Lake Toba (Indonesian: Danau Toba) is a large natural lake occupying
the caldera of a supervolcano. The lake is about 100 kilometres (62
miles) long, 30 kilometres (19 mi) wide, and up to 505 metres
(1,657 ft) deep. Located in the middle of the northern part of
the Indonesian 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. It is the largest
Indonesia and also the largest volcanic lake in the world.
Lake Toba is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption estimated at
VEI 8 that occurred 69,000 to 77,000 years ago, representing
a climate-changing event. Recent advances in dating methods suggest a
more accurate identification of 74,000 years ago as the date. 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. Debate exists
regarding the catastrophe theory.
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.
2 Major eruption
2.1 More recent activity
Flora and fauna
6 See also
8 Additional reading
9 External links
Batu Gantung (Hanging stone) in
The Toba caldera complex in Northern Sumatra, comprises four
overlapping volcanic craters that adjoin the Sumatran "volcanic
front." The fourth and youngest caldera is the world's largest
Quaternary caldera (100 by 30 km [62 by 19 mi]) and
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.
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 above sea level) on the south edge of the caldera is
Main article: Toba catastrophe theory
Lake Toba shown in red on map
The Toba eruption (the Toba event) occurred at what is now
about 75,000±900 years ago. 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. 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
Michigan Technological University have
estimated that the total amount of material released in the eruption
was about 2,800 km3 (670 cu mi)—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 (7,722 sq mi), with ash deposits as thick as
600 m (1,969 ft) by the main vent.
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 and parts of
Malaysia were covered with
9 m (30 ft) of ash fall. In addition it has been
variously calculated that 10,000 million tonnes (1.1×1010 short
tons) of sulfurous acid or 6,000 million tonnes (6.6×109
short tons) of sulfur dioxide were ejected into the atmosphere by
The subsequent collapse formed a caldera that filled with water,
Lake Toba. The island in the center of the lake is formed by
a resurgent dome.
Landsat photo of
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. 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Some parts of the caldera have shown uplift due to partial refilling
of the magma chamber, for example, pushing
Island and the
Uluan Peninsula above the surface of the lake. The lake sediments on
Island show that it has risen by at least 450 m
(1,476 ft) 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). Such earthquakes have also been
recorded in 1892, 1916, and 1920–1922.
Lake Toba lies near the Great Sumatran fault, which runs along the
Sumatra in the
Sumatra Fracture Zone. The volcanoes of
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
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.
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) and Neolissochilus thienemanni,
locally known as the Batak fish. 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. 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. 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.
Panoramic view of
Lake Toba Aerial View
Aerial view of the southern shore with Sibandang
Island visible in the
View of the lake with an example of Batak architecture in the
Traditional Batak house at Ambarita,
Lake Toba from Tongging Village, near Sipiso-Piso Waterfall
Lake Toba featured in 1,000-rupiah banknote
Details of carvings on the prow of a Toba Batak canoe
The caldera of
Lake Toba, with a resurgent dome, forming Samosir
A panoramic partial view of Toba Lake, as seen from the west side to
List of lakes of Indonesia
List of volcanoes in Indonesia
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Tourist attractions in Indonesia
Baiturrahman Grand Mosque
Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park
Gunongan Historical Park
Kerinci Seblat National Park
Lumbini Natural Park
Mentawai Islands Regency
Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra
Dieng Volcanic Complex
Gembira Loka Zoo
Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park
Karimunjawa National Park
Keraton Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat
Mount Halimun Salak National Park
Tirto Samodra Beach
Ujung Kulon National Park
Betung Kerihun National Park
Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park
Baning Nature Tourist Park
Danau Sentarum National Park
Kutai National Park
Sabangau National Park
The Equator monument
Bantimurung – Bulusaraung National Park
Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park
Bunaken National Park
Gandang Dewata National Park
Kepulauan Togean National Park
Lore Lindu National Park
Rawa Aopa Watumohai National Park
Taka Bone Rate National Park
Trans Studio Makassar
Wakatobi National Park
Lesser Sunda Islands
Bali Bird Park
Bali Safari and Marine Park
Garuda Wisnu Kencana
Gunung Rinjani National Park
Komodo National Park
Lake Segara Anak
Ujung Water Palace
Maluku and Papua
Lorentz National Park
Raja Ampat Islands
Teluk Cenderawasih National Park