Indonesia Volcano Mount Merapi Eruption and Tsunami May be Linked

Volunteers search for victims of the Mount Merapi eruption at Kinahrejo village in Sleman, on October 27, 2010, near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photograph by: Ulet Ifansasti, Getty Images

Volunteers search for victims of the Mount Merapi eruption at Kinahrejo village in Sleman, on October 27, 2010, near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Photograph by: Ulet Ifansasti, Getty Images

The Indonesia Volcano Mount Merapi eruption and the recent Indonesia tsunami may have been linked, according to scientists. A 7.7 magnitude earthquake that struck as 9:42 PM local time Monday near the western island of Sumatra created the tsunami which has killed more than 300 people. Not long afterward, the 9,700 foot volcano erupted, spewing hot debris and ash upwards and leaving at least 30 people living nearby on it’s slopes. The Indonesia volcano is located on the eastern Indonesian island of Java, and is Indonesia’s most active volcano. It had been building up steam inside for a few days prior to the eruption, but the timing of the two events being so close together raises questions about whether the earthquake had set off the eruption, even though the epicenter of the quake was 800 miles away from the eruption site.

Volcanic eruptions do occur that are related to ground stress changes in the aftermath of earthquakes or seismic waves, but their documentation is spotty at this point. There are several known examples of volcanic activity following earthquakes in recent history, including geothermal activity in Yellowstone National Park in 2002 following the earthquake in Alaska registering 7.9, and another one is the 1960 9.5 magnitude earthquake which was followed by the eruption of an Andean volcano. Experts do express concerns though, and caution that these nearly simultaneous events might just be a simple coincidence in the nation which is the worlds most seismically active country, as it’s 17,500 islands are located right along the Ring of Fire, and those islands are full of tectonic threats. The island of Java, where the Indonesia volcano is located, alone contains more than 30 volcanoes, which are the horizon for over 120 million people.

Experts also noted that the tsunami from Mondays quake was quite large from what was expected of the earthquake. The tsunami sent on average 10 foot wave, but with reports of waves as high as 19 feet, or 6 meters. The think the resulting higher waves were due to the fact that the earthquake could have been a tsunami earthquake, in which the slippage of the tectonic plates is very slow, and occurring over a much longer period of time than is normally expected based on the intensity of the seismic shift. The Indonesian tsunami Monday was the first ever slow earthquake to be recorded by a tsunamograph, which can provide invaluable data to help unravel the unlocked secrets of these so called tsunami earthquakes.

Meanwhile, Indonesia Volcano Mount Merapi is the most active of Indonesia’s 69 volcano’s with histories of eruptions. The name Mount Merapi translates to Mountain of Fire, and they sure got that right! The deadliest eruption was in 1930 as more than 1,300 people were killed, and in 1994 the heated clouds from an eruption killed more than 60 people. It last erupted in June, 2006 and killed 2 people. This most recent event also took the life of the spiritual guardian of the volcano, Grandfather Marijan, whom was buried in hot gray ash from the eruption. Marijan was in his 70’s, and was the royally appointed guardian. He was in his 70’s, and for years has led the traditional local rituals to appease the volcano’s ancient spirits. The local news media reports stated that they found the gatekeepers body in his house in a position of prayer, suggesting that he had been attempting to calm the volcano prior to his death.

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