Bulletin of Volcanology

, 77:73 | Cite as

Dynamics of the major plinian eruption of Samalas in 1257 A.D. (Lombok, Indonesia)

  • Céline M. Vidal
  • Jean-Christophe Komorowski
  • Nicole Métrich
  • Indyo Pratomo
  • Nugraha Kartadinata
  • Oktory Prambada
  • Agnès Michel
  • Guillaume Carazzo
  • Franck Lavigne
  • Jessica Rodysill
  • Karen Fontijn
  • Surono
Research Article


The 1257 A.D. caldera-forming eruption of Samalas (Lombok, Indonesia) was recently associated with the largest sulphate spike of the last 2 ky recorded in polar ice cores. It is suspected to have impacted climate both locally and at a global scale. Extensive fieldwork coupled with sedimentological, geochemical and physical analyses of eruptive products enabled us to provide new constraints on the stratigraphy and eruptive dynamics. This four-phase continuous eruption produced a total of 33–40 km3 dense rock equivalent (DRE) of deposits, consisting of (i) 7–9 km3 DRE of pumiceous plinian fall products, (ii) 16 km3 DRE of pyroclastic density current deposits (PDC) and (iii) 8–9 km3 DRE of co-PDC ash that settled over the surrounding islands and was identified as far as 660 km from the source on the flanks of Merapi volcano (Central Java). Widespread accretionary lapilli-rich deposits provide evidence of the occurrence of a violent phreatomagmatic phase during the eruption. With a peak mass eruption rate of 4.6 × 108 kg/s, a maximum plume height of 43 km and a dispersal index of 110,500 km2, the 1257 A.D. eruption stands as the most powerful eruption of the last millennium. Eruption dynamics are consistent with an efficient dispersal of sulphur-rich aerosols across the globe. Remarkable reproducibility of trace element analysis on a few milligrammes of pumiceous tephra provides unequivocal evidence for the geochemical correlation of 1257 A.D. proximal reference products with distal tephra identified on surrounding islands. Hence, we identify and characterise a new prominent inter-regional chronostratigraphic tephra marker.


Samalas 1257 A.D. Plinian eruption Caldera-forming eruption Phreatomagmatic eruption Eruptive dynamics Trace element analysis 



We are grateful to RISTEK for allowing us to undertake this research and the Nusa Tengara Barat Governor’s Office for administrative support. We thank Dr Hendrasto (PVMBG/CVGHM) for his steadfast support and our Indonesian colleagues for field and administrative assistance. We are very grateful to J.-P. Toutain and Etny at IRD for valuable assistance and the institutional support. We are most indebted to Sofie and her staff at PVMBG for their help with administrative procedures and to Didik for the skilful dedicated driving. We also thank F. Le Cornec for her assistance for ICP-MS measurements, S. Hidalgo for pumice density measurements, M. Abrams (NASA) for providing ASTER satellite data and Arlyn (Rinjani Observatory, PVMBG) and H. Rachmat for samples of Barujari lavas. We thank Y. Wahyudi (PVMBG) and participants of the Rinjani excursion (CoV 8) for sharing their ideas. We are grateful for discussions and field insights on Merapi stratigraphy with S. Andreastuti, R. Gertisser and S. Charbonnier, and on marine cores with W. Kuhnt. 14C dates were obtained by C. Moreau and J.-P. Dumoulin (LMC14, CNRS UMS2572). We are grateful to S. Self (editor) and T. Druitt and R. Gertisser (reviewers) for their insightful and constructive comments that helped us to improve our manuscript. K. Fontijn is supported by NERC grant NE/I013210/1. This work is a part of C. Vidal’s PhD thesis (Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris). It has been partly funded by the Institut National des Sciences de l’Univers-Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique programme CT3-ALEA, projects ECRin 2013 and 2014, and INSU-CNRS Artemis 2014 for 14C dating. This is IPGP contribution 3550.

Supplementary material

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ESM 1 (XLSX 126 kb)
445_2015_960_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (132 kb)
ESM 2 (PDF 131 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Céline M. Vidal
    • 1
  • Jean-Christophe Komorowski
    • 1
  • Nicole Métrich
    • 1
  • Indyo Pratomo
    • 2
  • Nugraha Kartadinata
    • 3
  • Oktory Prambada
    • 3
  • Agnès Michel
    • 1
  • Guillaume Carazzo
    • 1
    • 4
  • Franck Lavigne
    • 5
  • Jessica Rodysill
    • 6
  • Karen Fontijn
    • 7
    • 8
  • Surono
    • 9
  1. 1.Institut de Physique du Globe, Sorbonne Paris-Cité, CNRS UMR-7154Université Paris DiderotParis, Cedex 05France
  2. 2.Museum of GeologyBadan GeologiBandungIndonesia
  3. 3.Center of Volcanology and Geological Hazards MitigationBadan GeologiBandungIndonesia
  4. 4.Observatoire Volcanologique et Sismologique de la MartiniqueInstitut de Physique du GlobeFonds Saint-DenisMartinique, FWI
  5. 5.Laboratoire de Géographie Physique UMR 8591Université Paris 1 Panthéon-SorbonneMeudonFrance
  6. 6.Department of Geological SciencesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  7. 7.Department of Earth SciencesUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  8. 8.Department of Geology and Soil ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  9. 9.Badan GeologiBandungIndonesia

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