Satellite images reveal Bali’s two volcanoes are CONNECTED

Satellite images reveal Bali’s two volcanoes are CONNECTED and share the same ‘plumbing system’ despite being more than ten miles apart (and it could explain the devastating eruption that killed 1,600 people in 1963)

  • Bali’s Agung volcano erupted in 2017 forcing the evacuation of 100,00 people  
  • Satellite images from the ESA showed a bubble of magma three miles away 
  • This suggests the magma chamber plumbing is linked to nearby volcano Batur  
  • Two eruptions in a short period of time in 1963 saw more than 1,600 people die
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Satellite images reveal the plumbing of Bali’s Agung volcano may be connected to its neighbour, Mount Batur, located 11 miles (18 km) away. 

Scientists were studying the volcano as it awoke from a 50-year slumber and spewed ash into the atmosphere for several weeks at the end of 2017. 

Images from the European Space Agency revealed an unusual underground bubble four inches (10 cm) in height on the northern flank of the volcano, more than three miles (5 km) from the summit.

This, experts claim, proves the mountain’s magma can move horizontally as well as vertically, which indicates it is physically linked to Mount Batur. 

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Satellite images reveal the plumbing of Bali’s Agung volcano may be connected to its neighbour, Mount Batur, located 11 miles (18 km) away. Images from the European Space Agency revealed an unusual underground bubble of four inches  on the northern flank of the volcano, more than three miles from the summit, seen here in green at as a circular pattern to the right of the base of Angung

A team of scientists, led by the University of Bristol, used satellite technology of the ESA to spot any surface level fluctuations during the 2017 volcanic activity.

During this time, experts from the University’s School of Earth Sciences used Sentinel-1 satellite imagery provided by the ESA to monitor the ground deformation at Agung. 

They say their findings could have important implications for forecasting future eruptions in the area. 

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Dr Fabien Albino, from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, the paper’s lead author, said: ‘Surprisingly, we noticed that both the earthquake activity and the ground deformation signal were located five kilometres away from the summit, which means that magma must be moving sideways as well as vertically upwards.

‘Our study provides the first geophysical evidence that Agung and Batur volcanoes may have a connected plumbing system.

‘This has important implications for eruption forecasting and could explain the occurrence of simultaneous eruptions, such as in 1963.’ 


Scientists were studying the volcano when it was spewing ash out for several weeks in 2017 in order to uncover what caused it to erupt after 50 years of dormancy. Satellite images from the ESA showed a bubble of magma three miles away indicating Batur and Agung are connected 


Activity at the volcano sparked fears it would violently erupt and cause devastation akin to the 1963 event that saw 1,600 people lose their lives. The event more than 50 years ago was almost immediately followed by a smaller eruption by its neighbour to the north-west

HOW CAN RESEARCHERS PREDICT VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS?

According to Eric Dunham, an associate professor of Stanford University’s School of Earth, energy and Environmental Sciences, ‘Volcanoes are complicated and there is currently no universally applicable means of predicting eruption. In all likelihood, there never will be.’

However, there are indicators of increased volcanic activity, which researchers can use to help predict volcanic eruptions. 

Researchers can track indicators such as: 

  • Volcanic infrasound: When the lava lake rises up in the crater of an open vent volcano, a sign of a potential eruption, the pitch or frequency of the sounds generated by the magma tends to increase.
  • Seismic activity: Ahead of an eruption, seismic activity in the form of small earthquakes and tremors almost always increases as magma moves through the volcano’s ‘plumbing system’.
  • Gas emissions: As magma nears the surface and pressure decreases, gases escape. Sulfur dioxide is one of the main components of volcanic gases, and increasing amounts of it are a sign of increasing amounts of magma near the surface of a volcano. 
  • Ground deformation: Changes to a volcano’s ground surface (volcano deformation) appear as swelling, sinking, or cracking, which can be caused by magma, gas, or other fluids (usually water) moving underground or by movements in the Earth’s crust due to motion along fault lines. Swelling of a volcano cans signal that magma has accumulated near the surface.  

Source: United States Geological Survey

Authorities issued a warning to residents in November 2017 and forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate their homes.

This was after a spike in the number of small earthquakes around the volcano was detected two months before its main eruption. 

Activity at the volcano sparked fears it would violently erupt and cause devastation akin to the 1963 event that saw more than 1,600 people lose their lives. 

The eruption of 1963 was among the deadliest volcanic eruptions of the 20th Century, so scientists ceased the opportunity to monitor and understand its re-awakening. 

The event more than 50 years ago was almost immediately followed by a smaller eruption by its neighbour to the north-west, fuelling speculation the two volcanoes were connected. 

Experts now believe to have found the first ‘geophysical evidence’ that this is true. 

Dr Juliet Biggs, who led the satellite study, added: ‘From remote sensing, we are able to map out any ground motion, which may be an indicator that fresh magma is moving beneath the volcano.’ 

The full findings were published in the journal Nature Communications,

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