Logo link to homepage

Report on Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) — September 1992

Ol Doinyo Lengai

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

Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) Vigorous summit-crater lava production

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Ol Doinyo Lengai (Tanzania) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199209-222120

Ol Doinyo Lengai


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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Increased activity was monitored by A.P. Jones, M. Genge, and A. Church over a 24-hour period on 9-10 September. A central vent 10 m high continuously emitted highly fluid carbonatitic lava at an estimated 1-2 m³/s. The emission rate increased periodically every 4-5 hours to ~5-8 m³/s for 20-40 minutes, and then returned to 1-2 m³/s. The lava spread over much of the 500-m crater floor as thin flows and through tubes. Most active periods included additional fumarolic activity on the N-crater floor and the appearance of small surface cones. Vegetation at the S end of the crater had been burned by a recent 1-2 m-thick flow and an associated 3 m of bedded lapilli tuff. Fracturing of recent flows, block faulting, and extensive lava tubes suggest the possible formation of a new shallow lava lake with remelting of earlier flows. The crater floor has risen to 15-20 m below the hydrothermally weakened N rim. At the high extrusion rates observed, Jones noted that collapse of the retaining crater wall could occur within 100-300 days.

A 22 September overflight by L. Cantamessa showed some new grayish flows. The flows had moved N from the T20 hornito.

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: A. Jones, Univ College London; P. Vetsch, SVG, Switzerland; L. Cantamessa, Géo-découverte, Switzerland.