Merapi Update for 11/4/2010: The eruption worsens

The new eruptive phase at Merapi appears to be getting worse - and from the sound of it, the volcanologists at the Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation aren't sure what to expect. Surono, the head of the Centre, described the volcano as entering an "even worse stage" and that "we have no idea what's happening now." Those are never good words to hear from the volcanologists on the ground, but shows how unpredictable volcanoes can be. A new dome was noticed on the volcano on Wednesday after the latest large explosion (video), but it is unclear how long it will survive or how much pressure the extruding lava might take from the underlying magma.

The images of the eruption are impressive to say the least (see below). The eruptive plume indicates that there is a lot of pressure in the volcanic conduit and when you combine this with periodic collapses of the dome in the main crater that are producing pyroclastic flows (see below), the combination is about as bad as you can muster with a composite volcano. The ash plume reached over 6 km / 20,000 feet yesterday with noticeable ash fall as far afield from the volcano ash 240 km. The rain on the slopes of the volcano has also remobilized the newly-erupted volcanic tephra (indonesian) to produce lahars down some of the volcano's drainages.

The eruptive plume from Merapi on November 4, 2010.

The ramifications of the eruption are becoming more apparent as well. The refugee shelters for evacuees are being moved to further away from the volcano due to Merapi's increasing activity. Meanwhile, more airspace over Indonesia is being closed due to the ash hazard presented by the eruptions. The death toll from the eruption has now reached at least 44, although many deaths might have been prevented if people living on the slopes of Merapi heeded the government's initial warnings. Upwards of 75,000 people have now been evacuated from the extended danger zone around the volcano.

You can follow some of the action on the ground in Indonesia via Twitter as well: @jalinmerapi_en. I'll post more updates on this post as well as the news merits.


  • I'm linking to this story from the Herald Sun mostly for its over-the-top headline: "Volcano's explosive rain of fire". Nothing like a headline that offers no information!
  • Check out this interview with our own James Reynolds over on the NYT's Dot Earth.
  • Some clear talking from Indonesian officials about eruptions.
  • Surono from the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency now says this eruption of Merapi is the worst in over 140 years. Death toll for the 1872 eruption is off. (Thanks again to Boris Behncke for finding the Jakarta Globe links). 
  • Evacuees up to 90,000.
  • Apparently there has been a big new eruption at Merapi, topping out at 16 km / 55,000 feet {h/t to MRK}
  • Pyroclastic flow hits town 15 km from the volcano.
  • {Special thanks, as usual, to all the Eruptions readers who provided links for this post.}

    Top left: The plume from Merapi captured by a nearby aircraft on November 4, 2010.

    Big Think
    Sponsored by Lumina Foundation

    Upvote/downvote each of the videos below!

    As you vote, keep in mind that we are looking for a winner with the most engaging social venture pitch - an idea you would want to invest in.

    Keep reading Show less

    Why Lil Dicky made this star-studded Earth Day music video

    "Earth" features about 30 of the biggest names in entertainment.

    Culture & Religion
    • Lil Dicky is a rapper and comedian who released his debut album in 2015.
    • His new music video, "Earth," features artists such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Ed Sheehan, Kevin Hart, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
    • All proceeds of the music video will go to environmental causes, Dicky said.
    Keep reading Show less

    After death, you’re aware that you’ve died, say scientists

    Some evidence attributes a certain neurological phenomenon to a near death experience.

    Credit: Petr Kratochvil.
    Surprising Science

    Time of death is considered when a person has gone into cardiac arrest. This is the cessation of the electrical impulse that drive the heartbeat. As a result, the heart locks up. The moment the heart stops is considered time of death. But does death overtake our mind immediately afterward or does it slowly creep in?

    Keep reading Show less

    Behold, the face of a Neolithic dog

    He was a very good boy.

    Image source: Historic Environment Scotland
    Surprising Science
    • A forensic artist in Scotland has made a hyper realistic model of an ancient dog.
    • It was based on the skull of a dog dug up in Orkney, Scotland, which lived and died 4,000 years ago.
    • The model gives us a glimpse of some of the first dogs humans befriended.
    Keep reading Show less