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Report on Erta Ale (Ethiopia) — March 2006

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 31, no. 3 (March 2006)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Erta Ale (Ethiopia) Molten lava lake observations as late as 3 January 2006

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2006. Report on Erta Ale (Ethiopia) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 31:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN200603-221080.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin

Erta Ale


13.6°N, 40.67°E; summit elev. 613 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Viviane Grandjean wrote of her observations at Erta Ale during 24 December 2005-3 January 2006 in Bulletin No. 57 of the Société de Volcanologie Genève. On 26 December she saw the lava lake through clouds of gas; its surface was calm, with incandescent lava visible through the broken chilled surface. The S pit crater had an estimated diameter of 170 m and vertical walls, and the lava lake was about 80 m in diameter. It seemed to shrink during the next days, one part appearing hardened and forming almost a second terrace. The plates of cooled surface lava were seen moving and converging amidst degassing lava. Lava fountains were periodically visible and generally outlined the borders of the lava lake under the rim.

On 27 December, the walls of the crater were estimated at about 50 m high, with a crater diameter of about 300 m. Members of the group descended into the crater to inspect a series of active hornitos near the N vents. At one end of the line a vent lined with sulfur opened. In the interior cavity of a smaller vent temperatures of about 800°C were measured. Degassing occurred generally in the area. Lava fountaining continued.

The lava lake appeared lower and calmer to observers on 28 December, with a potential second terrace still forming. Some group members descended into the crater again and observed rockfall and continued lava fountaining.

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.

Information Contacts: Viviane Grandjean, c/o Société Volcanologique Européenne (SVE)-Société Volcanologique de Genève (SVG), Geneva, C.P.1, 1211 Geneva 17, Switzerland (URL: http://www.sveurop.org/).