Indonesia's Most Active Volcano Erupts, Sending Plumes of Ash 3,000 Feet Into The Air

A volcano in Indonesia erupted on Sunday morning, sending plumes of ash up to 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) into the air, officials said.

Mount Merapi erupted at 10.46 a.m. local time, the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPNP) said. The eruption lasted for 155 seconds, according to the agency.

The ash was blown to the west and caused parts of Benyubiru village in Central Java to be covered in a thin layer of ash, The Jakarta Post reported, citing the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center.

Terjadi letusan di Gunung #Merapi tanggal 17 November 2019 pukul 10:46 WIB. Letusan tercatat di seismogram dengan amplitudo max 70 mm dan durasi 155 detik. Teramati kolom letusan setinggi ±1000 m. Angin bertiup ke Barat. #statuswaspada sejak 21 Mei 2018

— BNPB Indonesia (@BNPB_Indonesia) November 17, 2019

Agus WIbowo, a spokesman for the BNPB, told The Star Online that people should stay out of the 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) exclusion zone around the volcano's crater. "Residents are advised to remain cautious for risks of volcanic ash, hot clouds and explosive eruption," he said.

The volcano, which is located on the border between Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces on the island of Java, is Indonesia's most active. The last major eruption was in 2010. It killed 347 people, according to The Associated Press.

Earlier this year, a river of lava flowed 1,400 meters down the volcano's slopes. A spokesman for the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Center told the Associated Press in January that the volcano had entered an "effusive eruption phase" since it began erupting again last year.

Meanwhile, researchers from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) recently published a study after examining samples from Mount Merapi that could predict when it and other volcanoes could explode.

They saw that the "explosivity of stratovolcanoes rises when mineral-rich gases seal the pores and microcracks in the uppermost layers of stone." They believe their findings, published in the Nature Communications journal, open up new possibilities about predicting when an eruption is set to occur.

A news release about the study notes that geoscientists have usually used seismic measurements, which illustrate underground movements when warning people about coming eruptions. But now, the team of scientists, including those from TUM, have found another indication for an upcoming eruption in the lava from the peak of Mount Merapi. They say the uppermost layer of stone—known as the "plug dome"—becomes impermeable for underground gases before a volcano erupts.

"Our investigations show that the physical properties of the plug dome change over time," TUM Professor H. Albert Gilg said. "Following an eruption the lava is still easily permeable, but this permeability then sinks over time. Gases are trapped, pressure rises and finally the plug dome bursts in a violent explosion."

Mount Merapi
Stock photo: Mount Merapi spews volcanic ash on June 1, 2018 as seen from Karanganyar in Indonesia's Central Java province. Mount Merapi erupted again on Sunday morning, officials said. Anwar Mustafa/AFP via Getty Images