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Report on Erta Ale (Ethiopia) — 28 September-4 October 2005

Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 28 September-4 October 2005
Managing Editor: Gari Mayberry

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2005. Report on Erta Ale (Ethiopia). In: Mayberry, G (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 28 September-4 October 2005. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

Volcano Profile |  Weekly Report (28 September-4 October 2005)

Erta Ale


13.6°N, 40.67°E; summit elev. 613 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

A group of scientists assessed the visible changes at Erta Ale on 26 September after activity began around 24 September. In comparison to observations made in November 2004, they found that the southern main crater/pit had widened significantly, with portions of the previous crater walls having collapsed into the lava lake. A new cone-shaped construct had grown within the southern main crater where there had been a platform. A lava lake occupied the entire width of the inner crater/pit. In the northern crater/pit, there was a solidified lava bulge and abundant "smoking" along the crater walls. No incandescent lava was visible in the pit.

Based on descriptions by local residents of seeing "red and glowing light shooting and rising into the air above the volcano," the scientists believe that a Strombolian eruption probably occurred, emitting a significant volume of fresh magma within, and possibly out of, the pit. According to news reports, about 50,000 nomads in Ethiopia's Afar region were displaced after the eruption.

Geologic Background. Erta Ale is an isolated basaltic shield that is the most active volcano in Ethiopia. The broad, 50-km-wide edifice rises more than 600 m from below sea level in the barren Danakil depression. Erta Ale is the namesake and most prominent feature of the Erta Ale Range. The volcano contains a 0.7 x 1.6 km, elliptical summit crater housing steep-sided pit craters. Another larger 1.8 x 3.1 km wide depression elongated parallel to the trend of the Erta Ale range is located SE of the summit and is bounded by curvilinear fault scarps on the SE side. Fresh-looking basaltic lava flows from these fissures have poured into the caldera and locally overflowed its rim. The summit caldera is renowned for one, or sometimes two long-term lava lakes that have been active since at least 1967, or possibly since 1906. Recent fissure eruptions have occurred on the N flank.

Sources: Gezahegn Yirgu, Department of Earth Sciences, Addis Ababa University, Agence France-Presse (AFP)