Sometimes humanity gets reminded in the most shocking way of how little predictive power and knowledge we actually have on the workings of the Earth on a geological level. Today offered one such reminder, as a volcano on the Kadovar island, just off the north-eastern coast of Papua New Guinea, erupted for the first time in recorded history. The entire population of the island evacuated, without any loss of life, but the situation is worsening, and there are warnings of a possible impending tsunami.
The volcano on Kadovar island was considered dormant, that is to say, with no eruptions in the past 10,000 years. Of course, dormant does not mean inactive, as inhabitants found out at noon, Friday January 5th, when a surprise plume of ash and dust spewed up from the volcano, reaching heights of two kilometers, and covering the village below in volcanic debris. Some six hundred inhabitants fled the island, some by dinkies. Volcanologists have warned that the eruption is going to become more violent, as a fissure seems to be forming on the western wall of the volcano, which threatens to extend at least down to sea level. Lava and ash have already covered 50% of the island, and experts at the Rabaul Volcanological Observatory are warning of a potential tsunami hitting the coast of Papua New Guinea due to the recent volcanic activity.
The geography of the island, and the violence and speed of the Kadovar volcano’s eruption create good conditions for a tsunami to appear, as the banks of the island are very steep and conducive to powerful landslides. The explosive nature of magma that will most likely spew out towards the west of the island compounds the risk.
It is no small feat that inhabitants of Kadovar managed to escape the worst of the volcano’s fury. According to officials, the clouds of ash have been getting denser and darker ever since the initial plume, and the overall activity of the volcano is becoming more and more tumultuous. Volcanologists will surely scramble to study the mechanisms at the cause of a dormant volcano coming back to life in such a spectacular way.