Man-made mud volcano starting to look like a real volcano

A post by Chris RowanIt’s been a while since my last update on Lusi, the allegedly/probably drilling-triggered mud volcano near Sidoarjo, Indonesia. But the NASA Earth Observatory has just released this image, taken last autumn:

Lusi_Oct08.jpg
Lusi,October 2009. Source: NASA Earth Observatory

My first thought on seeing this was, “Woah, where’d that mountain come from?” In the last images I had seen, Lusi had from above was effectively a big muddy pool, contained within man-made earthworks, with a steaming vent in the middle. This had been pretty much the case for the previous couple of years.

lusi_Oct08.jpg
Lusi, October 2008. Source: CRISP

Now, it’s a big muddy pool with a big steaming hill in the middle. By looking through the satellite snapshots put out every couple of months by the Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing at the University of Singapore (of which the October 2008 image above is one), you can see that over the last 12 months or so Lusi appears to have started building up instead of out, with the causeways and dams around the vent being gradually swallowed up by the grey ooze.

Lusi_May09.jpg
Lusi, May 2009. Source: CRISP

Lusi_Sep09.jpg
Lusi, September 2009. Source: CRISP

Lusi_Dec09.jpg
Lusi, December 2009. Source: CRISP

It seems, then, that Lusi has entered a new phase of its life. I wonder if this growth has anything to do with subsidence in the area?
Categories: geohazards, Lusi
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Comments (9)

  1. Lars Fischer says:

    Do you have any recent data about the amount of subsidence, by any chance?

  2. Miguel Vera says:

    I wonder what it looks like from the ground. Haven’t found any recent photos of it.

  3. MadScientist says:

    Is the subsidence caused by what the hole is spitting out?
    @Lars: maybe google can help; subsidence in remote areas is usually measured by satellite interferometry (using the synthetic aperture radars). Those instruments have been used, for example, to show a surface deformation at the CO2 sequestration field in In Salah, Algeria. The same instruments also show deformations over aquifers as the ancient water is pumped to the surface for irrigation. Subsidence of over 1m is not at all unusual over aquifers.

  4. Dave says:

    if you Google Images,Lusi mud volcano, you will find lots of ground level photos one of which looks like kids swimming around in it!..

  5. geodoc says:

    Thanks for the update Chris. A time series of ground level photos taken from the same location would be interesting- most of the google image links date back a couple of years.

  6. Hank Roberts says:

    The next time that area gets shaken by a significant earthquake, how far do you think that pile of mud will spread out? Seems like another disaster set up to be triggered.

  7. Mark Hunter says:

    Why has human ingenuity not found anything to do with the mud, as it is only earth that could have plants/food growing in it or turned in mud bricks or maybe converted useing technology/process into aggregates

  8. Sher Noble says:

    Chris, are we facing a similar if less visible situation in the Gulf of Mexico? If BP and all involved can “cap” enough to keep the overflow beneath the level of highly visible spill it is now why cannot relatively smaller amounts of oil leak for years, essentially destroying viability of the region?

  9. Chris Rowan says:

    Hi, Sher: for better or worse, the Gulf of Mexico spill is under far more scrutiny than Indonesia, and the political/financial pressure to properly seal the leak is much higher. Also, at this point there is at least the hope of fully sealing the blow-out via the relief well(s), which was not an option in the case of Lusi.