The Sciences

CORRECTED: Erta Ale(?) erupts ... and more?

Rocky Planet iconRocky PlanetBy Erik KlemettiNov 5, 2008 8:26 AM


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In one of the most oddly worded articles I've seen from the BBC, a lava flow from Erta Alean unidentified volcano in the Erte Ale range in Ethiopia has erupted a significant amount of lava. The headline states "Ethiopia volcano sets lava record", which is strange on multiple counts, but mostly because I'm not familiar with any "lava records", who might keep track of them and what, exactly, this "lava record" is. In fact, they don't even mention it in the article itself. They do, however, point out that lava from this eruption has covered 300 square kilometers, which is a decent chunk of real estate, but no mention is made of how long it took to do this (or what type of lava, for that matter, but it is likely basalt). So, take this article as you will. The take home message is that Erte Alea volcano in the Erta Ale range, near Alu, has had a significant eruption with some associated earthquakes to go along with it.

Erta Ale is located on the East African Rift in Ethiopia - part of the Erte Ale Range - and is a fairly active shield volcano that erupts basaltic lava flows from both the central vent and from fissues, along with sometimes have a lava lake in the main caldera. These eruptions aren't too much of a danger to the people who live near the volcano as it mostly issues lava flows rather than erupting explosively. It hasn't erupted since 1967 according to the GVP, however, the volcano did erupt in 2005 (see above), displacing thousands of people.

NEW INFORMATION (2200 Pacific Time)

Just got this email about the eruption in northern Afar, Ethiopia. Sounds like it has released a significant amount of sulfur into the atmosphere:

Satellite instruments detected an eruption in northern Afar, Ethiopia on November 3. The eruption first manifested itself as a large sulfur dioxide (SO2) cloud drifting eastwards over the Arabian peninsula, detected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS). MODIS data from the University of Hawaii's MODVOLC hot-spot monitoring tool ( confirmed an extensive hot-spot (presumably lava flows) near Alu volcano, in the northern part of the Erta 'Ale range. Details are still sketchy and these observations are as yet unconfirmed from the ground.

More details as they are available.

A total of 0.1-0.2 Tg of SO2 was measured in the eruption cloud by OMI at ~1100 UT on November 4, by which time the SO2 cloud had reached southern Iran. Using the OMI SO2 data and radiosonde soundings, observed SO2 cloud drift yields a preliminary estimate of the eruption onset time of 1400-1600 UT on November


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