NASA satellite captures incredible extent of Tavurvur volcano ashfall


The Operational Land Imager on the Landsat 8 satellite captured the view of ash covering the landscape near Mount Tavurvur on September 2, 2014. (NASA)

On August 29, the Mount Tavurvur volcano in Papua New Guinea began an epic eruption that shot lava hundreds of feet into the air, scattering ash far and wide. The before and after satellite images of the surrounding area, including the city of Rabaul, are incredible.

NASA writes that when German colonists built the city of Rabaul, they had no idea what they were getting into:

They were building inside the Rabaul caldera. In fact, the harbor that made the area so attractive as a port was actually formed when the sea partially flooded the caldera after a cataclysmic eruption about 1,400 years ago.

The town of Rabaul, the largest on the island of New Britain, has been paying for the mistake ever since. In 1937, an explosive eruption from Mount Tavurvur obliterated much of the town, killing 500 people in the process. In 1994, two nearby volcanoes—Mount Vulcan and Mount Tavurvur—burst to life simultaneously. A quick evacuation plan meant that just five people lost their lives, but so much ash piled up on buildings that about two-thirds of the town was destroyed.

The 1937 eruption makes Friday’s look modest by comparison, which is hard to imagine given the incredible imagery that we’ve seen from the eruption and the surrounding area. The following video and photos of the eruption were taken from a sailboat and posted to Flickr:

 

 

 

 

 

Angela Fritz is an atmospheric scientist and The Post's deputy weather editor.
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