Semeru Volcano - John Seach


East Java, Indonesia

8.10 S, 112.92 E
summit elevation 3676 m

Semeru volcano is located in east Java, Indonesia. It is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. Typically eruptions occur every 20-30 minutes, with ash emissions to 100-400 m above the crater, and projectiles ejected onto the crater rim. The present activity center is at Jonggring Seloko, a crater that appears in the southeast part of Mahameru, and it is separated by a narrow saddle.

The eruption cloud is usually blown away by the wind. Large eruptions are often followed by generation of pyroclastic flows. Semeru volcano is the highest in Java and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Semeru volcano has been the site of numerous deaths, the most recent being in August 2000.

Semeru volcano photos by John Seach

semeru volcano
Semeru volcano

John Seach at summit of Semeru volcano.
Warning: the summit region of Semeru is very dangerous due to explosive activity.

semeru volcano
Summit eruption Semeru volcano 2000

Hazard Zone at Semeru Volcano
The hazard zone at Semeru volcano is a 5 km radous from the active crater. Along some valleys the hazard zone extends 12 km. Lumajang city lies in a lahar prone zone.

2011-2012 Activity
Eruptions were observed at the volcano on 9,14, and 17 June 2011. Activity at Semeru resumed at the end of December 2011. Between 29th December 2011 and 15th January 2012 there were eight explosions at Jonggring Seloko crater, sending ash up to 600 m high. Incandescent fallout was observed 200 m radius from the crater. On 2nd February 2012 a pyroclastic flow reached 2.5 km from the crater. The alert status at Semeru volcano was raised to Level 3 (out of a maximum 4) on 3rd February 2012. A 4 km exclusion zone was placed on the SE slopes of the volcano where pyroclastic flows occur. Climbers were advised to remain at least 1 km from Jonggring Seloko crater.

2009 Eruptions
Increased activity has been reported at Semeru volcano in Indonesia.
Between 6th February and 4th March 2009 there were 873 explosion earthquakes registered, with an average of 34 events per day. On 5th March there was one period of tremor recorded. On 6th March one episode of tremor was recorded accompanied by booming sounds which were heard at Semeru observatory. On 6th March at 10:28 hr a booming noise was heard while the summit was covered in cloud. Semeru is at level 2 alert (Waspada) out of a maximum of 4. Explosions occur at an interval of 20-30 minutes, with ash emissions 100-400 m above Jonggring Seloko crater. So far the current eruptions have not been accompanied by pyroclastic flows, but this remains a danger. Areas which may be affected by pyroclastic flows include inhabited areas of Rowo Baung, Supit, Pronojiwo, Urip, and Umbulandi Urang Supit. Rowo Baung and Supit are the nearest villages to the eruptive centre, 9 km from the peak of Gunung Semeru. There is a potential threat to sand mining activities at Supit and Rowo Baung. Recommendations from the Indonesian Centre of Volcanology and Geology are that people avoid the area 4 km SE of the active crater at Semeru due to the threat of pyroclastic flows. People are advised not to climb to the summit peak (Mahameru). Residents should prepare for possible ashfall. Aircraft should beware of explosion hazards, and ash emissions from Semeru.

2000 Eruptions
John Seach made observations during a 3-hour summit stay on 2 May 2000. During the climb from Ranu Pani village in the N, ash deposits were observed to cover vegetation at a distance of 10 km from the volcano. The bottom third of the cone was vegetated, and zones of mass-wasting had sliced away 20- m-wide sections of forest. The top two-thirds of the cone consisted of ash, cinders, and blocks up to 1.5 m in diameter. There were areas of deep erosion and the risk of rockfalls posed a hazard to climbers. The summit area (Mahameru) lay covered by ash and baseball-sized blocks with a density of 50/m2. A 20-m-wide, 60-m-deep, W-sloping valley separated Mahameru from the active Jonggring Seloko crater, but they are joined by a ridge. The highest N rim of the crater was approximately 30 m below the summit peak. A 2-m-diameter block was located 15 m below the summit on the wall of the valley. Between 0725 and 1010, 13 eruptive events were observed. During this interval the N rim of Jonggring could not be approached because of the intermittent rain of blocks falling outside the crater and into the valley 50 m from the crater. Two vents produced short-lived Vulcanian eruptions with variable timing and size. Eruptions commenced with degassing, explosions, or the sound of breaking rock, followed by falling bombs and brown ash emission. The explosions were relatively quiet and not accompanied by groundshaking. Brown ash clouds rose to 600 m above the vent and drifted SE. The plume detached from the summit before the next eruption began. Steam emission occurred between eruptions.

July 2000 Summit Fatalities
A scientific team was caught in an eruption at the summit of Semeru on 27th July 2000. At approximately 0706 hr an explosion resulted in two deaths and injuries to five other volcanologists near the NE rim of the active summit crater Jonggring Seloko. Members of the group had approached the rim of the active crater which is always dangerous. The two fatalities were from Volcanological Survey of Indonesia. Injuries were sustained people from Semeru Volcano Observatory, Hebrew University in Israel, University of Pittsburgh, and Lee Siebert and the Smithsonian Institution. This was the second fatal field trip after an IAVCEI meeting. The first was in Galeras, Colombia in 1993.

1999 Summit Fatalities
Two climbers died near the crater on 2nd September after being struck by large ejected ballistics. The two men were part of a group of 17 from Germany. The victims, together with the group leader, had separated from the group to check the crater when the accident occurred.

1994 Eruptions
On 3 February lava avalanches and pyroclastic flows from the summit crater descended SE along the Kembar and Kobokan rivers, reaching 7.5 km and 11.5 km from the summit. Six people were killed and 275 people were evacuated from Sumbersari village.

1981 Eruptions
On 14th May heavy rains created mudflows/landslides which killed 252 persons, left 152 injured and 120 missing. The location of the landslide was similar to that of 1909.

1957 Debris Flow
A debris flow occurred at Semeru volcano in 1957 which reached Lumanjang city.

1946 Eruptions
In February 1946 ash rain fell in Malang. on 27th May 1946 a report from Aneta, Batavia stated "Semeru volcano lately became active, and ash, stoneblocks and mud were thrown out. A hundred dwelling houses and about 150 hectares of rice fields were destroyed, and lahar-floods were caused." Ash fell in Malang.

1941 Eruption
An eruption occurred at the base of Semeru volcano in 1941.

Semeru Volcano Eruptions

2011-2012, 1967-2009, 1950-64, 1946-47, 1946, 1945, 1941-42, 1913, 1912, 1911, 1910-11, 1909-10, 1908, 1907, 1905, 1904, 1903, 1901, 1900, 1899, 1898, 1897, 1896, 1895, 1893-94, 1893, 1892, 1889-91, 1888, 1887, 1886, 1884-85, 1879, 1878, 1877, 1872, 1867, 1865, 1860, 1857, 1856, 1851, 1848, 1845, 1844, 1842, 1838, 1836, 1832, 1830, 1829, 1818.