Mount Cameroon – On the brink of Eruption

A very inspiring view from the ocean, Mount Fako rising from the ocean as it sits on the coastline.

Tombel Graben

Technically Mount Fako is a strato volcano on the coastal end of the much larger (800 square kilometer) Tombel Graben. It is rather misnamed since it is not a Graben really; it is a large caldera with a Graben inside. The caldera floor of the Tombel volcano has been filled in by lava floods. The Tombel volcano has not erupted during historical times, but there was one eruption at Le Djungo about 200 years ago. Tombel has two large strato-volcanoes, Mount Fako at the coast, and Mount Manengouba with its large calderas. There is a young crater row at Mount Manengouba that is believed to have erupted during the last 1 000 years. The Tombel Graben has one of the largest lava reservoirs that have been mapped.

Mount Fako erupting, aerial photograph from the distance.

Cameroon Volcanic Line

The Tombel volcano is situated on the Cameroon Volcanic Line. A distinction shared with Oku Volcanic Field, mostly famous for the Lake Nyos disaster. In the other end sits the active volcanic Island of Bioko. The volcanic line is trending from north-east to south-west. It is most likely a fault line that is a remnant from the separation of the continents that trended from the MAR as the Tombel Graben moved away from the centerline of the Atlantic Ridge. It is now cut off from the MAR completely.

Photograph by Tom Humphrey 1982 (Gulf Oil). Lava flow taken during the 1982 eruption.

Mount Fako today

On Tuesday an earthquake swarm started with epicenters ranging from Mount Fako to the magma reservoirs under the mountain. There is also a trending line of quakes going from the magma reservoirs of the mountain towards the center of the Tombel Graben. At the same time low frequency harmonic tremor started at Tombel Graben, and normal magmatic harmonic tremoring at Mount Fako. The earthquake swarms at Mount Fako before an eruption are normally strong to very strong for being at a volcano, with almost continuous quakes ranging from 2M to 5M before and during an eruption

Before onset of current activities an episode of rapid GPS movement started less than 70 days ago in the Tombel Graben caldera and GPS-movement consistent with inflation at Mount Fako.

On the Friday a set of smaller explosions happened on the flank of the volcano known close to the Hut 2 tourist lodge. The explosions where small and most likely caused by hydrothermal vents blowing out, as pressure increased inside the volcano. Two tourists where lightly injured during one of the explosions.

This has lead to increased surveillance of the volcano. It is the best monitored of the African volcanoes, with permanent local staff, additional French experts, and also equipment from a Power Production Company in place.

If an eruption occurs, it will most likely be on the south west flank. It would be a rather explosive affair ranging from VEI1 to VEI3. After and during the explosive phase there will be a lava flow moving towards the coast.

Picture by Cameroon Post. The greatest danger for the population is houses falling apart due to strong earthquakes.

The authorities in the area are used to the volcano, and the same goes for the residents. If needs be there will be an evacuation of threatened villages, but not much more.

The biggest danger of the volcano is that the earthquakes before and during the eruptions will make houses collapse on top of people. Otherwise the volcano is generally harmless.


230 thoughts on “Mount Cameroon – On the brink of Eruption

  1. Morning all: it’s 7:20 am here in the Alaskan zone…
    Enjoy reading the blog(mostly) but i’m having trouble getting
    Bob’s camera to work for me…. i’ve recently crashed so could it
    be this computer? which i’m kinda thinking….

    • Good morning from Rio!
      Keep trying with the webcams. They are always kind of tricky. I have the same problem here, but after the third trial I succeed.
      And, for the record, I would like to tell you that I would dream of exchanging places with you right now: temperatures are already reaching 100 º and we should expect more.
      Of course, there’s the beach, but you must cover yourself not to get freckled all over.
      Only for a week.

      • Oh, Rio, You really wouldn’t want to trade….
        It’s minus 15 C this morning. With 4 feet of snow.
        Which is a break for us/ we are coming off of minus 25 F
        for a long time…. this winter is yuky. Our water froze UNDER
        the foundation to the house… never did that before.
        And Your 100 must be F and it would kill me….
        So i guess God know what He’s doing. 😉
        Thanks for answering the cam inquiry, i’ll keep trying.

          • You let water leak from the tap constantly. The flowing water in the pipe will prevent the freezing. On very long cold spells in winter, there are some sections of the city mains, in old residential areas, where the main conduits have to be “bled”. I.E. they open a fire hydrant to some extent and let water in the rain collector. That prevents the shallower pipes which deliver the water to the houses from freezing.

            And if the rain collector shows sings of clogging with ice, they bring equipment that produce dry vapor to thaw the collector.

            Vive l’hiver !

  2. Wasn’t mt Cameroon or one in the vicinity responsible for CO2 poisoning from a volcanic lake some 20 years ago?

    • Hi Alan, think you’re refering to Lake Nyos, and so Carl probably answered it with this chunk of text (easy to miss in the rest of it)

      The Tombel volcano is situated on the Cameroon Volcanic Line. A distinction shared with Oku Volcanic Field, mostly famous for the Lake Nyos disaster.

  3. Carl,
    Wow, thanks!
    I wouldn’t expect any less from you, except that the volcano was on the verge of an eruption!
    I thought you would say: normal business, and there it is.
    Let us wait and hope nothing too disastrous will come from this.
    Thanks again!

    • You know, erupting or being on the verge of eruption is business as usual for Mt Fako… 😉 It is in that aspect a bit like Hekla.

    • Ah I must read further down the page – but while I’m here a quick check on the text of the previous post

      “To simplify, if the differing minerals crystallise they remove from the melt their components and the melt chemistry changes continually, but if these minerals stay available in the melt for resorption”

      I think it should read as follows (added a couple of letters and moved “from the melt” around)

      “To simplify, if the differing minerals crystallise they remove their components from the melt and the melt chemistry changes continually, but if these minerals stay available in the melt for reABsorption”

      or have I misunderstood ? 🙂

    • I speed read that one, I had never read up on the lavas, whacky is the word…
      I perhaps should have pointed out that it is the entire feature that is ancient, not Mt Fako per see, even though it is ancient even for being a cone.
      In many aspects it is to large for its size, it should have blown out and gone Caldera a long time ago, but since it is siphoning a large portion of its lavas out of Tombel it has to small chambers for it to fall down into itslf. But if it happened it would be epic due to the ocean nearby.
      Daily Mail, this Ain’t gonna happen:)

  4. Brilliant post, I remember seeing this volcano in the news when it erupted last time but I had no idea how old and interestin git is.

    I could use a good old volcanic boom right about now – my life is currently horked.

  5. So, learned group; what does a ulta caldera forming super volcano look like before it goes kaboom? i’m begining to understand that caldera’s usually aren’t going to do it again.

    • Well, normally I would say quite like Hekla or Mt Fako really…
      But some volcanos go Caldera again and again.
      Santorini has gone Caldera 6 times, Askja at least 3 times, Krafla twice and Krakatoa like a clockwork every few thousand years.

      • Thanks, Carl. Ok/ scratch the idea that caldera’s don’t repeat ((for pity sakes; don’t mention that to the Yellowstone guys)) 😉

          • Give any lady at least 3 drinks and they’ll admit that “yes of course it does”.

            It’s just the way the cookie crumbles!

          • @Tor Hogne:
            I do not know that. A few years ago I had poured a few drinks into a Lady and she dragged me home. And upon removal of the final clothing item she looked horrified at my… …and said the words “That one in me, never!”
            Kind of killed the mood, only time in my life I wanted a smaller…

          • I would like to point out that Carl lives in a climate that can be very cold. The tops of Volcanoes are usually colder than the surrounding area. Therefore Carl’s event should not be taken as the “Norm”.
            Liquids and gasses may expand as temperatures lower but solids, especially metals tend to contract
            As scientists and as some people call us, Pseudo Pscientists, We should always be wary of taking one example as proof . A proper study would be to see the effect of climate over a number of events in controlled stituations.
            Here is a Plot showing the expansion of Carbon Steel Pipe against temperature.
            I rest my case.

          • Dear Godabunga, do I think that this is about what I wrote… Or did this one fall down from the pipe in the ground discussion..? Otherwise I am totally 😳

  6. Just talking to my dh. Bamboo regrows quickly. Why can’t we ship bamboo to places impacked by earthquakes and build structures that can withstand stress and won’t kill people when they do collapse??

    • Because bamboo does not make good houses really, and in Cameroon you want to make sure that the house does not rot in the rain, and also, most importantly keap as many mosquitos out as possible. A bit more of rebar would though be good.
      But do not think this is out of bad building standards, not many houses can withstand a barrage of M5s close by. And they use a lot of concrete in the house to make them stand up. Actually, some of them would probably fare rather well compared to other richer parts of the world.

    • Bamboo grows so fast in Cameroun that you can actually hear it! My father had a garage built beside our house and the wood (not bamboo – a hardwood) was still a bit green, but it was in planks not poles, and it sprouted and began to grow! I knew that if you wanted to grow anything you snapped a twig off the plant you wanted and stuck it in the ground. Took me years to realise that in temperate climes you have to care for your plants not battle with them to stop growing!

      • Yes, it is rather the opposite, here you have a gardener to plant things. In Cameroon to whack things away before your house get lost in greenery…

        • Tropical climates can be like that. My sister lives in Far North Queensland. A few years ago she & her family went away for a 6 week holiday during the monsoon season. By the time they got back, a vine from the creek bank behind them had gone across the back fence, across the yard, up the back of the house, over the top of the roof, and was half way down the front of the house.

    • The Japanese have it right… lots of light timbers and paper in their old single story houses. Easy to repair and minimal damage to humans. However they do not stand up well to strong winds and water!!!

      • Cameroon is the second wettest place on earth – about 400 ins a year at the coast. Another reason for sturdy roofs!

  7. Cracking facts of Fako, Carl. I’m giving the UK press 3 days to turn your post into something catastrophic and deadly, and GLP have probably already twigged that it definitely has something to do with this years Pre-Christmas Death Wish 🙂

  8. @ All
    If one Google earth’s Mt cameroon its on the same lineament as Sao Tome, Santo Antonio and Sao Antonio de Pale and then either follows a transform fault to MAR or does the line follow to St Helena via a series of seamounts/guyots, does anyone know or have thoughts on?

    • Sao Tomé is on the Cameroon Volcanic Line, and there looks to be a rather large volcanic edifices trending down towards St Helena. However, as far as I know there is not much alive out there…

  9. Avcan FB

    Update 07/02 – 19:30 UTC
    ER reader Julian writes in our comment section : In an interview with Ramon Ortiz (Volcanologist of CSIC) in local newspaper Canarias7, Mr. Ortiz says that according to past experiences, the eruptive process is finishing. The new HT increase of the last couple of days are the normal evolution to a new phase.
    He says that two different possibilities are: 1- that this process ends in few days and/or a new eruption is going on in another location.
    He says that right now there are two different eruptions. The one in Las Calmas, and another one elsewhere which we may never know where it is, beacuse of the depth in the north area.

    Update 07/02 – 17:56 UTC
    – A CAP scientists who met Joke in El Pinar a few hours ago said to her that he has seen an extraordinary jacuzzi around noon UTC today. He was quiet fascinated about it.
    – We are also fascinated about the strange harmonic tremor we see today. A lot of powerful starts gradually winding down, again and again. Now it is calm again, but we cannot remind having seen the same pattern since a long time. It may be very wise to follow HT the following hours in combination with the webcam

    • Ah, look, another one saying Bob is dying 😉

      Well, regardless of a hypothetical second vent in the far north (I kind of doubt that one), it seems like Bob is happily puffing on.
      I will not ever do the mistake of thinking Bob is dying untill the week has gone by…

      • To be exact, there are many more signs of the eruption continuing then when I wrote my good night post (and got proven wrong by Bob), there is the deep tremor at 0,59Hz, signs of inflation, lots of weird tremoring episodes. And most important, EOSE and EGOM is not budging.
        Nah, Bob is good to go for at least one more week, probably two. And when that time has gone by it will probably be new signs… Bob is there for the long haul it seems.

  10. Avcan FB

    Avcan esa señal del tremor tan plana las ultimas horas ,puede ser causa de taponamiento?gracias.

    Avcan that signal from the tremor so flat the last hours, it may be cause of obstuction? thanks. (Translated by Bing)

    41 minutes ago · Like · 1

  11. Hey guys, here’s a cool shot of an Icelandair Boeing 757 passing in front of Hekla just about a week after she erupted in 2000!

    • Beautifull image Tyler, we tend to forget the scale of it. But here it is very graphic that the entire mountain divides into two halfs during an eruption.

    • Hi Tyler,
      Glad to see yr schtruglin’ on 😀
      Yr pictures are great as always, still got the one of scheep and tunnels you posted.
      As a great comedian (me) once said; if you can’t larf at yr own jokes, who will..?
      A funny thing happened on the way here today, I checked my email and this guy had schubschribed to my youtube channel…the email invited me to return the favour and schubschcribe to his channel in return…(You’ve maybe seen my youtube channel? Clunky animations of freely available El Hierro images?)
      Anyway, turns out he is an Florida Schnakehandler/ God Botherer…


  12. I think a bit of each…
    Energy, pressure, magma, path…

    When there are energy enough and the tide of magma and pressure is strong enough to go through the path… There goes Bob flowing out… If this pressure doesn´t flow out in medium time then produces a feedback with seismicity and microseismicity, until the energy, pressure and the tide of magma is enough to travel trought the path

  13. Sorry.
    The above message was for:

    judith says:

    February 7, 2012 at 20:06

    Avcan FB

    Avcan esa señal del tremor tan plana las ultimas horas ,puede ser causa de taponamiento?gracias.

    Avcan that signal from the tremor so flat the last hours, it may be cause of obstuction? thanks. (Translated by Bing)

  14. Thank you, Carl, for another interesting post. I must confess that I had no idea there were such volcanoes in western Africa. I always thought of the East African Rift as being the place of volcanoes. ie Kilimanjaro. This blog is certainly a great place of learning under the guidance of wonderful, patient “teachers”.

  15. Anyway…still remain an especial area where the white things appears more…I suppose that’s the degassing spot, in rest winds…

  16. Great photo Tyler – I wish I had remembered that when Hekla was the topic of the day. The photographer is a very good friend of mine – have published a lot of his work – and probably the most knowledgable guy around on Icelandic aviation.

    • I agree on the Ramon Margalef. The green light is fixed so it is an artificial light; not sure what from – reflection again?

      But note how close the Ramon Margalef & the edge of the stain are to the harbour.

      This really is schleep well now as I was supposed to be in bed sometime back.

      • The green light I think is the bouy which belongs to the Ramon Margalef. No idea what they use it for. But I remember in december (is this poetry?) that Wagabond suggested RM had come to pick up her BOUY (mystery lights from 4 december).

  17. 07/02/2012 22:25 Depth 10 km M 1.2 S EL PINAR
    27.5455 -18.0210

    Very interesting location. Registered on CHIE. See ER for link to google earth location.

  18. Man… must be one hell of a party, all you people hanging out up on Mount Cameroon

    Recent Comments

    Bobbi on Mount Cameroon – On the brink of Eruption
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    Jim on Mount Cameroon – On the brink of Eruption
    Summer on Mount Cameroon – On the brink of Eruption

    Yeah, I know… It just struck me as funny. 😀

  19. Hi, well on the eruption cam it looks like a good sized stain,but thats just a guess as I have crapy night vision.

  20. Earthquakes since midnight.

    2012/02/08 00:42 27.7006 -18.0632 depth 14.00 mag 1.20 0 7 7 W EL PINAR.IHI
    2012/02/08 00:43 27.7146 -18.0765 depth 11.80 mag 1.20 0 8 6 SW FRONTERA.IHI

  21. Good morning all. Some jacuzzi action on the eruption webcam; restingolatas too (try turning the lights down in your room – they are easier to see (usually just as they are fizzling out)). A little bit of the action is also faintly visible on the La Restinga Village website,

  22. Good morning all
    Did anyone manage to get a time-lapse video of last nights Etna activity? The kid wants to see what occurred whilst she was slumbering soundly last night.

    • Here’s about 25 min of activity from my comment above:

      Source of images: Radio Studio 7 webcam.
      Otherwise if you go over to Eruptions blog (see links on the right above), there’s a commenter Raving that usually produces all-night-long-timelapses.

    • No sé si tendrá algo que ver o no, pero me he fijado que las profundidades de los terremotos en el centro de la isla han pasado de 15 KM a 10.
      ¿Está subiendo el magma o los gases?.

      I don’t know if you have something to do or not, but I I have noticed that the depths of earthquakes in the center of the island have gone from 15 KM to 10.
      Is it rising magma and gases?. (Translated by Bing)

  23. Looks like some good activity on the zoom-out webcam but alot more further left than usual? Or are my eyes playing tricks?

    • I thought I saw something further left and also a bit further out. But I am really tired, and wasn’t sure if I was seeing things. also my eruption cam is all white and not working.

  24. Falling asleep so off to bed for me, good night everyone, and good morning to all who have woken up or are about to.

  25. @All:
    Nothing new on Mount Fako in Cameroon today.
    Still tremor and earthquakes, but still no news of an eruption.

    • Those are quakes from Reykjanes Ridge…
      10.53 there was a massive 3M swarm there, the same at 10.29, the third smaller spike is a 2.5 at the same location.

      • It is actually a rather impressive swarm, it shows up on all SILs in Iceland. It is like the entire Iceland shook like a bell. Have not seen something like this for 2 years, last time was also Reykjanes Ridge.

        • In just a couple of hours Reykjaness Ridge has released more than Katla has in the last half a year or so. And of course a heck of a lot more than Bob has in the last 3 to 4 months…
          Just to put it a bit into perspective. All of the quakes are 3ish or above.

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