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Erta Ale volcano (Ethiopia): field report 19-21 Nov 2015 - lava lake at high levels

Thu, 3 Dec 2015, 10:33
10:33 AM | BY: T
The lava lake of Erta Ale in late Nov 2015 (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
The lava lake of Erta Ale in late Nov 2015 (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
Observers at the lava lake rim (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
Observers at the lava lake rim (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
The large hornito in the north crater (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
The large hornito in the north crater (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
Lava fountain from the lake (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
Lava fountain from the lake (photo: Ingrid / VolcanoDiscovery)
During our recent volcano expedition to the Danakil depression, we have observed the active lava lake of Erta Ale - which had been at very high level just a few meters before overflowing - for three continuous days (19-21 November 2015).
Upon our arrival on the morning of the 19th, the lava lake was only about 2-3 m below us. Our local guide explained that the lava lake had been very active in the past few weeks and risen so highly for the first time since its overflow in late 2010. Standing on the rim of the active vent within the large Erta Ale caldera, we observed a second terrace no more than 1 m below us. The fresh black pahoehoe lava of this level had been erupted and solidified a few days before.
Midday 19 November, the surface of the boiling lava lake was just 1.5 m below this second terrace. Throughout that day, however, the lava lake was rising steadily and had almost reached the height of the second terrace - but then stabilised at a mere 30 centimeters below the rim of the second terrace. A few active lava fountains at the edge of the lake periodically splashed fresh lava onto the second terrace,

with some droplets reaching the outer rim of the vent. Pele´s hair was continuously formed and blown around. Zigzag patterns broke up the lake´s black crust, pushing it to the lake´s edges where they were recycled into the molten lava. Degassing in the form of Strombolian activity and short-lived fountains was sometimes so intense that lava spattering could even be seen from the old caldera ridge where we had our camp.
Overflowing of the second terrace never occurred and by the morning of the 20th November the lava lake had actually dropped a few metres. Activity had thereby changed from Strombolian explosions and short-lived fountains from a few locations along the lava lake´s edge, to a seemingly quiet surface that once every 5-10 minutes would suddenly form a central depression before lava rose up in a large lava bubble that exploded, with recycling of the cooled crust in a series undulating lava waves (similar fluid dynamics as when one drops a pebble in a calm water body). During 20 and 21 November, the lava lake mainly showed this latter, large exploding bubble activity with only minor Strombolian activity or fountaining along the lakes edges. The level would rise and fall relatively quickly, between 5 m and 1 m below the edge of the second terrace. On the evening of the 21st, we witnessed how the lava lake rapidly rose about 3m, starting from 5 m below the second terrace. This
fast change in the lava lake´s surface level coincided with a different activity, namely fresh red-hot lava seeping up along the zigzag cracks and overflowing a large part of the thin crust in a matter of seconds.
The fumarole fields along the rim of Erta Ale´s second active vent continue to be active, with the centrally located tall hornito, built during the 2012 magmatic eruption there, also still degassing.

Previous news

Sat, 21 Nov 2015, 06:39

Erta Ale volcano (Ethiopia): lava lake very active, close to overflowing

The lava lake in the southern pit of the caldera, 30-40 meters in diameter, remains very active and approaches again levels close to overflowing the margins of the pit, being only a few meters below the floor of the caldera. ... Read all
Thu, 9 Apr 2015, 15:55

Erta Ale and Dallol, Ethiopia - Danakil expedition Feb 2015: tour photos by Dietmar Berendes

Impressions from our latest expedition to the Danakil in Ethiopia with Erta Ale volcano and Dallol in Feb 2015 - a selection of tour photos by Dietmar Berendes. ... Read all
Show more
Erta Ale volcano
Shield volcano 613 m / 2,011 ft
Danakil depression, Ethiopia, 13.6°N / 40.66°E
Current status: erupting (4 out of 5) Erta Ale volcano eruptions:
1873(?), 1903(?), 1904(?), 1906, 1940, 1960, 1967-2004, 2005-ongoing
Typical eruption style
Effusive. Persistant lava lake.

Erta Ale volcano tours

Danakil desert (Ethiopia)
Desert, salt and volcanoes
14 days expedition to Erta Ale volcano and Dallol hydrothermal field (Danakil desert, Ethiopia)
14 days / 13 nights - Moderate
Price $ 4530
no scheduled dates at present
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