Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait has posted a stunning video of a volcano exploding, and gives some background. The eruption was of Mount Tavurvur on the island of New Britain in Papua, New Guinea, and it occurred on August 29th. It was captured on video by Phil McNamara, and is now on YouTube.
Holy yikes! The video was taken by Phil McNamara, and posted on his wife Linda’s Facebook page. The volcano has been pretty active historically and has caused a lot of damage; it’s killed many people, and buried the nearby town of Rabaul in ash in 1994. Rabual used to be the provincial capital of the island of New Britain, but after that eruption the capital was moved to another location.
This eruption was smaller in comparison, but holy cow. It was still amazing. In the video you can see lava blasting upward hundreds of meters, falling apparently slowly due to distance. Given the timing delay of the shock wave — 13 seconds or so — so the folks on the boat were just over 4 km away (2.5 miles).
You can see the shock wave traveling down the volcano slope at 00:13, and then ramming the air above the volcano a few seconds later. The sudden compression condensed the water vapor in the air, so you can see ephemeral clouds forming in a rough circle above the explosion. I looked carefully but saw no sign of it traveling across the water.
When you watch the video, enlarge it to full screen for maximum effect.
This video was posted two days ago, and already has more than 3 million views. No surprise!
Here are before and after photos from NASA’s Earth Observatory website: notice all the green that has disappeared. The site also gives a lot more information about the eruption.