Assessing the Hazard from Sumatran Volcanoes

Sumatra hosts over 130 active or potentially active volcanoes that are located next to major cities like Medan (2.1 Million inhabitants), Padang (833,562) and Bandar Lampung (881,801) but also close to highly populated neighboring countries like Peninsular Malaysia (22.6 Million) and Singapore (5.3 Million).

Sumatran volcanoes are very poorly known, as only a handfull have been studied and slightly more are regularly monitored. The interpretation of unrest signals and the forecasting of eruptive activity would be improved with background knowledge on the type and volume of eruptions that have characterized this volcano in the past. Unfortunately, this information is presently lacking. Few Sumatran volcanoes are regularly active and those generally display mild explosive activity. However, their morphologies suggest the potential for much more frequent and/or violent eruptions.Sumatran Volcanoes and cities

There is a need to better understand the eruptive potential of Sumatran volcanoes, to identify the most hazardous ones (those that will erupt sooner or more violently), and to build frameworks that will help understand unrest signals and predict eruptive activity.

This project aims at assessing the hazards related to Sumatran volcanoes by combining (i) methods that can efficiently identify the most hazardous volcanoes (morphometrics and tephrostraigraphy) with (ii) focused studies of key locations (stratovolcanoes and calderas). Geological studies provide a window into the history and behavior of past eruptions: their frequency, magnitude, and variability in explosivity. This information is particularly valuable given that large eruptions (VEI ≥ 5) have recurrence intervals that are typically greater than 100 years, therefore a threatening volcano is probably not one that has erupted violently in recent times.

This project is the first step of a long term effort. It focuses on methods that can address the eruptive activity of Sumatra as a whole, and initiates the investigations of key locations. A comprehensive understanding and general characterization of hazardous volcanoes will require several projects of the kind to be complete.

Funding Sources: 

  • Earth Observatory of Singapore

Project Years: 


Meetings & Abstracts: 

McCallum, C.A., Maisonneuve, C.B., Possible Hazards from Sumatran Volcanoes: A Morphometric Investigation Abstract SE09-A002 presented at 2016 Annual Meeting, AOGS, Singapore, 3-7 Aug.

Nurfani, D., McCallum, C.A., Gunawan, H., Taisne, B., Maisonneuve, C.B., What is the Eruptive Potential of Marapi Volcano (Sumatra)? Abstract SE09-A007 presented at 2016 Annual Meeting, AOGS, Singapore, 3-7 Aug.

Subsidiary Projects: