The sudden eruption of Mount Ontake on September 27, 2014, led to a tragedy that caused more than 60 fatalities including missing persons. In order to mitigate the potential risks posed by similar volcano-related disasters, it is vital to have a clear understanding of the activity status and progression of eruptions. Because the erupted material was largely disturbed while access was strictly prohibited for a month, we analyzed the aerial photographs taken on September 28. The results showed that there were three large vents in the bottom of the Jigokudani valley on September 28. The vent in the center was considered to have been the main vent involved in the eruption, and the vents on either side were considered to have been formed by non-explosive processes. The pyroclastic flows extended approximately 2.5 km along the valley at an average speed of 32 km/h. The absence of burned or fallen trees in this area indicated that the temperatures and destructive forces associated with the pyroclastic flow were both low. The distribution of ballistics was categorized into four zones based on the number of impact craters per unit area, and the furthest impact crater was located 950 m from the vents. Based on ballistic models, the maximum initial velocity of the ejecta was estimated to be 111 m/s. Just after the beginning of the eruption, very few ballistic ejecta had arrived at the summit, even though the eruption plume had risen above the summit, which suggested that a large amount of ballistic ejecta was expelled from the volcano several tens-of-seconds after the beginning of the eruption. This initial period was characterized by the escape of a vapor phase from the vents, which then caused the explosive eruption phase that generated large amounts of ballistic ejecta via sudden decompression of a hydrothermal reservoir.
Kaneko, T., Maeno, F., & Nakada, S. (2016). 2014 Mount Ontake eruption: Characteristics of the phreatic eruption as inferred from aerial observations the Phreatic Eruption of Mt. Ontake Volcano in 2014 5. Volcanology. Earth, Planets and Space, 68(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40623-016-0452-y