The #Sinabung eruption with ash plume & hot pyroclastic flows seen on the @vulkanologi_mbg webcam today. The volcano went from calm to very much the opposite in an instant. The hazard zone is in place for this reason. You won't outrun these. pic.twitter.com/KiZwKIC7wq
— Dr Janine Krippner (@janinekrippner) February 20, 2018
On February 19, 2018, Mount Sinabung volcano, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, erupted violently, spewing ash at least 16,000 to 23,000 feet (5 to 7 km) into the air. The stratovolcano has been sporadically active since 2010, following four centuries of quiet.
According to a report from the Associated Press, the lava dome obliterated a chunk of the peak as it erupted. Plumes of hot gas and ash flowed down the volcano’s summit and spread out in an area about 3 miles (5 km) in diameter. Ash falls were recorded as far away as the town of Lhokseumawe, some 160 miles (260 km) to the north.
Villages were coated in ash, and airline pilots were given the highest alert for the region. Government officials handed out face masks to the citizens of the island and advised them to stay indoors due to the potentially dangerous air quality. Volcanologist and Rocky Planet blogger Erik Klemetti said:
Breathing volcanic ash is a significant health hazard – the ash is really small shards of glass, so it can abrade your lungs and form a “cement.”
According to a NASA statement:
The volcanic plume also contained sulfur dioxide (SO2), which can irritate the human nose and throat when breathed in. The gas reacts with water vapor in the atmosphere to produce acid rain, and it also can react with other gases to form aerosol particles that cause haze and, in extreme events, climate cooling.
Bottom line: Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung volcano erupted violently on February 19, 2018. Video and images.
Eleanor Imster has helped write and edit EarthSky since 1995. She was an integral part of the award-winning EarthSky radio series almost since it began until it ended in 2013. Today, as Lead Editor at EarthSky.org, she helps present the science and nature stories and photos you enjoy. She also serves as one of the voices of EarthSky on social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and G+. She and her husband live in Tennessee and have two grown sons.