Saat Desember—Moments of December
I realize that I’m posting this update long after the end of December. Here’s a brief synopsis of what happened in December: students at my school were wrapped up in taking semester exams, activity increased dramatically at Ijen, and my family came to visit for the New Year’s holiday.
Several changes, including increased seismic activity, elevated lake temperatures, and changes in water color, were noticed at Kawah Ijen in mid December. The government raised the warning label at Ijen from Level 1 (Biasa/Normal) to Level 2 (Waspada/Watch). Seismic activity increased dramatically on 18 December prompting the government to raise the warning label to Level 3 (Siaga/Stand By) and send a team of technicians from the Center of Volcanology and Geologic Hazard Mitigation (CVGHM*) headquarters to the observatory. A 5km-radius exclusion zone was set around the volcano preventing all tourists and sulfur miners from visiting the lake.
It is very difficult to predict or forecast future activity at volcanoes, and the latest seismicity at Ijen has proved especially tough to interpret. Energy release from earthquakes under the volcano fluctuated greatly on a daily basis. The warning label for Ijen has been lowered to Level 2 (Waspada) as of 08 February. The Volcanic Survey of Indonesia (VSI) updates activity levels and warnings about the country’s volcanoes on the home page of their website (information is available in Indonesian, English, and Japanese).
As a side note, I would like to mention that the latest increase in activity comes about seven months after a series of notable earthquake swarms under Raung and Ijen that followed the 11 March Tohoku Earthquake in Japan. Is it possible that the activity at Ijen is the result of local stress fields reacting to far-field stress changes caused by the Japanese earthquake (the largest in instrumentally recorded history)? In short, there is a growing notion amongst the scientific community that this happens. The parameters by which such an effect could be physically described are still dubious. The apparent phenomenon of seismically induced volcanic activity is receiving more and more attention from the geophysics and seismology community in attempts to move past statistical correlation and intuition.
*CVGHM is known locally as Pusat Vulkanologi dan Mitigasi Bencana Geologi (PVMBG)
Family Visit to Indonesia
My family flew in and out of the Denpasar airport on Bali, a small island immediately to the east of Java. In addition to being one of the few remaining bastions of Hinduism in Indonesia, Bali is also known for its large number of foreign tourists. The beginning of our trip included several days in Ubud—the cultural center of Bali—and one afternoon on the bule crammed beach of Kuta. We then crossed the strait and spent a few days on Java, visiting both Bromo and my Peace Corps site. After our venture into Java, we returned to Ubud for a few days and learned how to make batik, a traditional style of dyed textile in Indonesia. There aren’t many pictures from the trip because my family’s camera was lost on one of the three return legs between Denpasar and Dallas. The final products of the batik class are at the top of this post.
Here are some photos of the process: