Indonesian mud eruption will soon die out, scientists predict

Volcano has been spewing muck since 2006

The end may be near for an erupting mud volcano that has wreaked havoc in Indonesia. In a few years, the volcano will spew just 10 percent as much mud as it does today, scientists predict.

This school is one of many buildings destroyed by an Indonesian mud volcano that has erupted since 2006. In a few years, researchers predict, the volcano will produce only 10 percent as much mud as it does today. Hugh e82/Wikimedia Commons

The mud volcano known as Lusi began erupting in May 2006 after a drilling accident at a nearby gas exploration well. Since then, the eruption has buried an area about twice the size of New York’s Central Park and displaced more than 60,000 people. Based on the amount of muck burped up during the eruption’s first three years, scientists had estimated Lusi’s fury would last 23 to 50 years.

The new estimate takes into account a longer period of Lusi’s history. Maxwell Rudolph, now at the University of Colorado Boulder, and colleagues analyzed satellite measurements collected from October 2006 to April 2011 of sinking ground caused by the eruption. Changes in the rate of sinking reflect changes in the pressure inside the volcano, the team says. High pressure fuels the eruption.

This pressure has decreased exponentially over time, the researchers found. Currently, Lusi releases 10,000 cubic meters of mud per day. Because of pressure drops, by around 2017, the volcano will erupt less than 1,000 cubic meters daily, the team predicts online January 26 in Geophysical Research Letters.

Erin Wayman is the managing editor for print and longform content at Science News. She has a master’s degree in biological anthropology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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