Bali’s Mount Agung erupted in 1963 in a tragedy where more than 1,600 people died. The 1963 Agung eruption was one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions of the 20th Century, making it a vitally important site for scientific study. As with Agung appearing to reawaken from its 50-year slumber, a team led UK scientists have finally cracked the secrets of Bali’s notorious volcanos.
European Space Agency (ESA) satellite imagery has helped unlock the link between Agung and its neighbour, Mount Batur, found 10 miles (18 km) away.
Scientists were studying the volcano as it awoke from a 50-year sleep to spew ash into the atmosphere for several weeks in 2017.
Dr Fabien Albino, from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, and the study’s lead author, explains how they found the mountains’ magma can move horizontally as well as vertically.
Dr Albino said: “Thanks to the ground information data, we found magma was moving before the eruption, not below the Agung volcano, but between the volcanos.
“So it was really interesting to see there was an intrusion, there was moving magma moving in-between the two volcanos, which is exactly the location of the seismic activity.
“That is why the study concluded there is potentially a magmatic system that is maybe shared between the two volcanos.
And the study has profound implications for eruption forecasting.
“We are measuring the deformation and seismicity of the volcano and try to understand better how a volcano works,” explains Bristol University’s Dr Albino.
“Every volcano is unique and some volcanoes are more predictable than others.
“For example, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is easier to forecast and we have idea when the next eruption will be.
“While others, like the Agung volcano, which erupts every 50 or 100 years, is harder to predict.
“A volcano that erupts frequently is easier to predict because you have a lot of historical background.
“And a volcano that erupts only spasmodically is harder to forecast.
“But with this study, knowing how the eruption was triggered will make it easier to determine when the next one and the one after that will occur.
“Our study adds to the background knowledge how these magmatic systems world.”
And other volcanos linked in same way, believes Dr Albino: “The subduction volcano in Agung actually bear similarities to volcanos in Japan.
“So our study applies to other families of volcanos around the world.
“And other pairs of volcanoes may also have such a connected system to the one we see with Agung.”
The study used European Space Agency (ESA) satellite images to measure the deformation of the volcano from these images.
“We found there was an uplift of the ground at the north part of the volcano,” explains the study’s leader author.
“And from the movement of the ground we used numerical modelling, to understand the cause of this uplift movements.
“And the best model we found was of a magma intrusion located, not below the volcano, but between the volcanos.