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Report on Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) — April 1989

Ol Doinyo Lengai

Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 4 (April 1989)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) January inspection reveals no new lava

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1989. Report on Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 14:4. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198904-222120

Ol Doinyo Lengai


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

On 12 January, a field party heard magma bubbling at depth but saw no liquid lava. Photographs taken from the E rim by Mr. [Bay] Forrest indicated that hornitos within the crater remained unchanged since the last inspections in late November and mid-December 1988. The extent of lava that had entered the S crater in December had not changed, and the crater floors were covered by light-colored, older lava, with no signs of dark, fresh flows. The darkest feature was a cone (T10) near the base of the E wall. Although minor spattering similar to that observed at T4/T7 in June 1988 could have covered T10's surface, there had been no significant change in its shape. Fumaroles were visible on the E part of the saddle, but the crater walls and W part of the saddle were largely cloud-covered.

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: C. Nyamweru, Kenyatta Univ; B. Forrest, Rift Valley Academy, Kijabe, Kenya.