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The Middle East and Indian Ocean Region
This region is a mixture of continental, rift-influenced volcanoes of the Middle East and island oceanic intraplate and island hotspot volcanoes of the Indian Ocean. We have moved Iranian volcanoes of region 01 in the CAVW to this region and added coverage of volcanoes in Afghanistan to create a broader 'Middle East' region extending from Syria to Saudi Arabia and then from Iran to Afghanistan. The Comoros Islands and Reunion heavily dominate the eruption record (more than four-fifths of dated events) in contrast to the Middle Eastern volcanoes that dominate volcano listings (>60% of the region), population, and land area (both 99%).
The early historical record extends back to the 5th century CE. The region's earliest recorded eruption, a 9-km-long lava flow, bears the date 0500 CE (± 100) and, like the next 7, was from the Middle East, where the new religion of Islam unified Arabia in the 7th century. The first reported eruption of the region's most active volcano, Piton de la Fournaise on the island of Reunion, was not until the 17th century, and by then half of the 16 historically active volcanoes in the region had recorded their first known eruptions. All were from the Middle East, with the exception of an account written in the 10th to 12th centuries describing a summit eruption on Grand Comore Island.
In the last few centuries, though, the Indian Ocean has dominated the volcanic record of the region, and two new historically active volcanoes have been documented since the 2nd edition. An active submarine volcano named Boomerang Seamount with a 2-km-wide summit caldera 18 km NE of Amsterdam Island was first discovered during a bathymetric survey in 1996. Very short half-life radionuclide dating of fresh volcanic glass samples indicated that it had erupted only about 5 months earlier. Boomerang Seamount lies along the axis of the Southeast Indian Ridge and marks the site of the Amsterdam-St. Paul hotspot. A possible nearby active submarine center was inferred from phonolitic pumice that washed up on Heard Island in 1992, and volcanic plumes were observed from the MacDonald Islands, 75 km to the west of Heard, in December 1996. Possible pyroclastic deposits and lava were seen in 1997, and a satellite image taken in November 2001 showed the island to have more than doubled in area in the past year.
Reunion was known to the Arabs and visited by the Portuguese in the early 1500s. The first of its 172 known historical eruptions was in 1640, and France claimed the island around 1662. It has been French virtually continuously since then. Settlers moved in from 1715, and more than 700,000 people now live on the 2510 km2 island. The Piton de la Fournaise volcanological observatory, one of the three French observatories along with those at Soufrière de Guadeloupe and Montagne Pelèe (Martinique), was established in 1980.
The Comoros were controlled by Moslem Sultans until acquired by the French in the latter half of the last century. After the 10th-12th century eruption mentioned above, no further reports are known until the early 19th century. The Comoros became a French overseas territory in 1947 and declared independence in 1975.
Madagascar's first settlers are believed to have arrived in the 5th century, but no historical eruptions are known from their youthful volcanoes. The French settled in 1626, and the island became a colony in 1896. The independent Malagasy Republic was declared in 1960, but ended in a 1972 coup, and the island is again called Madagascar. The Kerguelen Archipelago was first visited in 1772 and has been occupied since 1950 by a small research station staff. Uninhabited neighboring islands St. Paul and Amsterdam are also Overseas Territories of France. The glacier-covered and unoccupied island of Heard is owned by Australia, and Marion Island belongs to South Africa. A small research station is maintained on Marion.
Fully 95% of region 03's dated eruptions have been historically documented, a proportion exceeded only by Indonesia. This region, along with Africa and Antarctica, is distinguished by having few known Holocene eruptions of substantial size (VEI ?4 or ?1 km3 of lava), reflecting the relative absence of detailed stratigraphic studies of their volcanoes. Surprisingly, this region ranks second in subglacial eruptions. Although the Indian Ocean is far behind Iceland in this category, the 2745-m-high summit of Heard volcano has a large permanent ice cap, and eruptions from its summit vent have often produced partially subglacial lava flows.
List of Holocene volcanoes in the Middle East and Indian Ocean region.