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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

During the first quarter of 2020, Dr. Widiyantoro and his colleagues focused on processing the volcano monitoring data acquired in the first year from the 25 broadband seismometers and 4 GPS units deployed under the project. Before the coronavirus pandemic caused a shutdown of most public activities beginning in mid-March, this team was able to complete two key dissemination activities. On February 5, they convened a technical symposium on Agung volcano monitoring at the Institute Teknologi Bandung (ITB). Participants included researchers from the USGS Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (Dr. Jeremy Pesicek and Dr. Jay Wellik), from ITB (Prof. Sri Widiyantoro, Dr. Andri D. Nugraha, Dr. Zulfakriza, and Dr. David P. Sahara), and from the Indonesian Center for Volcanology and Geologic Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM) (Dr. Devy K. Syahbana and other Center staff), and around 20 students. During the symposium, Dr. Pesicek presented his work in characterizing pattern of seismic attributes prior to eruptions, with examples from volcanoes all over the world, while Dr. Zulfakriza showed the results of seismic structure imaging beneath Agung Volcano using ambient noise data. Following this symposium, it is expected that there will be further research collaboration among research partners to better characterize volcano monitoring attributes, especially in Agung volcano prior to its eruption. Also in February, several members of the PEER team published a technical paper on seismic structure imaging of Agung Volcano using the newly acquired data under the PEER project (see citation and link below). It appeared in the journal Frontiers in Earth Sciences, which is listed among the first quartile of the best journals in earth sciences by Scimago (SCOPUS). 

Unfortunately, several workshops and other dissemination events planned for the second quarter of 2020 have had to be cancelled or postponed due to the COVID-19 situation. A workshop entitled “InSAR: An introduction to processing and applications for geoscientists” was supposed to be held in mid-March with the key speakers being Dr. Ekbal Hussain of the British Geological Survey and several experts from ITB. The 20 slots for participants were fully booked one month in advance. A workshop for students and CVGHM staff on seismological monitoring of volcano activity was also postponed, but it will be held online. This workshop will cover the basics of seismological monitoring, including seismicity analysis and velocity imaging. An outreach event with the local government of Bali, NGOs, and community members also had to be postponed. It was originally planned for the beginning of April in Karangasem District, Bali, with support from the local government of Bali. The PI and his team must wait until the virus situation improves to the point where it will be safe to hold a gathering of more than 200 participants.

Another impact of the virus-related shutdowns has been the difficulty the team has encountered in buying some seismic geophones from China to monitor the activity of the Agung volcano. Vendors are reluctant to accept their orders for fear the items will be held up indefinitely in customs, but the PI will continue working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. Meanwhile, he and his colleagues are able to continue to focus on desk work from home, including data analysis, writing, and optimization of the online media component of the project. As noted above, the workshop on seismological monitoring of volcano activity will be held online, and the researchers are currently working to prepare the training module for online delivery. Since the start of Year 2 of this project in November 2019, the PI reports that he and his group have obtained four supplemental grants to expand on their PEER-supported work. Two were provided by the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture and two by ITB.

Links to Recent Papers and News Reports 

Zulfakriza, Z., Nugraha, A. D., Widiyantoro, S., Cummins, P. R., Sahara, D. P., Rosalia, S., et al. (2020). Tomographic imaging of the Agung-Batur Volcano Complex, Bali, Indonesia, from the ambient seismic noise field. Frontiers in Earth Science, 8.  

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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