Report on Nyiragongo (DR Congo) — 24 July-30 July 2002

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 July-30 July 2002
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Nyiragongo (DR Congo). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 July-30 July 2002. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

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Nyiragongo

DR Congo

1.52°S, 29.25°E; summit elev. 3470 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)


Scientists were able to see Nyiragongo's crater on 27 July after 2 weeks without observations. They found that a very large white plume, which rose almost 3 km above the volcano, was being emitted from a small spatter cone inside the main crater. Lava was visible inside the spatter cone. They also noted a very active lava lake inside the main crater that was smaller than they expected it to be based on the size of the plume. While authorities did not order the evacuation of towns near the volcano, news articles reported that aid workers prepared emergency items such as makeshift shelters in case a large eruption occurs.

Geologic Background. One of Africa's most notable volcanoes, Nyiragongo contained a lava lake in its deep summit crater that was active for half a century before draining catastrophically through its outer flanks in 1977. In contrast to the low profile of its neighboring shield volcano, Nyamuragira, 3470-m-high Nyiragongo displays the steep slopes of a stratovolcano. Benches in the steep-walled, 1.2-km-wide summit crater mark levels of former lava lakes, which have been observed since the late-19th century. Two older stratovolcanoes, Baruta and Shaheru, are partially overlapped by Nyiragongo on the north and south. About 100 parasitic cones are located primarily along radial fissures south of Shaheru, east of the summit, and along a NE-SW zone extending as far as Lake Kivu. Many cones are buried by voluminous lava flows that extend long distances down the flanks, which is characterized by the eruption of foiditic rocks. The extremely fluid 1977 lava flows caused many fatalities, as did lava flows that inundated portions of the major city of Goma in January 2002.

Sources: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Associated Press, Reuters