Spectacular Eruption of Sangeang Api Volcano (Indonesia)

May 31st, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Yesterday’s eruption of the Sangeang Api volcano in the Sundra Islands produced an ash cloud which appears to have reached the stratosphere, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for it to temporarily cool the climate system.

A NASA MODIS satellite image of the eruption shows the ash cloud drifting southeastward toward Australia, where all flights from Darwin have been grounded:

NASA Terra MODIS imagery of the Sangeang Api eruption in Indonesia.

NASA Terra MODIS imagery of the Sangeang Api eruption in Indonesia.

Details of the eruption can be found here. This backlit photo shows the anvil-type structure which supports the view that the plume has reached the lower stratosphere (Photo credit Courtney Robba, Dunia Baru):

Here’s another spectacular photo:

I have not yet seen any estimates of the sulfur output from the eruption, which is what will determine its potential to reduce incoming sunlight and cause cooling. I suspect it will be nowhere near the Pinatubo eruption of 15 June 1991, which produced 20 million tons of SO2.

14 Responses to “Spectacular Eruption of Sangeang Api Volcano (Indonesia)”

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  1. RW says:

    Wow — nice images.

  2. geran says:

    Way to be on top of it, Dr. Roy!

    Please keep us updated, as you find out more. Possible implications could be very interesting….

    • geran says:

      Thanks for the link, Stephen. The implications appear to be lessening, unless the volcano can do better.

      (I will keep my prediction of May UAH temps to myself this time.)

  3. Does anyone know what the explosive index was for this eruption? From what I can tell it was 5 or so.

    This is going to be more common as the prolonged solar minimum becomes more firmly entrenched.

    Past history supports this view showing over 85% of all major volcanic eruptions post 1600ad during minimum solar activity periods.

    This is one of my climate-solar connections.

  4. Paul Walker says:

    I think the images are really great and you have mention well through your writing they look quite amazing.

  5. Greg Goodman says:

    Disappointing, I was hoping to get a chance to check my estimation of volcanic forcing :


    Looks like Lacis and Hansen may have been right ,way back in 1992 when they were still doing atmospheric science instead of fixing models by changing the data.

  6. Greg Goodman says:

    Should at least see something TLS next month.

  7. CM says:

    Forgive my ignorance, but what are the other conditions necessary for an eruption creating cooling besides the ash reaching the stratosphere? I am guessing the particle size of the ash or the chemical makeup? Thanks.

  8. CM says:

    my apologies, I now see the caption…sulfur content determines.

    • bernie says:

      I believe other factors that matter are:

      (1) Latitude:

      Higher latitude eruptions are order of ten more influential
      than lower.

      (2) Height of volcano “launch point”:

      Higher the volcano’s peak, the more gets into the stratosphere.

      (3) General size of the event:

      Big events have disproportionate effect. The sulfates stay up longer before removal.

      In general:

      Most explosive volcano events have little effect as
      the plume doesn’t go high enough.

      I do not know if anyone has sufficient data yet to make forecasts about this recent event.

      Any cooling effect usually lasts about a year.

  9. bernie says:

    “…cooling effect…”

    Of course, any cooling which results from an increase in the Albedo is a real cooling. Unlike El Nino/La Nina, which is just a shallow puddle of water sloshing backwards and forwards.

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