Picture of the Week—Indonesian Mud Flow

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On May 29, 2006, hot mud began to erupt within the city of Sidoarjo, in eastern Java, Indonesia. The mud volcano (also known as the Lapindo mud flow, or Lusi) hasn't stopped since then, spewing thousands of cubic feet of material every day. Nearly 2,000 acres of land have been covered with mud, burying roads, homes and factories and displacing almost 60,000 people so far. In the image above, you can see the mud contained by levees built to hold back the flow. (In this false-color image, vegetation appears red and mud is colored gray.)

Lusi's origin was debated at first, and geologists wondered if an earthquake two days earlier 155 miles away might have triggered the event. But they determined that the eruption was actually triggered by oil and gas drilling just 650 feet from where the mud began to flow. The Indonesians, however, have ruled the incident a natural disaster and halted their criminal probe earlier this month.

NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using data from NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and the U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. 

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About Sarah Zielinski
Sarah Zielinski

Sarah Zielinski is an award-winning science writer and editor. She is a contributing writer in science for Smithsonian.com and blogs at Wild Things, which appears on Science News.

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