The 2009 Pliny for Volcanic Event of the Year goes to ...

2009 is over! If you missed the Volcanic Year in Review, check out my summary of the volcanic events that captivated many of us over the past year. However, only one event will get the coveted 2009 Pliny for Volcanic Event of the Year. A lot of you wrote in with votes and comments - I thank you - and a number of events stood out in your mind. Here we go:

Honorable mention
A few volcanic events got multiple votes:
- Soufriere Hills on Montserrat.
- Mando Hararo in Ethiopia.
- Chaiten, Chile and the new research on the eruption.
- The earthquakes in western Saudi Arabia under the Harrat Lunayyir volcanic field.

The Top 5
4 (tied): West Mata and Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai

Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai erupting in March 2009.
It seems oddly fitting that two submarine volcanic eruptions tied for 4th. Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai eventually became subaerial, but West Mata showed us the first real explosive volcanism caught on camera in deep ocean conditions.

3: Mayon, Philippines

Mayon erupting with lava flows from the summit dome, December 2009.
Possibly the last year activity helped boost its placing, but a large Mayon eruption would be a significant event no matter what. While that hasn't happened just yet, over 50,000 people have been evacuated and lava flows are cascading down the sides of the picturesque Philippine volcano. Look for Mayon to make news well into 2010.

2: Redoubt, Alaska

Redoubt erupting on March 28, 2009. Image courtesy of AVO/USGS, taken by Tricia Joy Sadler.
The eruption of Redoubt got our attention in January and didn't let go for months - will it erupt? When will it erupt? How big will it be? When all was said and done (?), the eruption was relatively minor - the Anchorage airports were only briefly closed and the oil production in the area has resumed (albeit with the Drift River Oil Terminal closed for good). However, the lasting legacy of Redoubt might be how closely this event was monitored from start to finish by the Alaska Volcano Observatory - and how much information they put out for public consumption (via Twitter no less). Redoubt was the first 21st century, digital age volcanic eruption ... and it might not be over.

The 2009 Pliny winner for Volcanic Event of the Year

Sarychev Peak, Russia

Sarychev Peak erupting in June 2009, taken from the ISS.
It might have come out of the blue - it might not have even lasted as long as other eruptions in 2009, but it was the images of the Sarychev Peak eruption that captured out imagination. The sequence of pictures taken of the plume from the International Space Station might be the most stunning images of a volcanic eruption ever taken and the plethora of satellite images of the eruption collected by the NASA Earth Observatory let us see the mammoth eruption in all its splendor. The eruption wreaked havoc on transpacific flights over the Kuril Islands for weeks - but it is fascinating that an eruption that took place near almost no one has ended up being seen by almost everyone.

Happy 2010 to all my Eruptions readers ... !

More like this

Happy new 2010 to everybody and Congratulations to Sarychev, a volcano that I am sure fully deserved being "the volcano of the year". Not only because it featured spectacularly in one of the most spectacular volcano photos ever taken, but also because it was a BIG eruption - a far cry maybe from Chaitén or Pinatubo, but probably among the most voluminous eruptions of the year.
Now let's see what volcanic events the new year will bring ... Mayon seems to be dropping out of sight for the moment (but I remember during its 1984 eruption it came back spectacularly after about one week of very low level activity, and also in 1993 and 2001 there were significant pauses in the activity).

i appreciate Your considering Redoubt as the Volcano of the Year. i live across Cook Inlet and my little grandson lives 70 miles south of me and had a clear view of one of the more spectacular eruptions and happened to be out in his yard talking to me on a cell phone. He was quite concerned and was telling me all about it......"Mots, Mots..... it's scary scary!" as the hugh black cloud exploded upward. i couldn't see a thing; being too close and having a cloudy sky. It's alright, It's Ok, It's going to be ok, i tried to console the little guy...... He turned to the rest of the crowd and announced releaved...."Mots says it's going to be ok." with total relief. ........

Later i caught a film of that particular explosion........
it WAS SCARRY SCARRY! i don't think my grandmother could have convinced me that it was going to be all right!

What undeserved power we have.
Happy New Year, Everyone!
Try to deserve the trust of our grandchildren.

Well, obviously this one had my vote; timing is everything. If the ISS had been 15 minutes earlier or an hour later, this growing eruption column would have been either missed or spread out. They caught in ascent; lucky and spectacular.

First new eruption of the year 2010: Piton de la Fournaise (Réunion Island, Indian Ocean). This event is announced on the web site of the Réunion island newspaper "Journal de l'île" ( and at, whereas no news has yet been posted at the web site of the volcanological observatory of Piton de la Fournaise:

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