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Erta Ale volcano is a large basaltic shield volcano in the Erta Ale volcanic range in the central northern Danakil depression (NE Ethiopia).
It is famed for its persistent lava lake which has been active during most of the past decades since it was first discovered in the 1960s.
Erta Ale is only 613 m high, but as typical for a shield volcano has a very gentle slopes and a large 40 km diameter base. The summit is truncated by a complex, elongated 1700 x 600 m wide caldera which contains vast lava flows and several larger and smaller pit craters, most notably the active north and south crater, which contains the lava lake at present.
Erta Ale is one of the main attractions of the Danakil, and had became a popular tour destination in recent years. Unfortunately, the deadly attack on 4 January 2012 against tourists and scientists camped on the crater rim, in which several were killed, illustrates that the area is politically unstable and can be subject to terrorist attacks. Anyone visiting the volcano should be aware of this.
Observers at the edge of Erta Ale´s summit lava lake around dawn, November 2015 (photo: Ingrid Smet - VolcanoAdventures)
Our Danakil expedition organiser and tour guide Enku has returned from a short visit to Erta Ale and informed us about both the security situation on the volcano as its activity at the summit. ...more
Regarding the tragic incident that occurred on Sunday 3 December, he learned from his conversations with colleagues and local authorities that the German tourist was identified as Walter Roepert, age 63, and died on the scene while his translator got badly injured and is currently still being treated in Mekele hospital. The incident happened near the Eritrean Boarder where the two men were walking in a misdirected path that took them away from the rest of their large group. The Ethiopian authorities arrested some of the suspected police men and the armed Afar guides who might have opened fire when they mistook the two men as a potential threat. This tragic accident shows that despite the fact that there was no organised attack in the region since January 2012, the armed guards and local policemen are taking their duty seriously and tensions remain high, which is why it is so important to visit this area with an experienced expedition leader and trusted local guides. [less]
Watching the lava lake of Erta Ale at dusk (image: Ingrid Smet / VolcanoAdventures)
Very sad news arrives from the Danakil desert where last Sunday 3 December a German tourist died and his Ethiopian guide got injured while they were climbing Erta Ale. The two were part of a larger tourist group which had traveled from Mekele and was making their way up to the summit of the volcano. ...more
The early reports in international news media suggest that the incident was a deliberate attack by an armed militia group or bandits, similar to the deadly attack carried out in January 2012 by the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Front who killed 5 tourists and abducted several others whilst they were visiting Erta Ale volcano. The information that we received from our colleagues in Addis Ababa who have been organizing expeditions to Erta Ale for almost 2 decades suggests it could have been a tragic accident rather than a deliberate armed attack. They have been in touch over satellite phone with their local Afar contacts as well as colleagues who are guiding tourist groups on the volcano right now and whom shared the following version of the event: [less]
Sentinel 2 satellite image of Erta Ale volcano taken on 17 August 2017 (image: SENTINEL2 / ESA-Copernicus data)
Volcanic activity remains very high at Erta Ale, the shield volcano in the Danakil depression in northern Ethiopia. ...more
The satellite image shows that the lava lake in the southern crater of the summit caldera is still active, as well as a number of different lava lakes and active fronts of lava flows which have traveled extensively in southwestern and east - northeastern direction from the original site of the January 2017 fissure eruption. [less]
One of the most remarkable eruptions in recent times on the African continent continues with little signs of ending. ...more
Recent satellite imagery and ground observation confirm that large lava flows continue to pour out of the new fissure system on Erta Ale's southern rift zone from different active vents, and has started to build up a new shield in this area. On this page, we give a summary of the events up to now and the most recent updates (late June 2017). [less]
Erta Ale's eruption on SENTINEL 2 satellite imagery on March 30th (image: SENTINEL2 / ESA-Copernicus data; Composition / annotations: Culture Volcan)
The activity remains very elevated at the volcano. Since the start of the (still ongoing) flank eruption in January, a second lava lake has formed at the flank eruption site and a growing lava field is active about 2-3 km northeast of it. ...more
According to ground information and fresh high-resolution satellite imagery analyzed by Culture Volcan, the eruption continues to be significant and occurs from both the summit (lava lake in the southern pit crater) AND the fissure eruption site on the southern rift axis.
The flank lava lake and boundaries of the area covered by lava overflow since 10 March (image: SENTINEL2 / ESA / Copernicus; Composition / annotations: Culture Volcan)
A story in pictures of Erta Ale volcano's intense lava lake overflowing phase as witnessed by participants from our recent Volcano Special tour during 16-19 January 2017. ...more
The activity shows a large surge of magma causing a wild overflow of the lava lake in the summit caldera. This was the build up to the collapse and flank eruption on 21 January when everything changed. [less]
Hot spots on Erta Ale's caldera (MODIS data, Univ. Hawai'i)
The flank eruption has been confirmed and it is still going on strong. ...more
Our expedition guide, geologist Enku Mulugeta, was on location immediately before (16-20 Jan) and is in contact with researchers from Addis Abeba University. He confirmed us that the eruption started on 21 Jan 2017 and that we will try to reach the area on our upcoming expedition to Erta Ale. (4-17 Feb, few last minute spots still possible!) The site of the eruption is a series of fissures on the southeastern side of Erta Ale, between Erta Ale and Amaitole mountain in the valley about 200m above sea level. It has been ejecting voluminous lava flows running towards the Afdera side. The eruption is still continuing and producing a strong and bright glow at night. .
Heat signal from Erta Ale showing the extreme values since 19 Jan (MIROVA)
Hot spots on Erta Ale - the reported flank eruption is not (yet) visible (MODIS data, Univ. Hawai'i)
News have come in about a fissure eruption at the SE flank of the volcano, approx. 7 km distance from the summit caldera and its lava lake (which partially collapsed on and after 20 Jan). ...more
According to our local correspondents, the activity at the summit has decreased a lot, which would be in accordance with the scenario of lava now being drained through lower fissures on the flanks. Apparently, the fissures opened on or shortly after 21 Jan and produce large amounts of lava now flowing into the direction of Afdera. The information we have so far is still sketchy and the reports need to be confirmed, but our source is reliable and it seems plausible that a flank eruption has actually started. We will update when new information becomes available. [less]
The lava lake overflowing on all sides on 17 Jan 2017 (Photo: Enku Mulugeta)
The volcanic activity at the shield volcano in the Danakil desert has been at extraordinary and very elevated levels recently. Participant returning from our recent eruption special tour (14-20 Jan) reported that during their stay 16-20 Jan, the lava lake's surface level has been undergoing rapid and large variations, producing massive lava lake overflows when high and intense spattering when low. ...more
The activity generated a thermal signal that rose to 13 GW, a peak of approx. 100 times the normal average on 19 Dec and has stayed very high since! Following / accompanying this large surge in lava flow activity, several large collapses have been reported from both the also active northern crater and the lava lake itself on and since 20 Jan. It seems that the volcano is currently in a major phase reshaping itself.
Heat signal from Erta Ale showing the extreme peak since 19 Jan (MIROVA)
Our guest Jens-Wolfram E. who participated (for his second time!) in the most recent Danakil expedition, although still traveling, sent us a first selection of "fresh" images from both Erta Ale and Dallol.
Erta Ale's lava lake on 29 Dec 2016 (image: Jens Wolfram Erben)
During their 24 December 2016 to 6 January 2017 Danakil expedition our small group spent 3 full days on the summit area of Erta Ale (from 29 Dec - 1 Jan 2017) to observe the changing activity from the two active craters (vents) inside the shield volcano´s large summit caldera. ...more
This is a summary of their observations: They report that from 29 to 31 December 2016 the level of the lava lake in the southern crater fluctuated between 0,5 and 1 m below the rim, changing about every 6 hours. [less]
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