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Kirishima erupts in spectacular fashion

Around the globe in Japan, Kirishima, a volcano on the southern island of Kyushu, has started erupting vigorously. I haven’t been able to find many reports, but the Tokyo VAAC issued an ash warning for Kirishima to elevations up to ~7.6 km / 25,000 feet and the Kirishima webcam (there are three, but only one that is still working. UPDATE: you can try this link to all of the JMA webcams, but it is in Japanese. In the menu on the right, Kirishima is the 7th from the bottom of the list) seems to be showing significant glowing material coming from the summit area. This activity looks to be phreatomagmatic explosions throwing material from the crater and/or pyroclastic flows and reports indicate bombs being thrown upwards of 2 km (Japanese) from the vent. Judging from some of the webcam images (see below) captured by members of the Eruptions Tuff Team, the eruption is explosive with what looks like some plumes of incandescent material reaching a few hundred meters, producing the larger ash plume that caused the VAAC warning. Based on local news reports, ash has fallen on Nichinan and Miyazaki and parts of the highways (Japanese) on Kyushu have been blocked due to the current activity. Japanese officials have placed the area around the volcano on alert status 3.

UPDATE: Here is a longer video about the eruption both from the ground and helicopter along with satellite radar and ash fall images, again with Japanese commentary. The text with the video mentions some flight cancellations due to the ash along with closed roads and significant ashfall in parts of the Miyazaki Prefecture. {special thanks to Kirby for the link}.

UPDATE II: And another video with some close-up shots of the explosive activity in the crater as well.

UPDATE III: A host of great video of the eruption thanks to Dr. Boris Behncke. The first shows some of the pyroclastic flow action during the eruption along with the towering, multi-colored plume. The second is at night where you can clearly see the Strombolian explosions at the vent and the third (from Eruptions reader Pgen) shows a timelapse of one of the Kirishima webcams. Great stuff!

Top and bottom: webcam captures of Kirishima erupting on January 26, 2011.

Kirishima sees frequent activity, although many times the eruptions are small, explosive events around VEI 1. The last larger eruption was in 1959, a VEI 2 eruption that produced lahars and eruptions through the crater lake. This new eruption is thought to be the first significant explosive eruption at Kirishima (Japanese) since that 1959 event. Kirishima is actually the name of a larger group of volcanic vents on Kyushu – all of which dominantly erupt andesite that has seen both effusive and explosive eruptions. This latest eruption appears to be from Shinmoe-dake and the latest eruptive period at Kirishima started in 2008.

Webcam capture from January 26, 2011 of the ongoing eruption at Kirishima.

Much of the news coverage for the eruption has been in Japanese so far, but you can see some spectacular video of the eruption (with Japanese audio – secondary Youtube link for the same video) and more amazing footage from nighttime showing the incandescent bombs and even some lightning from the crater.

I’ll be on the lookout for more news for this ongoing eruption, but as always, feel free to post whatever you can find in the comments below.

{Special thanks to James Reynolds, Boris Behncke, Sherine, Kultsi and more for links/images in this post.}

Top left: The ash plume from Kirishima on January 26, 2011. Image from FNN. Click on the image to see a larger version.


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