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Report on Nabro (Eritrea) — May 2014


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 39, no. 5 (May 2014)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Nabro (Eritrea) Thermal alerts ended mid-2012; revised 2011 plume heights; uplift mechanisms debated

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2014. Report on Nabro (Eritrea) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 39:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN201405-221101



13.37°N, 41.7°E; summit elev. 2218 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

This report shows satellite thermal alerts from the MODVOLC system showing that they continued for 7 months after the end of coverage in our one report on Nabro's June 2011 eruption (BGVN 36:09), with the last alert occurring on 3 June 2012.

What has emerged regarding the 2011 Nabro eruption since our one previous report is a much more detailed eruptive timeline and some substantially taller plume-height estimates. These new and more carefully assessed details came out in at least eight papers and three technical comments (see References below).

The initial Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Center estimates cited in BGVN 36:09 were made in the time-limited operational setting that identifies volcanic ash for aviation safety. Those altitude estimates, which included maximum plume heights on 13 June 2011 in the range of 9.1-13.7 km altitude, have since been reassessed using an array of satellite and ground-based instruments and processing strategies. The revised heights in the subsequent papers often determined plume altitudes above the 16-18 km tropopause and into the stratosphere. Absent in our earlier report but well documented in the papers was evidence of a 16 June 2011 eruptive pulse.

Overall, Nabro erupted a total SO2 mass of at ~1.5 Tg (Clarisse and others, 2012), making the eruption the largest SO2 emitter of the 2002-2012 interval (Bourassa and others, 2013). The various papers and the technical comments have also framed debate on how and when Nabro's plume entered stratosphere.

Thermal alerts. This report does not contain any new in situ observations at Nabro. Table 1 shows MODVOLC thermal alerts during November 2011 and into 2012 on the basis of the number of days with alerts in these months. Those alerts stem from observations made with the MODIS instrument that flies on the Terra and Aqua satellites. Our previous report discussed alerts as late as 5 November 2011, but additional alerts were issued later in the month. For this table, January 2012 was the month with the largest number of days with alerts, 15 days. As of late 2014, the last posted alert was issued on 3 June 2012.

Table 1. MODVOLC thermal alerts recorded for Nabro from November 2012 through September 2014. Courtesy of MODVOLC.

Month Number of days with alerts
November 2011 11
December 2011 08
January 2012 15
February 2012 12
March 2012 07
April 2012 11
May 2012 11
June 2012 01

Although the earlier alerts may signify ongoing eruption, some of the later alerts could stem from ongoing post-eruptive thermal radiance from potentially thick lava flows. Absence of alerts could be the result of clouds masking the volcano, although that is unlikely significant in the terminal alert registered in June 2012. It also bears noting that the alerts are at a fairly high threshold.

References. Bourassa, AE, Robock, A, Randel, WJ, Deshler, T, Rieger, LA, Lloyd, ND, Llewellyn, EJ, and Degenstein, DA, 2012, Large Volcanic Aerosol Load in the Stratosphere Linked to Asian Monsoon Transport. Science 337 (6090):78-81. DOI: 10.1126/science.1219371.

Bourassa, AE, Robock, A, Randel, WJ, Deshler, T, Rieger, LA, Lloyd, ND, Llewellyn, EJ, and Degenstein, DA, 2013, Response to Comments on "Large volcanic aerosol load in the stratosphere linked to Asian Monsoon transport. Science, 339 (6120), 647, DOI: 10.1126/science.1227961.

Clarisse, L., P.-F. Coheur, N. Theys, D. Hurtmans, and C. Clerbaux, 2014, The 2011 Nabro eruption, a SO2 plume height analysis using IASI measurements, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 3095-3111,DOI:10.5194/acp-14-3095-2014.

Clarisse, L., Hurtmans, D., Clerbaux, C., Hadji-Lazaro, J., Ngadi, Y., & Coheur, P. F., 2012, Retrieval of sulphur dioxide from the infrared atmospheric sounding interferometer (IASI). Atmospheric Measurement Techniques Discussions, 4, 7241-7275 [13 March 2012; revised from 2011 version] www.atmos-meas-tech.net/5/581/2012/; DOI:10.5194/amt-5-581-2012.

Fairlie, T. D., Vernier, J.-P., Natarajan, M., and Bedka, K. M., 2014, Dispersion of the Nabro volcanic plume and its relation to the Asian summer monsoon, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 14, 7045-7057, DOI:10.5194/acp-14-7045-2014, 2014.

Fromm, M, Nedoluha, G, and Charvat, Z, 2013, Comment on "Large Volcanic Aerosol Load in the Stratosphere Linked to Asian Monsoon Transport." Science 339 (6120). DOI: 10.1126/science.1228605.

Fromm, M, Kablick, G (III), Nedoluha1, G., Carboni, E., Grainger, R., Campbell, J, and Lewis, J., 2014, Correcting the record of volcanic stratospheric aerosol impact: Nabro and Sarychev Peak, Journal of Geophysical Research. Atmospheres. [Early, online version, accessed August 2014] DOI: 10.1002/2014JD021507

Pan, LL, and Munchak, LA, 2011, Relationship of cloud top to the tropopause and jet structure from CALIPSO data. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres (1984-2012) 116.D12 (2011).

Penning de Vries, M. J. M., Dörner, S., Pukite, J., Hörmann, C., Fromm, M. D., & Wagner, T. (2014). Characterisation of a stratospheric sulfate plume from the Nabro volcano using a combination of passive satellite measurements in nadir and limb geometry. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14(15), 8149-8163.

Theys, N., Campion, R., Clarisse, L., Brenot, H., van Gent, J., Dils, B., Corradini, S., Merucci, L., Coheur, P.-F., Van Roozendael, M., Hurtmans, D., Clerbaux, C., Tait, S., and Ferrucci, F.: Volcanic SO2 fluxes derived from satellite data: a survey using OMI, GOME-2, IASI and MODIS, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 5945-5968, doi:10.5194/acp-13-5945-2013, 2013.

Vernier, JP, Thomason, LW, Fairlie, TD, Minnis, P., Palikonda, R, and Bedka, K M, 2013. Comment on "Large Volcanic Aerosol Load in the Stratosphere Linked to Asian Monsoon Transport." Science 339 (6120). DOI: 10.1126/science.1227817.

Geological Summary. The Nabro stratovolcano is the highest volcano in the Danakil depression of northern Ethiopia and Eritrea, at the SE end of the Danakil Alps. Nabro, along with Mallahle, Asavyo, and Sork Ale volcanoes, collectively comprise the Bidu volcanic complex SW of Dubbi volcano. This complex stratovolcano constructed primarily of trachytic lava flows and pyroclastics, is truncated by nested calderas 8 and 5 km in diameter. The larger caldera is widely breached to the SW. Rhyolitic obsidian domes and basaltic lava flows were erupted inside the caldera and on its flanks. Some very recent lava flows were erupted from NNW-trending fissures transverse to the trend of the volcanic range.

Information Contacts: Hawai'i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology (HIGP) MODVOLC Thermal Alerts System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), Univ. of Hawai'i, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, HI (URL: http://modis.higp.hawaii.edu/); and Toulouse Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) (URL: http://www.meteo.fr/vaac/).