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Given current data analysis, Sakurajima volcano in southwestern Japan may erupt on a large scale -- a weather agency panel warned on Tuesday, July 1, 2020.

According to the panel on the forecast of volcanic activities at the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the frequency of eruptions at Minamidake summit crater in Kagoshima Prefecture has been on the decrease, while the volume of volcanic ashes remains constant-- indicating that the upcoming eruption may be bigger than usual.

A level 3 alert remains for the active volcano, advising people to avoid approaching the crater. Local weather observatory also warns of small-scale pyroclastic flow when the volcano explodes.

The panel noted that bloating and lifting of the mountain, as well as crustal movement, have been observed on Sakurajima volcano since September 2019.

However, the panel did not mention when exactly the volcano is going to erupt.

On May 9, a plume of ash emitted from the volcano's Minamidake summit crater, reaching up to 4 200 m (13 800 feet) into the sky. 

There was no damage reported from the last eruption, but large rocks were flown into the upper part of the mountain and volcanic ashes fell in nearby municipalities. Six flights from and to Kagoshima airport had to be canceled due to ashfall.

Geological summary

The Aira caldera in the northern half of Kagoshima Bay contains the post-caldera Sakurajima volcano, one of Japan's most active. Eruption of the voluminous Ito pyroclastic flow accompanied formation of the 17 x 23 km (10.5 x 14.3 miles) caldera about 22 000 years ago. The smaller Wakamiko caldera was formed during the early Holocene in the NE corner of the Aira caldera, along with several post-caldera cones.

The construction of Sakurajima began about 13 000 years ago on the southern rim of Aira caldera and built an island that was finally joined to the Osumi Peninsula during the major explosive and effusive eruption of 1914. Activity at the Kitadake summit cone ended about 4 850 years ago, after which eruptions took place at Minamidake.

Frequent historical eruptions, recorded since the 8th century, have deposited ash on Kagoshima, one of Kyushu's largest cities, located across Kagoshima Bay only 8 km (5 miles) from the summit. The largest historical eruption took place during 1471-76. (GVP)

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