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Plume from Rabaul Volcano
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
Rabaul Volcano, on the northeastern end of Papua New Guinea’s island of New Britain, released a small plume in early August 2009. The event continued an ongoing pattern of low-level activity at Rabaul that had lasted for months.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of the plume on August 4, 2009. Compared to nearby bright white clouds, the plume appears dull gray-beige, suggesting that it contains volcanic ash. An alert from the U.S. Air Force Weather Agency issued the same day described an ash plume extending roughly 28 kilometers (15 nautical miles) southeast of the summit. In this image, the ash plume appears to have changed direction south of the summit, curving around to the west.
Rabaul is a pyroclastic shield volcano. Composed of broken rocks produced by earlier eruptions, this volcano has a low, broad profile resembling an ancient warrior shield. Inside Rabaul’s caldera sits Tavurvur Cone, and much of the low-level eruptive activity in 2009 arose from Tavurvur, according to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program.