Japan's Sakurajima Volcano Erupts, Spewing Lava Bombs and Sending Ash 11,000 Feet into the Air

One of Japan's most active volcanoes has erupted, flinging lava bombs into the atmosphere and sending ash 11,000 feet into the air, Volcano Discovery reports.

According to recent updates from the Japan Meteorological Agency, Sakurajima has been emitting a steady stream of ash and lapilli—small fragments of rock—following recent seismic activity.

According to Volcano Discovery, lava bombs—chunks of molten or semi-molten rock 2.5 inches plus in diameter—are being chucked distances of 2,624 to 3,608 feet from Minamidake summit crater, while ash emissions are reaching altitudes of around 11,000 feet. It said 26 volcanic earthquakes and 13 tremors have been recorded.

The Japan Meteorological Agency has issued a level 3 near-crater warning for Sakurajima, advising people not to approach the volcano. The warning has been in place since February 5, 2016 when Sakurajima experienced a massive eruption. The blast sent smoke and ash 1.2 miles into the sky, Newsweek reported at the time.

Sakurajima, which stands at 3,665 feet in height, is on Japan's southern island of Kyushu. It is one of the countries most active volcanoes and explosions, ash plumes and projectiles are frequently reported.

But while volcanolgists regularly report seismic activity, there have been few eruptions of the scale reported in 2016—a notable exception being an eruption reported in November 2019, when smoke and debris was sent 3.4 miles into the air.

According to the Global Volcanism Program, small eruptive events and three explosions were reported by the Japan Meteorological Agency between 13 and 20 April.

While the size of recent explosions have been relatively average in terms of Sakurajima's history, in 2016 scientists raised concerns it could be due a larger eruption. Researchers at the University of Bristol in the U.K. published a study that said the volcano would take around 130 years to build the magma required for an eruption on the same scale as it produced in 1914, meaning another large eruption could be just over 20 years away.

The 1914 eruption, which killed 58 people, produced 0.3 cubic miles of lava flow. Coastal areas were "inundated with sea water" after the eruption, rice fields were destroyed and a straight that once separated the volcano from the mainland was closed off.

"Evidently, a thorough understanding of the rate and volume of magma supply and accumulation, and their thermomechanical controls, is essential for continued monitoring and eruption forecasting at Sakurajima volcano, and volcanoes worldwide," the team wrote at the time.

Japan sits on what is known as the Ring of Fire—a volcanically and seismically active region of Earth driven by plate tectonics. There are 110 active volcanoes in Japan, of which 47 are continuously monitored.

SAKURAJIMA, Japan
The volcano on Mt Sakurajima erupts September 29, 2014 in the air over Mt Sakurajima, Japan. Updates from the Japan Meteorological Agency forecast lipillis and ash streams. Chris McGrath/Getty
Japan's Sakurajima Volcano Erupts, Spewing Lava Bombs and Sending Ash 11,000 Feet into the Air | Tech & Science