Stromboli and Mount Semeru erupt on the same day, a week after Mauna Loa

Two volcanoes, Italy’s Stromboli and Mount Semeru in Indonesia, erupted on the same day, a week after Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

The eruption of Mount Semeru, which is 400 miles southeast of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, began at 2:46 a.m. (2:46 p.m. ET) on Sunday. Volcanic ash has rained down on nearby communities, prompting the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, Indonesia’s civil protection agency BNPB reported.

About five hours later, Stromboli – a volcano in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north coast of Sicily – began to erupt. At 2 p.m. (8 a.m. ET), lava overflowed from the volcano’s northern crater, Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said in a statement. A larger explosion then started on the south-central crater,

This comes a week after Mauna Loa erupted on November 27th. The Hawaiian volcano is the largest in the world and has not erupted in almost 40 years.

The recent eruptions are not connected in any way. David Rothery, professor of planetary geosciences at Britain’s Open University, said news week, “They are thousands of miles apart and there is no possible connection between events in one and events in another.”

Volcanic eruptions at Stromboli, Semeru
These photos show past volcanic eruptions at Stromboli in Italy (left) and Mount Semeru in Indonesia. The two volcanoes erupted on Sunday.

Mount Semeru

Of the three, Mount Semeru is the deadliest volcano, Rothery said. At 12,060 feet tall, it is the tallest volcano on the Indonesian island of Java. It is also one of the most active volcanoes on the island.

“Semeru is known for large explosive eruptions that can cause large, fast-moving eruptions [80 kilometers per hour] and scorching hot pyroclastic flows. This is by far the most dangerous volcano of the three, and Indonesian authorities have wisely evacuated people from the potential paths of such flows,” Rothery said.

“Even after the end of the eruption, ash left by pyroclastic flows and ash fallen from the sky is a hazard as it can be remobilized by rain and transformed into mudflows known by the Indonesian name laharsthat can destroy houses and bridges,” he said.

Footage captured by the BNPB shows hot pyroclastic flows emerging from Semeru. The video was reposted on Twitter by Paul Byrne, an associate professor of earth and planetary sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, who called it “terrifying.”

byrne estimated it was moving at about 112 miles per hour. “You can’t outrun a Pyro Flow, just try,” he tweeted.

Tamsin Mather, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Oxford, said news week: “Fortunately, this latest attack has not been catastrophic so far, but there are reports that over 2,000 people have been evacuated so far. Pyroclastic density currents, a bit like avalanches of hot ash, gas, and debris cascading down a vent hole during an eruption, are a major hazard.

“Heavy rains could also create lahar hazards — volcanic mudflows. It’s a dynamic situation and volcanologists on Java are watching things very closely,” Mather said.

The Semeru eruption is not unusual as there have been “numerous eruptions in 2021,” she said. The “worst eruption sequence last December displaced more than 4,000 residents and caused around 30 or more deaths.”

Mauna Loa

So far, the other volcanic eruptions are not worrying. Lava flows have reached Mauna Loa’s northeast rift zone and are a few miles off the Saddle Road that connects the two cities of Hilo and Kona.

“The rate of eruption of the lava is expected to slow as it reaches shallower ground,” Rothery said. “Lava of this type is relatively harmless from a distance. In the worst case, the eruption lasts for many months and the active lava flow front reaches Hilo, but we are still a long way from that.”


Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It has erupted almost continuously for the past 90 years, so this latest eruption comes as no surprise. But this outbreak is much larger than usual, Rothery said.

“Stromboli had a larger explosive eruption than its usual very small eruptions, which sent a pyroclastic flow out to sea on an uninhabited side of the island,” he said.

The volcano last erupted in October, spewing lava into the sea.

Do you have a tip on a science story that news week should cover? Do you have a question about volcanoes? Let us know at Stromboli and Mount Semeru erupt on the same day, a week after Mauna Loa

Rick Schindler

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