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Volcanoes in Indonesia

The geography of Indonesia is dominated by volcanoes that are formed due to subduction zones between the Eurasian plate and the Indo-Australian plate. Some of the volcanoes are notable for their eruptions, for instance, Krakatau for its global effects in 1883, Lake Toba for its supervolcanic eruption estimated to have occurred 74,000 Before Present which was responsible for six years of volcanic winter, and Mount Tambora for the most violent eruption in recorded history in 1815.


Stratovolcanoes
Information about Stratovolcanoes

A stratovolcano, also called a composite volcano, is a tall, conical volcano composed of many layers of hardened lava, tephra, and volcanic ash. These volcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic, explosive eruptions. The lava that flows from them is viscous, and cools and hardens before spreading very far. The source magma of this rock is classified as acidic, or high in silica to intermediate (rhyolite, dacite, or andesite). This is in contrast to less viscous basic magma that forms shield volcanoes (such as Mauna Loa in Hawaii), which have a wide base and more gently sloping profile.

Although stratovolcanoes are sometimes called composite volcanoes, volcanologists prefer to use the term stratovolcano to distinguish among volcanoes because all volcanoes of any size have a composite (layered) structure — that is, are built up from sequential outpourings of eruptive materials.

Formation

Stratovolcanoes are a common feature of subduction zones, forming chains or 'arcs' along tectonic plate boundaries where oceanic crust is subsumed under continental crust (Continental Arc Volcanism, e.g. Cascade Range, central Andes) or another oceanic plate (Island arc Volcanism, e.g. Japan, Aleutian Islands). The magma that forms stratovolcanoes arises when water, which is trapped both in hydrated minerals and in the porous basalt rock of the upper oceanic crust, is released into mantle rock of the asthenosphere above the sinking oceanic slab. The release of water from hydrated minerals is termed "dewatering," and occurs at specific pressure/temperature conditions for specific minerals as the plate subducts to lower depths.

The water freed from the subducting slab lowers the melting point of the overlying mantle rock, which then undergoes partial melting and rises due to its density relative to the surrounding mantle rock, and pools temporarily at the base of the lithosphere. The magma then rises through the crust, incorporating silica rich crustal rock, leading to a final intermediate composition. When the magma nears the surface it pools in a magma chamber under the volcano. The relatively low pressure of the magma allows water and other volatiles (CO2, S2-, Cl-) dissolved in the magma to begin to come out of solution, much like when a bottle of carbonated water is opened. Once a critical volume of magma and gas accumulates, the obstacle provided by the volcanic cone is overcome, leading to a sudden explosive eruption.

Hazards

In recorded history, explosive eruptions at subduction-zone (convergent-boundary) volcanoes have posed the greatest hazard to civilizations. Subduction-zone stratovolcanoes like Mount St. Helens and Mount Pinatubo typically erupt with explosive force, because the magma is too stiff to allow easy escape of volcanic gases. As a consequence, tremendous internal pressures mount as the trapped gases expand during ascent, before the pent-up pressure is suddenly released in a violent eruption. Such an explosive process can be compared to putting your thumb over an opened bottle of a carbonated drink, shaking it vigorously, and then quickly removing the thumb. The shaking action separates the gases from the liquid to form bubbles, increasing the internal pressure. Quick release of the thumb allows the gases and liquid to gush out with explosive speed and force.
As examples of the hazards of stratovolcanoes, consider two volcanoes on the western edge of the Philippine Plate that eruped in 1991. On June 15, Mount Pinatubo spewed ash 40 km into the air and produced huge pyroclastic flows and mudflows that devastated a large area around the volcano. Pinatubo, located 90 km from Manila, had been dormant for 600 years before the 1991 eruption, which ranks as one of the largest eruptions in the 20th Century. Also in 1991, Japan's Unzen Volcano, located on the island of Kyushu about 40 km east of Nagasaki, awakened from its 200-year slumber to produce a new lava dome at its summit. Beginning in June, repeated collapses of this active dome generated destructive ash flows that swept down its slopes at speeds as high as 200 km per hour. Unzen is one of more than 75 active volcanoes in Japan; its eruption in 1792 killed more than 15,000 people--the worst volcanic disaster in the country's history.

While the Unzen eruptions have caused deaths and considerable local damage, the impact of the June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo was global. Slightly cooler than usual temperatures recorded worldwide and the brilliant sunsets and sunrises have been attributed to this eruption that sent fine ash and gases high into the stratosphere, forming a large volcanic cloud that drifted around the world. The sulfur dioxide (SO2) in this cloud - about 22 million tons - combined with water to form droplets of sulfuric acid, blocking some of the sunlight from reaching the Earth and thereby cooling temperatures in some regions by as much as 0.5 °C. An eruption the size of Mount Pinatubo could affect the weather for a few years. A similar phenomenon occurred in April of 1815 with the cataclysmic eruption of Tambora Volcano in Indonesia, the most powerful eruption in recorded history. Tambora's volcanic cloud lowered global temperatures by as much as 3 °C. Even a year after the eruption, most of the northern hemisphere experienced sharply cooler temperatures during the summer months. In part of Europe and in North America, 1816 was known as the year without a summer.

Apart from possibly affecting climate, volcanic clouds from explosive eruptions also pose a hazard to aviation safety. During the past two decades, more than 60 airplanes, mostly commercial jetliners, have been damaged by in-flight encounters with volcanic ash. Some of these encounters have resulted in the power loss of all engines, necessitating emergency landings. Luckily, to date no crashes have happened because of jet aircraft flying into volcanic ash.

Since the year A.D. 1600, nearly 300,000 people have been killed by volcanic eruptions. Most deaths were caused by pyroclastic flows and mudflows, deadly hazards which often accompany explosive eruptions of subduction-zone stratovolcanoes. Pyroclastic flows are fast-moving, avalanche-like, ground-hugging incandescent mixtures of hot volcanic debris, ash, and gases that can travel at speeds in excess of 150 km per hour. Approximately 30,000 people were killed by pyroclastic flows during the 1902 eruption of Mont Pelée on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. In March-April 1982, three explosive eruptions of El Chichón Volcano in the State of Chiapas, southeastern Mexico, caused the worst volcanic disaster in that country's history. Villages within 8 km of the volcano were destroyed by pyroclastic flows, killing more than 2,000 people.

Mudflows (also called debris flows or lahars, an Indonesian term for volcanic mudflows) are mixtures of volcanic debris and water. The water usually comes from two sources: rainfall or the melting of snow and ice by hot volcanic debris. Depending on the proportion of water to volcanic material, mudflows can range from soupy floods to thick flows that have the consistency of wet cement. As mudflows sweep down the steep sides of composite volcanoes, they have the strength and speed to flatten or bury everything in their paths. Hot ash and pyroclastic flows from the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia, South America, melted snow and ice atop the 5,390-m-high Andean peak; the ensuing mudflows buried the city of Armero, killing 25,000 people.


All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on November 11, 2009
    
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