. I hope they have time to evacuate if it becomes dangerous.

  6. #6 Chance Metz
    November 25, 2009

    I don’t really know but wikipedia is not always correct. If it was you would think it would be in the news somewhere.

  7. #7 Mark Gray
    November 25, 2009

    As luck would have it the location appears to be between Terra and Aqua passes today, or at least at the very edge of the satellite swath. Very disappointing. We might get a MERIS overpass if we’re lucky.

  8. #8 Boris Behncke
    November 26, 2009

    Karkar gained some notoriety during its last eruption in 1979, when it killed two volcanologists, John Cooke and Elias Ravian. Cooke had made himself a name in Papua New Guinea related volcanology by the time – that’s a country with an enormous quantity of volcanoes, of which three or four are in constant activity. The fatal eruption, in early March 1979, was probably hydromagmatic and sent a dilute pyroclastic flow across the caldera floor of Karkar and then up the steep caldera walls, about 300 m high, to devastate the camp site of Cooke and Ravian. Later, a volume of the Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Papua New Guinea, was dedicated to the two scientists, which contained a number of interesting papers on Papua volcanoes.

  9. #9 Perry Debell
    November 26, 2009

    Earthquake activity to the north of Australia appears to be increasing east to west today.

  10. #10 Jan Messersmith
    November 26, 2009

    I live in Madang. 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. Tomorrow (Saturday 28 November) I’m going to go over there in my boat to see if I can get some pictures, if anything is going on. Nobody in Madang has seen any activity. Could there be some error? We watch Kar Kar pretty carefully. I can’t imagine that we could miss any action this significant.

  11. #11 Erik Klemetti
    November 26, 2009

    Thanks for that update from the scene, Jan. This is becoming more and more mysterious considering the lack of any coverage on the news. Has anybody run into any other info on this supposed Karkar eruption? Could this have been a big steam-and-ash plume rather than an ash plume … it seems awfully tall (well, too tall actually) to be fumarolic in nature?

  12. #12 Chance Metz
    November 26, 2009

    40,000 foot steam plumes? I highly doubt that,there were a lot of thunderstroms in the area and we all know you can’t see anything when thuderstorms are occuring and any ash cloud will be impossible to varify. The only thing I can guess is sattlite msitook a thunderstrom for a ash cloud but by now someone would have figured out it was a false alarm. This is indeed a puzzle.

  13. #13 Chance Metz
    November 26, 2009

    Go to this website to see sattlite imagery of Karkar volcano. note it is a military website and I had to look aorund a liitle bit to find this site

  14. #14 joe
    November 27, 2009

    Last year I was in PNG setting up a computer lab at an elementary school on Karkar island. Can’t tell you that much about the place from a technical point of view, but its a beautiful island with approx 30,000 people living on it, I didn’t have a chance to hike up the summit of the volcano unfortunately. There is another more active volcano a few km northwest called Manam island, it was evacuated about 5 years ago and it had a major eruption, they still haven’t given the all clear for the inhabitants to move back yet.

  15. #15 Jan Messersmith
    November 28, 2009

    It’s now Sunday morning here in Madang. I was out on the boat for several hours yesteday with Kar Kar in plain view about 50 kilometres away. We saw nothing out of the ordinary. We have seen minor eruptions before, with some ash and gas. There was nothing of this nature yesterday or any other day since the report. Nobody around here has heard any reports of activity. There are boats going back and forth every day and we have phone contact with friends on the island who have reported no activity. This looks pretty much like an incorrect report. Either that or it is the virst major invisible eruption.

    If anybody wants more specific info, let me know.

  16. #16 Ron de Haan
    November 29, 2009

    There has not been any eruption at all!

    This is what I call a false alarm.

    Question: How is this possible in this day and age on an occupied island?

    We live in the disinformation age.

    We have to go bak to the old trusted system of check, double check and check again to prevent this kind of debacles.

  17. #17 Erik Klemetti
    November 29, 2009

    Incredible, isn’t it? I just posted a brief update on the non-eruption:

    Have to admit, I’m surprised about all of it.

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