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Lusi mud eruption triggered by geometric focusing of seismic waves

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 28 August 2014

This article has been updated


The Lusi mud eruption in Java, Indonesia, began in May 2006 and is ongoing. Two different triggers have been proposed. The eruption could have been triggered by drilling at a gas-exploration well, as evidenced by pressure variations typical of an internal blowout1,2. Alternatively, fault slip associated with the M6.3 Yogyakarta earthquake two days before the eruption could have mobilized the mud3, as suggested by mixing of shallow and deeply derived fluids in the exhaling mud3,4 and mud-vent alignment along a tectonic fault. Here we use numerical wave propagation experiments to show that a high-impedance and parabolic-shaped, high-velocity layer in the rock surrounding the site of the Lusi eruption could have reflected, amplified and focussed incoming seismic energy from the Yogyakarta earthquake. Our simulations show that energy concentrations in the mud layer would have been sufficient to liquefy the mud source, allowing fluidized mud and exsolved CO2 to be injected into and reactivate the Watukosek Fault. This fault connects hydraulically to a deep hydrothermal system that continues to feed the eruption. We conclude that the Lusi mud eruption was a natural occurrence. We also suggest that parabolic lithologies with varying acoustic impedance can focus and amplify incoming seismic energy and trigger a response in volcanic and hydrothermal systems that would have otherwise been unperturbed.

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Figure 1: Map of Java with relevant distances from the Yogyakarta earthquake.
Figure 2: Geometry, Vp variations with depth and model of Lusi used in the numerical study.
Figure 3: Results of the numerical study.
Figure 4: Conceptual stress path and proposed scenario for triggering the Lusi mud eruption.

Change history

  • 28 August 2014

    Nature Geoscience 6, 642–646 (2013); published online 21 July 2013; corrected after print 28 August 2014. In our 2013 article1, we adopted a published velocity profile2 described as check-shot data, which we used as an input constraint for our numerical simulations. We were subsequently alerted to artefacts in that velocity profile, so below we present revised simulation results, based on additional data.


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This work was financially supported by a grant from the Humanitus Sidoarjo fund. Discussions with A. Mazzini, S. Pudasaini and N. Wolyniec are appreciated and we thank B. Galvan for discretizing the model domain. We thank J. Cartwright and D. Koehn for comments.

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M.L. conducted the study, collected the data and constructed the geological model; E.H.S. conducted the numerical studies; F.F. conducted the seismological analysis; S.A.M. designed and coordinated the study and jointly wrote the manuscript with M.L. All authors contributed equally to the content.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to S. A. Miller.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Lupi, M., Saenger, E., Fuchs, F. et al. Lusi mud eruption triggered by geometric focusing of seismic waves. Nature Geosci 6, 642–646 (2013).

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