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Lake Toba

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Lake Toba
Danau Toba  (Indonesian)
Tao Toba  (Batak Toba)
Indonesia - Lake Toba (26224127503).jpg
A view of Lake Toba and Samosir Island from Sipisopiso
Location North Sumatra, Indonesia
Coordinates 2°41′N 98°53′E / 2.68°N 98.88°E / 2.68; 98.88Coordinates: 2°41′N 98°53′E / 2.68°N 98.88°E / 2.68; 98.88
Type Volcanic/ tectonic
Primary outflows Asahan River
Basin countries Indonesia
Max. length 100 km (62 mi)
Max. width 30 km (19 mi)
Surface area 1,130 km2 (440 sq mi)
Max. depth 505 m (1,657 ft)[1]
Water volume 240 km3 (58 cu mi)
Surface elevation 905 m (2,969 ft)
Islands Samosir
Settlements Ambarita, Pangururan
References [1]

Lake Toba (Indonesian: Danau Toba) is a large natural lake in Sumatra, Indonesia occupying the caldera of a supervolcano. The lake is located in the middle of the northern part of the island of Sumatra, with a surface elevation of about 900 metres (2,953 ft), the lake stretches from 2°53′N 98°31′E / 2.88°N 98.52°E / 2.88; 98.52 to 2°21′N 99°06′E / 2.35°N 99.1°E / 2.35; 99.1. The lake is about 100 kilometres (62 miles) long, 30 kilometres (19 mi) wide, and up to 505 metres (1,657 ft) deep. It is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world.[1] Lake Toba Caldera is one of the nineteen Geoparks in Indonesia,[2] which is proposed to be included in the UNESCO Global Geopark.[3][4]

Lake Toba is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption estimated at VEI 8 that occurred 69,000 to 77,000 years ago,[5][6][7] representing a climate-changing event. Recent advances in dating methods suggest a more accurate identification of 74,000 years ago as the date.[8] It is the largest-known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it had global consequences for human populations; it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make-up of the human worldwide population to the present.[9]

It has been accepted that the eruption of Toba led to a volcanic winter with a worldwide decrease in temperature between 3 to 5 °C (5.4 to 9.0 °F), and up to 15 °C (27 °F) in higher latitudes. Additional studies in Lake Malawi in East Africa show significant amounts of ash being deposited from the Toba eruptions, even at that great distance, but little indication of a significant climatic effect in East Africa.[10]


Batu Gantung (Hanging stone) in Lake Toba
Map of the lake

The Toba caldera complex in North Sumatra comprises four overlapping volcanic craters that adjoin the Sumatran "volcanic front". With 100 by 30 km [62 by 19 mi] it is the world's largest Quaternary caldera, and the fourth and youngest caldera. It intersects the three older calderas. An estimated 2,800 km3 (670 cu mi) of dense-rock equivalent pyroclastic material, known as the youngest Toba tuff, was released during one of the largest explosive volcanic eruptions in recent geological history. Following this eruption, a resurgent dome formed within the new caldera, joining two half-domes separated by a longitudinal graben.[6]

At least four cones, four stratovolcanoes, and three craters are visible in the lake. The Tandukbenua cone on the northwestern edge of the caldera has only sparse vegetation, suggesting a young age of several hundred years. Also, the Pusubukit (Hill Center) volcano (1,971 m (6,467 ft) above sea level) on the south edge of the caldera is solfatarically active.[11]

Major eruption

Location of Lake Toba shown in red on map

The Toba eruption (the Toba event) occurred at what is now Lake Toba about 75,000±900 years ago.[12] It was the last in a series of at least four caldera-forming eruptions at this location, with earlier calderas having formed around 788,000±2,200 years ago.[13] This last eruption had an estimated VEI=8, making it the largest-known explosive volcanic eruption within the last 25 million years.

Bill Rose and Craig Chesner of Michigan Technological University have estimated that the total amount of material released in the eruption was about 2,800 km3 (670 cu mi)[14]—about 2,000 km3 (480 cu mi) of ignimbrite that flowed over the ground, and approximately 800 km3 (190 cu mi) that fell as ash mostly to the west. However, based on the new method (crystal concentration and exponential), Toba possibly erupted 3,200 km3 (770 cu mi) of ignimbrite and co-ignimbrite. The pyroclastic flows of the eruption destroyed an area of least 20,000 km2 (7,700 sq mi), with ash deposits as thick as 600 m (2,000 ft) by the main vent.[14]

The eruption was large enough to have deposited an ash layer approximately 15 cm (6 in) thick over all of South Asia; at one site in central India, the Toba ash layer today is up to 6 m (20 ft) thick[15] and parts of Malaysia were covered with 9 m (30 ft) of ash fall.[16] In addition it has been variously calculated that 10,000 million tonnes (1.1×1010 short tons) of sulfurous acid[17] or 6,000 million tonnes (6.6×109 short tons) of sulfur dioxide[18] were ejected into the atmosphere by the event.

The subsequent collapse formed a caldera that filled with water, creating Lake Toba. The island in the center of the lake is formed by a resurgent dome.

Landsat photo of Sumatra surrounding Lake Toba

The exact year of the eruption is unknown, but the pattern of ash deposits suggests that it occurred during the northern summer because only the summer monsoon could have deposited Toba ashfall in the South China Sea.[19] The eruption lasted perhaps two weeks, and the ensuing volcanic winter resulted in a decrease in average global temperatures by 3.0 to 3.5 °C (5 to 6 °F) for several years. Ice cores from Greenland record a pulse of starkly reduced levels of organic carbon sequestration. Very few plants or animals in southeast Asia would have survived, and it is possible that the eruption caused a planet-wide die-off. However, the global cooling has been discussed by Rampino and Self. Their conclusion is that the cooling had already started before Toba's eruption. This conclusion was supported by Lane and Zielinski who studied the lake-core from Africa and GISP2. They concluded that there was no volcanic winter after Toba eruption and that high H2SO4 deposits do not cause long-term effects.[20][21]

Evidence from studies of mitochondrial DNA suggests that humans may have passed through a genetic bottleneck around this time that reduced genetic diversity below what would be expected given the age of the species. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, proposed by Stanley H. Ambrose of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign in 1998, the effects of the Toba eruption may have decreased the size of human populations to only a few tens of thousands of individuals.[22] However, this hypothesis is not widely accepted because similar effects on other animal species have not been observed, and paleoanthropology suggests there was no population bottleneck.[23][24]

More recent activity

Since the major eruption ~70,000 years ago, eruptions of smaller magnitude have also occurred at Toba. The small cone of Pusukbukit formed on the southwestern margin of the caldera and lava domes. The most recent eruption may have been at Tandukbenua on the northwestern caldera edge, suggested by a lack of vegetation that could be due to an eruption within the last few hundred years.[25]

Some parts of the caldera have shown uplift due to partial refilling of the magma chamber, for example, pushing Samosir Island and the Uluan Peninsula above the surface of the lake. The lake sediments on Samosir Island show that it has risen by at least 450 m (1,476 ft)[13] since the cataclysmic eruption. Such uplifts are common in very large calderas, apparently due to the upward pressure of below-ground magma. Toba is probably the largest resurgent caldera on Earth. Large earthquakes have recently occurred in the vicinity of the volcano, notably in 1987 along the southern shore of the lake at a depth of 11 km (6.8 mi).[26] Such earthquakes have also been recorded in 1892, 1916, and 1920–1922.[13]

Lake Toba lies near the Great Sumatran fault, which runs along the centre of Sumatra in the Sumatra Fracture Zone.[13] The volcanoes of Sumatra and Java are part of the Sunda Arc, a result of the northeasterly movement of the Indo-Australian Plate, which is sliding under the eastward-moving Eurasian Plate. The subduction zone in this area is very active: the seabed near the west coast of Sumatra has had several major earthquakes since 1995, including the 9.1 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the 8.7 2005 Nias–Simeulue earthquake, the epicenters of which were around 300 km (190 mi) from Toba.


Batak canoes near Haranggaol on Lake Toba (circa 1920)

Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Bataks. Traditional Batak houses are noted for their distinctive roofs (which curve upwards at each end, as a boat's hull does) and their colorful decor.[27]

Flora and fauna

The flora of the lake includes various types of phytoplankton, emerged macrophytes, floating macrophytes, and submerged macrophytes, while the surrounding countryside is rainforest including areas of Sumatran tropical pine forests on the higher mountainsides.[28]

The fauna includes several species of zooplankton and benthic animals. Since the lake is oligotrophic (nutrient-poor), the native fish fauna is relatively scarce, and the only endemics are Rasbora tobana (strictly speaking near-endemic, since also found in some tributary rivers that run into the lake)[29] and Neolissochilus thienemanni, locally known as the Batak fish.[30] The latter species is threatened by deforestation (causing siltation), pollution, changes in water level and the numerous fish species that have been introduced to the lake.[30] Other native fishes include species such as Aplocheilus panchax, Nemacheilus pfeifferae, Homaloptera gymnogaster, Channa gachua, Channa striata, Clarias batrachus, Barbonymus gonionotus, Barbonymus schwanenfeldii, Danio albolineatus, Osteochilus vittatus, Puntius binotatus, Rasbora jacobsoni, Tor tambra, Betta imbellis, Betta taeniata and Monopterus albus.[31] Among the many introduced species are Anabas testudineus, Oreochromis mossambicus, Oreochromis niloticus, Ctenopharyngodon idella, Cyprinus carpio, Osphronemus goramy, Trichogaster pectoralis, Trichopodus trichopterus, Poecilia reticulata and Xiphophorus hellerii.[31]

Panoramic view of Lake Toba

Sinking of MV Sinar Bangun

On 18 June 2018, Lake Toba was the scene of a ferry disaster, in which over 190 people drowned.[32] MV Sinar Bangun was an irregular operating vessel on the lake capsized with many passengers on board. The incident caused the death of 190 people and injuries to a number of others. Preliminary reports found the vessel was in operation with irregularities. Ignoring overloading on the vessel and operating in rough weather conditions were concluded as the main reason leading to the disaster. Around 50 cars and 100 motorbikes, which were aboard, also sank into the lake on that day.


See also


  1. ^ a b c "LakeNet – Lakes".
  2. ^ "Gov't Expects UNESCO to Recognize Kaldera Toba Geopark This Year". Tempo. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  3. ^ "Lake Toba proposed as world geopark heritage site". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Perjalanan Geopark Kaldera Danau Toba Masuk Daftar UGG". Kompas. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Global Volcanism Program – Toba".
  6. ^ a b Chesner, C.A.; Westgate, J.A.; Rose, W.I.; Drake, R.; Deino, A. (1991). "Eruptive history of Earth's largest Quaternary caldera (Toba, Indonesia) clarified" (PDF). Geology. Michigan Technological University. 19 (3): 200–203. Bibcode:1991Geo....19..200C. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(1991)0192.3.CO;2. Retrieved 23 August 2008.
  7. ^ Ninkovich, D.; N.J. Shackleton; A.A. Abdel-Monem; J.D. Obradovich; G. Izett (7 December 1978). "K−Ar age of the late Pleistocene eruption of Toba, north Sumatra". Nature. Nature Publishing Group. 276 (5688): 574–577. Bibcode:1978Natur.276..574N. doi:10.1038/276574a0.
  8. ^ Vogel, Gretchen, How ancient humans survived global ‘volcanic winter’ from massive eruption, Science, 12 March 2018
  9. ^ "When humans faced extinction". BBC. 9 June 2003. Retrieved 5 January 2007.
  10. ^ Lane, Christine S.; Ben T. Chorn; Thomas C. Johnson (29 April 2013). "Ash from the Toba supereruption in Lake Malawi shows no volcanic winter in East Africa at 75 ka". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110 (20): 8025–8029. Bibcode:2013PNAS..110.8025L. doi:10.1073/pnas.1301474110. PMC 3657767. PMID 23630269.
  11. ^ "Synonyms and Subfeatures: Toba". Global Volcanism Program. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  12. ^ Zielinski, G. A.; P.A. Mayewski; L.D. Meeker; S. Whitlow; M. Twickler; K. Taylor (1996). "Potential Atmospheric impact of the Toba mega-eruption ~71,000 years ago". Geophysical Research Letters. United States: American Geophysical Union. 23 (8): 837–840. Bibcode:1996GeoRL..23..837Z. doi:10.1029/96GL00706.
  13. ^ a b c d "Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia". Oregon State University.
  14. ^ a b "Supersized eruptions are all the rage!". USGS. 28 April 2005.
  15. ^ Acharyya, S.K.; Basu, P.K. (1993). "Toba ash on the South Asia and its implications for correlation of late pleistocene alluvium". Quaternary Research. 40 (1): 10–19. Bibcode:1993QuRes..40...10A. doi:10.1006/qres.1993.1051.
  16. ^ Scrivenor, John Brooke (1931). The Geology of Malaya. London: MacMillan. OCLC 3575130., noted by Weber.
  17. ^ Huang, C.Y.; Zhao, M.X.; Wang, C.C.; Wei, G.J. (2001). "Cooling of the South China Sea by the Toba Eruption and correlation with other climate proxies ∼71,000 years ago". Geophysical Research Letters. 28 (20): 3915–3918. Bibcode:2001GeoRL..28.3915H. doi:10.1029/2000GL006113.
  18. ^ Robock, A.; C.M. Ammann; L. Oman; D. Shindell; S. Levis; G. Stenchikov (2009). "Did the Toba volcanic eruption of ~74k BP produce widespread glaciation?". Journal of Geophysical Research. 114 (D10): D10107. Bibcode:2009JGRD..11410107R. doi:10.1029/2008JD011652.
  19. ^ Bühring, C.; Sarnthein, M.; Leg 184 Shipboard Scientific Party (2000). "Toba ash layers in the South China Sea: evidence of contrasting wind directions during eruption ca. 74 ka". Geology. 28 (3): 275–278. doi:10.1130/0091-7613(2000)0282.3.CO;2.
  20. ^ Lane, Christine S (2013). "Ash from the Toba supereruption in Lake Malawi shows no volcanic winter in East Africa at 75 ka". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110 (20): 8025–8029. Bibcode:2013PNAS..110.8025L. doi:10.1073/pnas.1301474110. PMC 3657767. PMID 23630269.
  21. ^ Zielinski, GA (1996). "Potential atmospheric impact of the Toba Mega‐Eruption∼ 71,000 years ago". Geophysical Research Letters. 23 (8): 837–840. Bibcode:1996GeoRL..23..837Z. doi:10.1029/96GL00706.
  22. ^ "Yellowstone Is a Supervolcano?". Biot Reports. Suburban Emergency Management Project (164). 11 January 2005. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  23. ^ Gathorne-Hardy, F. J., and Harcourt-Smith, W. E. H., "The super-eruption of Toba, did it cause a human bottleneck?", Journal of Human Evolution 45 (2003) 227–230.
  24. ^ Petraglia, Michael D (2012). "The Toba volcanic super-eruption, environmental change, and hominin occupation history in India over the last 140,000 years". Quaternary International. 258: 119–134. Bibcode:2012QuInt.258..119P. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.07.042.
  25. ^ "Toba volcano (Indonesia, Sumatra)".
  26. ^ "Significant Earthquakes of the World". United States Geological Survey (USGS).
  27. ^ "Batak People". Archived from the original on 13 August 2008.
  28. ^ "Danau Toba (Lake Toba)". International Lake Environment Committee. Archived from the original on 3 March 2009.
  29. ^ Lumbantobing, Daniel N (2010). "Four New Species of the Rasbora trifasciata-Group (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) from Northwestern Sumatra, Indonesia". Copeia. 2010 (4): 644–70. doi:10.1643/CI-09-155.
  30. ^ a b Saragih, Bungaran; Sunito, Satyawan (2001). "Lake Toba: Need for an integrated management system". Lakes and Reservoirs: Research and Management. 6 (3): 247–51. doi:10.1046/j.1440-1770.2001.00155.x.
  31. ^ a b FishBase (2012). Species in Toba. Accessed 25 January 2012
  32. ^ "Indonesia ferry disaster: Lake Toba captain detained". BBC. 21 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.

Further reading

  • Rampino, Michael R. and Stephen Self (1993). "Climate-volcanism feedback and the Toba eruption of 74,000 Years Ago". Quaternary Research. 40 (3): 269–280. Bibcode:1993QuRes..40..269R. doi:10.1006/qres.1993.1081.
  • Vazquez, Jorge A. and Mary R. Reid (2004). "Probing the accumulation history of the voluminous Toba Magma". Science. 305 (5686): 991–994. Bibcode:2004Sci...305..991V. doi:10.1126/science.1096994. PMID 15310899.
  • Petraglia, M.; et al. (2007). "Middle Paleolithic Assemblages from the Indian Subcontinent Before and After the Toba Super-Eruption". Science. 317 (5834): 114–116. Bibcode:2007Sci...317..114P. doi:10.1126/science.1141564. PMID 17615356.

External links

  • Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia – Accessed 11 December 2005
  • Stanley H. Ambrose, Volcanic Winter, and Differentiation of Modern Humans Accessed 11 December 2005
  • Joel Achenbach, Who Knew, National Geographic Accessed 11 December 2005
  • (Lake Toba Ecosystem Management Plan) From
  • Magma 'Pancakes' May Have Fueled Toba Supervolcano
  • Lake Toba travel guide from Wikivoyage

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