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Cycle 7 (2018 Deadline)

Integrated geoscience studies for hazard mitigation at the Agung-Batur Volcanic System, Bali, Indonesia

PI: Sri Widiyantoro (, Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB)
U.S. Partner: Jacob Lowenstern, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory
Dates: November 2018 - October 2020

Project Overview

After more than 50 years of slumber, Agung volcano erupted explosively on November 21, 2017. The eruption followed a seismic crisis that began more than two months prior when nearby earthquakes reached rates greater than 1,000 events per day. During the crisis, Indonesian and USGS/Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) partner scientists feared a repeat of the previous eruption in 1963, when more than 1,500 people perished as high-speed pyroclastic flows swept down the mountain’s slopes into nearby settlements. Fortunately, the ongoing eruption of Agung seemed to wane by April 2018 without resulting in any deaths up to that point. Authorities succeeded in evacuating at-risk populations prior to the eruption, and these efforts plus the limited size of the eruption prevented a repeat of the 1963 disaster. Despite this success, the recent eruption of Agung has surprised volcano scientists in several ways. The eruption happened more than a month after the peak in seismicity when earthquake rates were relatively low. When it did occur, it happened without obvious seismic precursors. In addition, although the eruption occurred in the summit crater of Agung, later analysis of satellite data suggests that the intrusion of magma that triggered it actually occurred northwest of the volcano, in between Agung and neighboring Batur caldera. Batur erupts more frequently than Agung, most recently in 1999, and an eruption also occurred just a few months after the 1963 eruption at Agung. The location of the recent magma intrusion and the timing of the 1963 eruptions suggest a link between the two volcanoes. Although the current concern is focused on Agung, renewed unrest at Batur would be equally concerning given the density of the at-risk population in and around the caldera. Together, these two volcanoes present significant hazards to hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists in Bali, and relatively little is known about the magmatic system that will feed future eruptions. With their USGS collaborators, the PI and his team will carry out a suite of geophysical studies to better understand the Agung-Batur volcanic system and the hazards it presents. The main goals of this PEER project are: (i) to better understand the physical processes culminating in the recent eruption of Agung, (ii) to estimate future hazard potential, (iii) to provide additional analysis of the volcanic activity to policymakers, and (iv) to support a campaign of volcanic disaster risk education for the community.

7-304 July Workshop 20197-304 July Workshop 2019 B
Together with the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, the Indonesian Academy of Sciences, and the National Center for Earthquake Studies, the PI Dr. Widiyantoro [shown speaking at right] and his team held a national workshop in Jakarta on July 18, 2019, on the topic “National awareness of the threat of earthquakes and volcanoes.” Photos courtesy of Dr. Widiyantoro.
The long-term safety of people in their homes and their livelihoods depend on the ability of scientists to properly assess the current state of unrest at the volcano. The research carried out under this project will improve our understanding of volcanic processes and thus our ability to forecast future eruptions, both at Agung and Batur, and also at other similar volcanoes worldwide. In Bali, these forecasts directly impact the safety of hundreds of thousands of people located in the hazard zones, including many poor and vulnerable communities. Improving eruption forecasts and volcanic hazard education in Bali will help ensure the safety of at-risk populations and minimize economic losses in future eruptions. The geophysical studies to be conducted will also strengthen collaborations among Indonesian government agencies (the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation and the Disaster Mitigation Research Center), university colleagues at ITB, and USGS/VDAP scientists. Although relationships among these partners currently exist, the Agung volcanic crisis has highlighted the advantages that greater collaboration between Indonesian government and university experts would bring to eruption forecasting efforts. The project will serve as a model for further collaborative efforts to improve volcano monitoring and risk mitigation in Indonesia, the country with the most historically active volcanoes in the world (Siebert et al., 2010).

Summary of Recent Project Activities

The PI Prof. Sri Widiyantoro and three of his PEER project researchers—Dr. Irwan Meilano, Dr. Andri Dian Nugraha, and Dr. David P. Sahara—presented seven posters at the 2019 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco, California, December 9-13, 2019. During the conference, they also had the chance to meet and discuss project activities with partners from the Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM) (Indonesia) and VDAP-USGS (U.S.). CVGHM was represented by Dr. Devy K. Syahbana and VDAP-USGS by Dr. Jacob B. Lowenstern, Dr. Jeremy Pesicek, and Dr. Jay Wellik. Dr. Pesicek and Dr. Wellik are expected to make a two-week visit to Bandung in 2020 for further collaboration and a more comprehensive discussion of the team’s Agung volcano monitoring results.

The PEER team also organized an additional dissemination effort in connection with the Joint Convention Yogyakarta (JCY 2019), the largest annual geoscience meeting in Indonesia. Working in cooperation with the Department of Geophysical Engineering at Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), team members staffed a booth November 25-28 to share their research activities and promote the monitoring of volcanic activity among the geoscience research community.

During the first half of 2020, Prof. Widiyantoro and his colleague will continue refining and populating their newly acquired geo-database. Especially for seismological data, it is very challenging to manage such large amount of data (25 new stations and 15 existing stations owned by CVGHM) in a limited time period. Fortunately, Dr. Pesicek of USGS-VDAP has provided guidance on the data processing and management effort. In the coming year, the team’s aim is to build a complete catalogue of seismic events during the 2018 Agung eruption series. The seismological, GPS, and geology data acquired in this project will also serve as the thesis topics for several students at ITB. Four students from CVGHM are enrolled in a Master’s degree program at ITB running from August 2019 to July 2021. Among those four students, two will work on seismology and each one on geology and GPS. Several bachelor’s students, some originally from Bali, are also using the data for their final degree projects. Thus, the project is serving to support capacity building of CVGHM staff and students on understanding the physical processes beneath Agung and managing the volcanic hazard. Furthermore, in March and April 2020 the PEER team will also conduct a series of workshop for students on Agung. They will be open to students from various universities and other institutions in Indonesia. For dissemination purposes, the PI and selected colleagues will also attend some international conferences and symposia, including the AOGS meeting in South Korea in June 2020 and the AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco in December 2020.

Furthermore, the dedicated PEER-USAID page planned for integration into the Multiplatform Application for Geohazard Mitigation and Assessment in Indonesia (MAGMA) will increase the visibility of this study to the public, as well as help CVGHM staff to improve their understanding of the physical processes affecting Agung. Access to the data set will be restricted to PEER-USAID research partners and other parties on an agreement basis. The update is ongoing and is expected to launch with the new version of MAGMA in mid-2020. Because previous outreach events conducted at two junior high schools located near Agung volcano were well received by the students and local community, the PI and his group plan to make a mapping of those schools and create a mitigation strategy for volcano eruption hazards. Evacuation signs will be installed around the schools. This will be carried out in February 2020, and the researchers will hold focus group discussions with Bali local government officials in April. They also plan to convene an international conference on geosciences in June 2020 in collaboration with the Indonesian Association of Geophysics and CVGHM - Geological Agency.

Links to Recent Papers and News Reports

Albino, F., Biggs, J., & Syahbana, D. K. (2019). Dyke intrusion between neighbouring arc volcanoes responsible for 2017 pre-eruptive seismic swarm at Agung. Nature Communications 10(1), 748.

Syahbana et al. (2019). The 2017–18 activity at Mount Agung in Bali (Indonesia): Intense unrest, monitoring, crisis response, evacuation, and eruption, Scientific Reports, 9, 8848.  

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