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Report on Erta Ale (Ethiopia) — September 1992

Erta Ale

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 9 (September 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Erta Ale (Ethiopia) Lava lake in one of two summit-caldera craters; recent lava overflows of caldera rim

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Erta Ale (Ethiopia) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199209-221080

Erta Ale


13.6°N, 40.67°E; summit elev. 613 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The [September] flight covered the Afar region from the Alebbagu and Hayli Gubbi volcanoes, to lakes Ba Kili and Karum. The N half of Erta Ale's elliptical caldera included two craters. The larger, ~300 m in diameter, was in the northernmost part of the caldera. Two strong fumaroles were active near its S rim, but no lava lake was evident. Two dark fresh-looking lava flows had originated from this crater; one had flowed over the caldera rim to the NNE, the other, to the SW, was confined by the caldera's W wall. A lava lake was observed in the second of the two craters, near the middle of the caldera. The crater was ~100 m in diameter and 80 m deep. The lava lake occupied ~1/3 of the crater's SW bottom. Fountaining and bright-red incandescence were clearly visible. Lava from the second crater had flowed over the S part of the caldera rim.

Geological Summary. The Erta Ale basaltic shield volcano is the most active in Ethiopia, with a 50-km-wide edifice that rises more than 600 m from below sea level in the barren Danakil depression. It is the namesake and most prominent feature of the Erta Ale Range. The volcano includes a 0.7 x 1.6 km elliptical summit crater hosting 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 usually also holds at least one long-term lava lake that has been active since at least 1967, or possibly since 1906. Recent fissure eruptions have occurred on the N flank.

Information Contacts: P. Vetsch, SVG, Switzerland; L. Cantamessa, Géo-découverte, Switzerland; G. Assefa and L. Asfaw, Addis Abeba Univ.