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Report on Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) — February 2003

Ol Doinyo Lengai

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 28, no. 2 (February 2003)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) Continuing lava flows and vent activity in late December 2002

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2003. Report on Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 28:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200302-222120

Ol Doinyo Lengai


2.764°S, 35.914°E; summit elev. 2962 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Claude Grandpey visited Ol Doinyo Lengai on 29-30 December 2002 during a trip organized by the French agency Aventure et Volcans. The group arrived on the crater rim late in the morning and noted a very active lava lake in the T49 vent that began to overflow a few minutes later. The resulting lava flow was ~10-15 m wide and reached a length of ~50 m before stopping when the overflow ended after a few minutes. The temperature inside the solid flow, measured some 2 hours after it had stopped, was 462°C.

The T49 lake, roughly circular and ~5 m in diameter, was extremely active and noisily ejecting blobs of fluid lava (figure 77). This type of activity lasted all day, without additional lava flows. After several hours of careful observations, Grandpey climbed the cone and stood a few meters from the lava lake. He noted that the lake was being fed in an oblique way from a vent on its SW side; the lava would flow to the E inner side before being projected back to the W and splashing out. The pressure of the lava as it splashed against the E side could be felt, and the whole cone was vibrating. In the evening the activity decreased at the lake, and a small vent opened a few meters to the E, emitting occasional vertical squirts of lava. All the time they stayed in the crater, cone T40 kept roaring, but no lava emissions were seen.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 77. Photograph of activity at Ol Doinyo Lengai vent T49, 29 December 2002. Courtesy of Claude Grandpey.

After a night of heavy rain, the group visited the crater one more time. No lava flow had occurred during the night. Another lake was still bubbling at T49, at the exact spot were lava was squirting vertically the day before. It was violently throwing blobs of lava on its outer slopes.

Geological Summary. The symmetrical Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only volcano known to have erupted carbonatite tephras and lavas in historical time. The prominent stratovolcano, known to the Maasai as "The Mountain of God," rises abruptly above the broad plain south of Lake Natron in the Gregory Rift Valley. The cone-building stage ended about 15,000 years ago and was followed by periodic ejection of natrocarbonatitic and nephelinite tephra during the Holocene. Historical eruptions have consisted of smaller tephra ejections and emission of numerous natrocarbonatitic lava flows on the floor of the summit crater and occasionally down the upper flanks. The depth and morphology of the northern crater have changed dramatically during the course of historical eruptions, ranging from steep crater walls about 200 m deep in the mid-20th century to shallow platforms mostly filling the crater. Long-term lava effusion in the summit crater beginning in 1983 had by the turn of the century mostly filled the northern crater; by late 1998 lava had begun overflowing the crater rim.

Information Contacts: Claude Grandpey, L'Association Volcanologique Européenne (LAVE), 7, rue de la Guadeloupe, 75018, Paris, France.