Tectonic Setting and Volcanoes
of Papua New Guinea, New Britain, and the Solomon Islands

Tectonic microplates of the Melanesian region. Arrows show net plate motion relative to the Australian Plate. The volcanoes of New Britain are the result of subduction of the northward-migrating Solomon Sea Plate under the South Bismarck Plate. The volcanoes in the Solomon Islands are associated with the Solomon Sea Plate as it is subducted beneath the Pacific Plate. Two short spreading centers, one at the southeast margin of the Solomon Sea Plate and the other at the north edge of the South Bismarck Plate, influence volcanism at Kavachi (Solomon Islands) and the Admiralty Islands, respectively. Simplified from Hamilton (1979).


Cross-section of the subduction zone below New Britain. From Johnson (1976).


Volcanoes of the Melanesian region. Based on Fisher (1957) and modified after Simkin and Siebert (1994).

This region ties with the Atlantic region for having the highest proportion (5%) of its eruptions being below sea level (submarine). With 22 island-forming eruptions, Melanesian leads the world with the type of activity (most of these eruptions have been at Kavachi).

Notorius volcanoes in the region include Rabaul caldera, which erupted most recently in 1994, Lamington, which erupted in 1951-1956, and Manam, which has been erupting continuously since 1974.


Sources of Information:

Blong, R.J., 1982, The Time of Darkness: Local Legends and Volcanic Reality in Papua New Guinea [Long I]: Canberra, Australia National University Press, 257 p.

Fisher, N.H., 1957, Part V, Melanesia: Catalogue of the active volcanoes of the world, International Association of Volcanology, Rome, Italy, 105 p.

Hamilton, W., 1979, Tectonics of the Indonesian region: U.S. Geological Survey Prof. Paper 1078.

Johnson, R.W., ed., 1976, Volcanism in Australia: Amsterdam, Elsevier, 405 p.

Johnson, R.W., 1976, Late Cainozoic volcanism and plate tectonics at the southern margin of the Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea, in Johnson, R.W., ed., 1976, Volcanism in Australia: Amsterdam, Elsevier, p. 101-116.

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the World: Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona, 349 p.



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