Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 02 Jul 2020 by:

On 22 December back in 2018, Indonesia’s Anak Krakatau volcano erupted. The collapse of its flank triggered a tsunami that killed more than 400 and injured at least 30,000 people. 

To understand how the events of that day unfolded with such catastrophic effect, an international research team led by Research Associate Anna Perttu from the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) turned to the data collected from monitoring stations from all around the region, official reports, as well as satellite and visual observations.

Eruptions produce a wide range of signals. Humans can see and hear some of them only when close enough to the eruption. Monitoring instruments help fill the gap. Satellites can be used to image volcanic plumes that are too high or obstructed from an...

Submitted on 21 May 2020 by:

Did you know that in the past six weeks six volcanoes in Indonesia erupted? These volcanoes are Semeru, Anak Krakatau, Merapi, Kerinci, Dukono, and Ibu. 

These recent eruptions are part of the usual volcanic bustle in Indonesia, impacting mostly the areas close to the volcanoes. While some of these activities were picked up all the way in Singapore, all were reported to aviation authorities.

Issuing Eruption Notifications

The Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazards Mitigation (CVGHM), the monitoring agency for Indonesian volcanoes, issued a Volcano Observatory Notification for Aviation (VONA) on each eruption. The notification includes a summary of the volcanic activity, the...

Submitted on 09 Mar 2020 by:

113 years ago, on 4 January 1907, a powerful magnitude (M) 8.2-8.4 earthquake occurred off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. This earthquake belonged to a special class called “tsunami earthquakes” that do not generate very strong shaking, but can result in large tsunamis.

The tsunami that was produced struck Nias and Simeulue, killing thousands. It also struck the distant shores of Sri Lanka, India, and the island of Reunion. The first earthquake was later followed by another quake measuring approximately M 7.0, resulting in the destruction of countless houses.

In the years that followed, the sequence got jumbled and the two events were conflated as one, but the 1907 disaster was preserved in local memory by way of the legend of the Smong – a Devayan word for...

Submitted on 05 Nov 2019 by:

Today is World Tsunami Awareness Day. It is a timely opportunity to create greater global awareness about tsunamis as a geological hazard. Before asking how we can stay safe (or safer) from tsunamis, we must first think about how we might improve on the resilience of our current and future infrastructure.

Let’s start by looking at what a tsunami is. A tsunami is a series of waves caused by an underwater earthquake, a volcanic eruption, a landslide, or meteorological processes (meteo-tsunamis). 

So why is SE Asia vulnerable to tsunami hazards? First of all, SE Asia lies in a complex tectonic setting that contains many fault systems and volcanoes. Coupled with a high population density and a tight network of infrastructure in coastal areas, one can imagine just how...

Submitted on 30 Sep 2019 by:

Just after 6pm on 28 September 2018 (Singapore time), a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck central Sulawesi. The powerful quake generated a tsunami which, along with massive landslides, devastated Palu and the town of Donggala. These resulted in more than 4,000 people dead or missing.

In an economic loss assessment report issued by Indonesia's National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB), the Palu earthquake event caused more than S$1.5 million in damages.

Today, a year later, scientists from the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) and their teams are ready to share some of their findings about this earthquake-tsunami event.

A Complex Rupture Sequence

Using a combination of seismic, geodetic, geologic, and written records, Assistant Professor Wei...

Submitted on 28 Sep 2019 by:

During the early evening of 28 September 2018, a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck along the coast of northwestern Sulawesi, Indonesia. This region hosts a famous strike-slip fault system called the Palu-Koro Fault.

Even though this is one of the fastest slipping faults in the world, it has not produced many large earthquakes during historical times. The Palu-Koro Fault was therefore thought to have a high probability of a large and destructive earthquake, and so the occurrence of the 2018 quake in Sulawesi wasn’t very surprising.

However, the landsliding that was triggered by the earthquake turned out to be unexpectedly destructive. Soon after the earthquake, witnesses described entire villages south of Palu City sinking into mud and disappearing, and it was...

Submitted on 30 May 2019 by:

I went to Banda Aceh, Indonesia in 2006 to help assess the impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami upon the region’s rich cultural heritage. The scale of destruction caused by the tsunami was staggering. Half the city had been pulverised and all that was left was a mix of concrete, broken furniture, household items, and a colorful patchwork of shreds of clothing. We found clusters of beautifully carved stone grave markers dating back centuries amongst the rubble, half buried in mud and debris, or piled up neglected near areas being cleared by NGOs and donors for new tracts of post-disaster housing.

The same waves that killed over 150,000 people and displaced millions had reached back into the past and threatened to wipe out the historical memories of Aceh’s coastal...

Submitted on 18 Feb 2019 by:

On 29 July 2018, Lombok was struck by a 6.4-magnitude earthquake, killing 20 people. A week later, an even stronger earthquake of magnitude 6.9 devasted the island. Strong aftershocks continued to rock the Indonesian island, quickly transforming the popular tourist paradise into “hell on earth”.

In an episode of Channel NewsAsia’s Insight titled "Lombok: A Shattered Paradise", aired on 7 September 2018, Prof Sieh provided insights on how tectonic plate movements could result in tsunamis, volcanic activities, as well as devastating earthquakes. Using the analogy of a cracked windshield on a car, Prof Sieh explained how aftershocks are produced from faults during an earthquake. In some instances, an aftershock can trigger a more powerful earthquake. This is possibly what...

Submitted on 27 Dec 2018 by:

At approximately 9:30pm local time (2:30pm GMT) on the 22nd December 2018, a tsunami struck Indonesia’s Sunda Strait, which lies between the islands of Java and Sumatra, claiming over 430 lives. According to Indonesia’s disaster agency there are at least 1,500 injured, over 120 people still missing, and around 12,000 people have been displaced.

The tsunami occurred during a local holiday for the December solstice, striking a number of popular tourist destinations, including the Tanjung Lesung beach resort in the west of Java. Eyewitness reports indicate there were two separate waves, with the second, larger wave causing the most damage. 

The tsunami was caused by a violent eruption of Anak Krakatau (Fig. 1), the "child" of Krakatoa, in the Sunda Strait....

Submitted on 14 Nov 2018 by:

On Sunday (29 July 2018), I learnt about the strong 6.4-magnitude (M) earthquake in Lombok, Indonesia. As we have friends living there, I wanted to visit to see what aid we could organise for the people there. So my husband and I went to Lombok with some friends, and we linked up with other humanitarian aid groups to visit the Sembalun area, which is about 1,000 metres above sea level, at the foothills of Mount Rinjani, one of the most scenic volcanoes in the world.


At about 6.46 pm the following Sunday (5 August 2018), just as we had finished a meeting to prioritise the relief needs, an earthquake suddenly occurred. It was my first time experiencing a quake, and it really shook the foundations of what I knew about them.

I realised I had many...