This is a RAPID award to investigate the dynamics of pyroclastic surge deposits created by the catastrophic 2010 eruption of Merapi volcano, Indonesia. Pyroclastic flows and surges cause most casualties in volcanic eruptions but understanding of surge processes is lagging due to the paucity of major events such as the one displayed by Merapi during its recent eruption phase. This investigator and his team have developed a statistically constrained procedure for lava dome-collapse type pyroclastic flows to estimate areas of inundation following an active event. Dynamic behavior of associated surges can be included by consideration of the physics of surge flow, mass flux and air entrainment, and local topography. The method has been applied to several volcano crises, notably the 2006 eruption of Merapi and 2007 and 2010 crises at Montserrat. It is also being used for hazards evaluations at other locations worldwide, but while of proven utility it is restricted to a particular type of flow process. The recent Oct-Nov 2010 eruption at Merapi offers a rare "Once-in-a-Century" opportunity to extend and constrain physics-based modeling to column-collapse type pyroclastic flows with associated ash-cloud surges. This Merapi eruption started in its traditional dome-collapse mode but developed into a major VEI~4 explosive eruption, the largest eruption there since (at least) 1872. The likelihood of an explosive eruption on this scale was forecast by the PI and his team, and now that it has occurred it is incumbent to maximize the scientific and other impacts.

It is proposed to further refine the surge model for Merapi that would carry over to other flow modeling methods such as Titan2D which inadequately address the surge issue. The proposed study of the surges addresses a target of opportunity and needs to be carried out soon because the thin deposits are perishable and key information would be lost. Thus a RAPID award is the most appropriate mechanism for supporting the proposed work. The broader impacts are many and include as beneficiaries of this research organizations that foster risk mitigation planning and crisis response, such as volcano observatories worldwide, academic advisors to crises, and those such as the World Organization of Volcano Observatories (WOVO) that often aid crisis responses generally. Ultimately it is the often-large populations living on the flanks of dangerous volcanoes who may benefit most. Findings are expected to be disseminated to academics and practitioners through rapid communication at international and national scientific meetings and workshops, lectures at academic and government institutions and local observatories, abstracts of presentations in published works, and articles in peer-reviewed high-profile scientific journals, and electronic media.

Project Report

The eruption of Merapi in 2010 was substantially different compared to what we observed from the recent eruptions in 1994, 1997, 2001, and 2006. In contrast, the 2010 eruption affected all directions around Merapi. With A. Clarke and others, we produced models of hot "block and ash" and "ash-cloud" (pyroclastic surge) flows, and results were presented at the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior Scientific Assembly in Japan. We also wrote a state-of-art review of flow hazards and risks, to inform workers in future volcanic crises how to proceed to mitigate the hazards and risks. This chapter is in a book sponsored by IAVCEI. Further, we analyzed the textures and mineralogy of the Merapi 2010 eruption and compared data to previous Merapi eruptions over the past 200 years. Two papers were published in J Volcanology and Geothermal Research. In addition, we extracted data from extensive Russian volcanological literatue stored in libraries in Moscow and Petropalovsk, and studied clinical details in 106 burn victims who survived to reach hospital in three lethal eruptive events of Merapi. The results were presented in a paper at the IAVCEI Scientific Assembly in Japan. The findings of our research have been disseminated through communications at international and national scientific meetings and workshops, lectrures at academic and government institutions and local observatories, abstracts of presentations in published works, articles in peer-reviewed high-profile scientific journals or books, and electronic media. As mentioned above, two detailed papers on Merapi eruption products were published in J Volcanology & Geothermal Research, and we contributed a key chapter in an IAVCEI-sponsored book on volcanic hazards and risks. On the volcano observatory level, our information and data can be used to improve hazard assessment and risk management strategies related to future eruptive activity, including production of more accurate hazard maps that inform risk decisions affective public welfare. The PI provided advice to CVGHM and BPPTK in Indonesia. Lectures and conference discussions were provided to Montserrat Volcano Observatory in April 2011 and October and November in 2011, 2012, 2013 and the PI co-edited a book on the Montserrat eruption taking into account experiences in Merapi. The PI was invited by the Japanese Government to present lectures in November 2011 on assessment of flow and surge hazards at Merapi, Montserrat and other volcanoes. Two long and detailed papers were published in Aramaki, S., and Fumita, E. (eds.), International Workshop on Strategy of Volcanic Disaster Mitigations 2011 - Big Eruption and Crisis Management, Tsukuba, Japan.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Earth Sciences (EAR)
Standard Grant (Standard)
Application #
Program Officer
Sonia Esperanca
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Pennsylvania State University
University Park
United States
Zip Code