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Report on Nyamulagira (DR Congo) — March 1984


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 9, no. 3 (March 1984)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Nyamulagira (DR Congo) Large lava flows and tephra ejection from flank fissure

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1984. Report on Nyamulagira (DR Congo) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 9:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198403-223020


DR Congo

1.408°S, 29.2°E; summit elev. 3058 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The NW-flank fissure eruption ended during the evening of 14 March. Lava flows covered a large area and a substantial quantity of tephra was deposited near the vents.

An A-type volcanic earthquake at 0323 on 23 February was followed by volcanic tremor. A fissure trending N100°E began opening gradually from E to W at 1013. Lava issued from the entire fissure during the first day of the eruption, but activity soon concentrated at two vents ~400 m from the E end of the fissure and two others ~1.5 km to the W (A and C on figure 4). About a week later, a new vent (B), ~500 m W of the E vents, began to emit lava, but at a lower rate than the other vents.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 4. Sketch map of part of Nyamuragira's NW flank, showing the relative positions of vents active in the 1984 eruption, and the location of the 1971 cone, S of the 1984 vents, Courtesty of N. Zana.

Lava extrusion was accompanied by explosions that could be heard 25-30 km away, along the W margin of the rift valley. About 2 m of scoria and many spindle bombs were deposited within 600-800 m S of the E vents. A bomb weighing ~12 kg was found 600 m away. N. Zana judged the volume of ejecta to be much more than in the 1976, 1980, or 1982 eruptions.

When Zana visited the eruption site 8-11 March, activity had ended at the W vents and was declining at the new vent. Both aa and pahoehoe were observed between the new vent and the W vents. Cones at the W vents stood about 80 m above the surface of the lava. At about 2300 on 10 March an aa lava flow from the E vents flooded the area of the new vent and carried away its small cone. This flow was still moving S about 0900 on 11 March. By 11 March the composite cone at the E vents had a basal diameter of 300 m and was ~250 m high, but activity was becoming intermittent.

Eruptive activity, including the explosions, ceased on the evening of 14 March. Night glow disappeared 16-17 March. Lava had flowed 20 km to the W and the lava field had an average width of 2.5 km (figure 5). The new cones have been named Kivandimwe, meaning "things running together."

Figure (see Caption) Figure 5. Map of the Nyamuragira-Nyiragongo area showing recent vents and lava flows. The 1984 lava flow is shaded solid black. Courtesy of N. Zana.

Geological Summary. Africa's most active volcano, Nyamulagira (also known as Nyamuragira), is a massive high-potassium basaltic shield about 25 km N of Lake Kivu and 15 km NE of the steep-sided Nyiragongo volcano. The summit is truncated by a small 2 x 2.3 km caldera that has walls up to about 100 m high. Documented eruptions have occurred within the summit caldera, as well as from the numerous flank fissures and cinder cones. A lava lake in the summit crater, active since at least 1921, drained in 1938, at the time of a major flank eruption. Recent lava flows extend down the flanks more than 30 km from the summit as far as Lake Kivu; extensive lava flows from this volcano have covered 1,500 km2 of the western branch of the East African Rift.

Information Contacts: N. Zana, IRS.