Forecaster Blog: Bali’s Biggest Volcano Mount Agung Set to Blow

26 Sep 2017 4 Share

Ben Macartney

Chief Surf Forecaster

COASTALWATCH | FORECASTER BLOG

Issued Tuesday, 26 September, 2017

The imminent eruption of Bali’s Mount Agung is already causing chaos - both on the local population and traveller’s itineraries alike. The volcano is primed to erupt within days – or weeks at the latest. Already more than 35,000 Balinese living in proximity of the volcano have been evacuated out of the area and according to the BNPB, over 57,000 people living in the vicinity have been displaced.

For surfers residing in Bali - or for those just in for the long haul, it begs the question: how safe is it to go surfing? The good news is if you’re sitting astride your board along any stretch of Bali’s surfable coastline, you’re probably well outside the 9 to 12-kilometer exclusion zone that’s been set up around Mount Agung. It’s only along Bali’s remote and surfless north-eastern coast that you might conceivably encounter magma on the beach – and at temperatures of 700C to 1300C that’s a pretty strong incentive to hit the water. 

Lineups like this could be looking pretty uncrowded if Mount Agung blows in the coming days. Photo: Jim Banks.

Lineups like this could be looking pretty uncrowded if Mount Agung blows in the coming days. Photo: Jim Banks.

The prospect of red-hot magma aside, there are probably bigger issues to face in the wake of an eruption. One is the impact on local air-quality. It’s been over 50 years since Mount Agung last erupted. Like the current event eruptions were preceded by hundreds of tremors. Then on March 17, 1963 the first of two explosions occurred; sending volcanic debris 8 to 10 km into the atmosphere while extending a larger eruption column to heights of 19 to 26 km

A second explosion followed on May 16, making it Indonesia’s largest and most devastating eruption of the 20th century. This not only impacted Bali’s air-quality by spreading fine volcanic ash and debris far and wide, but also sent vast amounts of sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, resulting in a small drop in global atmospheric temperatures of 0.1 to 0.4 degrees.

This map from Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) shows the exclusion zones now in place in and around Mount Agung. Source: BNPB.

This map from Indonesia's National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) shows the exclusion zones now in place in and around Mount Agung. Source: BNPB.

For most of us, the biggest issue will be the potential impact on air traffic. As British Airways Flight 9 discovered back in 1982, fine volcanic ash and jet engines don’t go well together – and that means once Agung blows, all bets are off. Expect all flights in and out of Bali to be grounded for days or even weeks. With the probability of an eruption estimated at 70% to 80% within days, it’s probably high time to either cut and run or to prepare for an extended stay. 


Tags: forecaster , blog , bali , mount , agung , ben , macartney (create Alert from these tags)

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