Japanese Volcano Produces Largest Eruption In Nearly A Century
August 19, 2013

Japanese Volcano Produces Largest Eruption In Nearly A Century

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

One of the world’s most active volcanoes showed its ugly side this weekend, erupting and producing an ash cloud that spread out across one southern Japanese city.

Sakurajima, a volcano that sits in the background of the southern Japanese city of Kagoshima and is known for producing hundreds of small explosions per year, erupted Sunday in one of the volcano’s largest explosions in decades and perhaps the largest since an eruption in 1914, burying village homes in feet of ash.

The plume from Sunday’s eruption reached 16,500 feet (more than 3 miles) before settling down over homes and businesses in Kagoshima and surrounding areas. The ash caused poor visibility and train delays in the city that sits just 5 miles east of the summit of Sakurajima. Residents who ventured outside were forced to wear dust masks to keep from inhaling deadly volcanic glass shards produced from explosive expansion of bubbles in erupting magma.

Some evidence from a YouTube video of the eruption shows what might be small pyroclastic flows generated from the explosion as well.

On Monday, as the dust and ash settled, residents of the southern city were out clearing ash from their cars and the streets. There is, as yet, no word on what caused this larger-than-normal eruption, but some believe there was a collapse in the Showa crater or perhaps some gas-charged magma entered into the upper chamber.

The Associated Press reported a lava flow had also raced more than a half-mile down the mountainside, but later reports refuted that evidence. Still, this was the region’s largest eruption in decades and the 500th eruption this year alone.

No deaths or injuries have been reported with this latest explosion on Sakurajima.

“The smoke was a bit dramatic, but we are kind of used to it,” a city official who requested anonymity told the Associated Press.

The Japan Meteorological Agency said there are no signs Sakurajima will produce an even larger eruption but maintained similar activity may continue. It had put up a warning people should not venture near the volcano for at least the time being.

Japan sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” a region that encircles nearly the whole of the Pacific Ocean and contains thousands of active volcanoes.  The most recent activity has been observed in Alaska where a trio of “Ring of Fire” volcanoes – Cleveland, Pavlof and Veniaminof – has been showing their fiery side as of late.

Veniaminof, an 8225-foot-high volcano that sits on the Alaskan Peninsula, became more active earlier this summer and is currently under a code “orange,” according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory, which is operated by the USGS. That volcano has continued to produce elevated, sustained, seismic tremor levels and is being continuously monitored.