Erta Ale

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

There will be a special “Deep Space Live” held on the 7th of Febraury in my workplace the Ars Electronica Center called “Feuerberge – Vulkane aus der Nähe” ( Translation Mountains of fire – Volcanoes closeup” ) Expect a foto report on this shortly after the event, because i was allowed to take pictures during the event.

Suggestion: Turn your speakers off.

I have talked to the photographer asking  him which mountains he plans to cover. One of them is Erta Ale. But he was there some years ago, i think he said 2005 or 2006 and asked if i happen to know anything how  the situation changed since his last visit. So i started searching the web because there had been reports of changes. So what i am trying to do now, is summing up some of the information i was able to find.

Erta Ale is one of a few mountains at the moment which host a long lasting lava lake. The others are Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kilauea in Haiwaii USA, Mount Erebus in Antarctica and Villarrica in Chile. The Marum Ambrym in Vanatu showed a lava lake to in 2012.

280px-EAfricaErta Ale is basaltic shield volcano and a product of tectonic activities within the african plate. In the long term the Horn of Africa will break of and the African Rift Valley will be filled with an ocean, just like it happened before, creating the Red Sea. This process is going on but as with all geological processes it will most liekly take millions of years till it actually happens. Erta Ale´s summit only reaches to 613 meters above sea level, this may sound very little but is due to the volcano being situated in the Danakil depression which lies 100 m below sea level.

The volcano lies in northeastern Ethiopia in one of the dryest regions of the world. Till a few years ago it was very hard to reach. One problem for possible visitors is also the very unstable political situation in this area. But even though, more and more people have been willing to accept the dangers and went to Erta Ale to study it and take pictures and you can even book tours to it on the internet. The formerly rather dangerous people of the Afar tribe seem to have found the tourists are a source of income and so the tours seem to be less of a threath than they used to be. More tourism in Ethiopia also means that the costs for those travels have become more expensive.
But the volcano is far from being constantly monitored and of course no webcams are accessible.


Nasa Earth Observatory Picture of the day.

Satellite image of the Erte Ale caldera showing the two crater pits. Courtesy of Google Earth, with labels by Afar Rift Consortium in reference to their 21-23 November 2010 visit (Field and Keir, 2010).

Satellite image of the Erte Ale caldera showing the two crater pits. Courtesy of Google Earth, with labels by Afar Rift Consortium in reference to their 21-23 November 2010 visit (Field and Keir, 2010).

There had even been 2 lava lakes. In November 2010 the lava poured over the rim and the crater filled up completly. Here is a recent study of Erta Ale´s elongated magma chamber. “Scientists” ? even performed a test with a human sized bag of waste and checked what happens if one should fall into a lava lake and the Daily Fail reported.

Prof. Brian Cox used the site for his BBC series “Wonders of the Solar System” comparing Erta Ales Lava lakes to how places on Jupiters Moon Io might look. There are some videos to be found on Youtube presenting the crews camping site. When you check them it becomes obvious that water is one of the big problems on the summit. Not only that you are close to an active volcano but also to you are sitting in a really dry desert and on a flat mountaintop. So no tree no bush no overhanging rock will provide any shade. And the volcanic gases emmited from the crater pit are not adding to your health as well.

Global Volcanism Programm Index of monthly reports on Erta Ale has reports since 1971. The latest entry dates back to June 2011.

Eri Klemmetti covered it in 2010 with a profile

I had problems finding papers on Erta Ale. Here is the short version of “Shallow axial magma chamber at the slow-spreading Erta Ale Ridge by Pagli et al, 2012” and the full PDF published by “nature geoscience”

Disclaimer: I am a layman, interested in volcanoes but without any education on them.


Other Sources: 

114 thoughts on “Erta Ale

  1. And to sum up what else is up!
    Inge did not want her Jökulhlaup part 2 to be published here because of the political discusssion which went on and offended her. I appologize for this, even though i had nothing to do with it. And want to remind people again that this is blog on volcanoes topics with some friendly chat.
    There was a lack of posts.
    Pyter found as site which shows the 2 Stromboli cams which are also dislplayed at
    Stromboli is an interesting volcano to watch at the moment because a lava flow is pouring from it. Erik Klemetti wrote a post on this new development:

    DFM did another really nice plot on Icelandic earthquakes to be found on youtube.
    Tolbachik is still erupting and its cam is still at
    Ofter you see nothing there but that is probably due to bad weather because often you can get another glimpse shortly later.

    • Yep, it’s a bit quiet on the volcano front at the moment… one of the periodic lulls that befalls our community and, funnily enough, also the time people start talking politics and other “hot” stuff. Gotta take it all with a grain of salt and just remember we are all just here to talk about volcanoes, and sheep of course. Shouldn’t forget the poor sheep.
      You are all doing a great job! Keep it up!

      I like the path Lurking is taking to correlate SO2 to eruption types and volumes. If I have a bit more time I’d like to see if I can find anything to add to the discussion because this is another one of those areas of volcanology I know absolutely zilch about but is actually really, really important. I realize it involves getting heavily into the petrology of it all which is standing in front of me like a huge library full of knowledge that I haven’t even dared to enter yet. Guess it’s time to take the plunge!

      • Petrology. Seems difficult, then you think you start to understand some things, then come the particularities and exceptions and the more you know the less you trust it. Finally you decide to just look at stones and basically decide “I like that one” or “I don’t like that other one”. Criteria: look, color, hardness, would match with that orchid I have on the sideboard…
        Basic petrology is cool and useful. If you push it, it becomes so awfully wast…
        It’s a problem with science: this f-cking scale issue. I wanted to study the mountains, and ended up with thin sections under a microscope. I mean, when you see a pretty woman, do you really need to put some of her cells under a microscope to know that you just want her? 🙂 Yeah, says the guy that married his second girlfriend… But I swear I didn’t put her under any kind of microscope or analytic device…
        However… Please tell me when you have become an ace in petrology. Could spare me a lot of digging in my books if I could sometimes just ask someone really good at it…

        • 😆 Mind you I find it kind of disconcerting now that I need my reading glasses to gaze into the eyes of my wife like I used to. I mean, I like eye contact, I really do, but my eyes are no longer playing the game. Either I step back about a yard until my wife falls back into focus, which kind of spoils the mood, or I just try hard to imagine what she used to look like close up… damn aging..

          • Let yourself go, eat enough Spätzle, and your belly will force you into that very precise yard distance you need to have your wife in focus, at the same time assuring the physical contact. We just have to learn to take the benefits of the effects of aging… 🙂

    • Please, Inge, give your post free. Divergent opinions are part of the deal when several people chat about everything and nothing. And when the community goes international, it’s just a logical consequence that there might be views that go in hardly different directions. We for sure are people of all kinds. But we have something in common – an interest for scientific stuff and rumination, especially when it concerns volcanoes. And there’s not many places where what you have written could be more worshiped than here. No matter what people might think on whatever the topic.

  2. @schteve42 who was looking for Stromboli timelapse:

    I started capturing Stromboli last week…but it seemed quite at the time and I stopped. I meant to capture tolbachik last night, but had to leave work in a hurry. So i kicked it off today on Stromboli,. but i captured the normal vision, which looks rather un-interesting, it just looks like a small fire smoking away with intermittent clouds blocking the view (The smoke stack from Tolbachik is far more impressive). I have re-started Stromboli with the view which detects the heat and shows where the lava is. (I forget what this view is called).

    I could possiblly capture all 6 cams at once…if i could do a photo capture of the php page (at the moment i search for the jpg within the php and extract a single jpeg).

    • Hi Greg, thanks for that, will be interested to see the results…

      It’s a really useful tool for those webcams that only refresh every minute or two…
      It makes for a good summary of the action, the multicam approach would be awesome, maybe with a few more seconds per frame; so as to be able to compare stuff.

      Does your noodle work on any webcam, or do you have to modify the script depending?

      Thanks again for taking the time.

    • I would like to ask all dragons to please refrain from posting coordination comments and check their emails for the discussion on this topic, as per Lurking’s suggestion.

      Don’t drag me into it, I thought it was a community doughnut. If you leave stuff in the fridge for 2 weeks, it gets cluttered and nasty. If the mice have greater numbers, you have to resort to greater firepower… and I don’t like large numbers of cats, they mark territory and then they all caterwaul all night long. That makes it hard to sleep.

      It’s better to just keep the fidge cleaned out.

      • 😆 wtf are you guys talking about? I kind of like the idea that there are other levels to this castle that I have no inkling of. Somewhere down there in the bowels of this castle, where no one has gone before, Carl has his superyacht moored and heads off every now and again on a cruise through the Southern Ocean.. to take photos for a new post on the South Sandwich Islands. It’s true isn’t it?

        • Southern Thule Brave-heart Penguins.

          (and not a single one painted blue)

          Fixed…. one has been modified to fit the meme. Image link goes to the original.

          • Hummm… had that notion too (more or less). Me sesick every time goes to sea! Been sailor fisherman so I know the hard way. Like to idea of secret SuperYact, almost wrote SuperJagt but that great hunting hunter hunted, whatever, now possibly (hopefully) returning from circling no name large-island in the south-seas, or crew sunbathing sunbaking(?) on a secluded beach in the same region. Thank the lord the new year has come, and sun rizes each day, eventually there will be summer again.

            BTW, some activity in Emstrur area tonight. There seems be slight increase in or around Katla lately. Do not know why but my basic instinct keep saying that.

      • Good to hear your fidge is clean, GL. I was always a little nervous about your fidge because you never spoke openly about the “thing” But I see now that my nervousity was baseless

    • ‘At lower
      oblique angles, these plumes flow nearly parallel to the surface and can entrain surface
      materials and accelerate them to velocities greater than 7 km/set. At impact angles of
      <25”, a skimming regime exists where no substantial penetration of the planetary surface
      occurs. These high velocity vapour plumes could be a mechanism for accelerating surface
      rocks to planetary escape velocities, and were cited as a means of propelling Martianorigin
      rocks into space and ultimately to Earth (O’Keefe and Ahrens, 1986).'

      Thanks for the link Lurk. I know this is off-topic but the quote here is the first bit of evidence towards what might in time be shown to be a massive impact gash across southern Mars, which might have taken its oceans and atmosphere, and delivered some of it, via a comet, to us on Earth at some distant point in time. Phobos is rather close to Mars, too, so I wonder if that is made up of material from the gash which could have coalesced from the event, however long ago?

  3. Just rushing past to read the posts: I seem to be very busy at the moment. Thank you everyone for your posts, and please, Inge, do the follow-up (I think I must have missed the offensive posts as I didn’t catch up regularly last week). Sharing opinions is a wonderful thing, as is sharing knowledge. It’s very cold here in UK and we are expecting snow again soon. Take care, everyone! 🙂

    • Almost…. this bit “the presence of primitive rocks with Mg# > 0.65 ” means that if we can find the TiO2 to FeO ratio, that the formula will be pretty valid.

  4. Low quality

    16.01.2013 23:10:43 63.667 -19.182 9.3 km 2.0 30.36 4.5 km NE of Goðabunga
    16.01.2013 21:48:50 63.764 -19.268 9.0 km 2.5 40.44 10.8 km S of Álftavatn
    16.01.2013 20:35:51 63.688 -19.477 4.4 km 2.1 31.66 1.2 km N of Básar

    • Difficult to locate those earthquakes under Katla (always have been). They do not show much in tremor graphs. Like their automatic detection, I think these are deep quakes. Probably below the magma chamber which is around 4km deep. Signs of magma flowing upwards. But per se, nothing extraordinary.

  5. Inge and Spica: it is sad to see that this has happened. I was not here at that moment.

    Although i like political discussions I do agree with banning political discussions form this blog. It has caused more conflicts in people than good moods, and honestly I come here to talk about volcanoes, not politics. Because when such topics are raised, people get usually very argumentative and start throwing on each other. There is a lot of places in the internet for that; no need for that to be discussed here, when it causes unrest in people.

    I do agree with Inge. I think this kind of offtopic talk offends people more than benefits the mood here at Volcano cafe. I think if this continues, I will also stop coming here, I am sorry to say that.
    Then, volcano cafe will lose yet another member from Iceland.

    Spica, you are the moderator. You have been doing a great job here, so this my suggestion for that: have politics banned as a rule (in addition to conspiracy theories and religion): they are too sensitive topics and offend often some members. Anyways many forums across the internet have similar rules, why not Volcanocafe as well?

    Inge:; other than this, I really enjoy your presence here and your posts and comments in Icelandic volcanoes!

    Icelandic-wise: it has been very calm here in terms of earthquakes and volcanic unrest. The winter has also been mild, rainy and unusually warm (like some recent winters have been). This next few months I will be also be doing a lot of hiking, Icelandiv volcanoes of course, including a hike to Hekla in April 🙂

      • That would require a definition of “politics” or “religion”. Claiming a government is bad at managing a crisis can also be seen as “political” comment.
        Life in community needs rules to hold things within a frame that allows people to feel secure. But somehow, those who can’t live with the fact that depending on the history, experience, education, culture of an individual, we just naturally have very diverging opinions, are quite naive. Especially when going into international exchanges. If I would be personnally offended and start refusing to talk to people because their opinion strongly differs from mine, then I could just simply not stand life.
        Being open, but only for people who share my views… Hm. Or as long as it doesn’t touch a topic that I personnally think is sensitive. Ah. Or in theory, but much less when it becomes an uncomfortable reality. Mmmmhm.
        However, we’re here to have fun, basically around the topic of volcanology. So if it really is necessary to set additional rules to have that going on, why not. As long as I can go on with a bit of rude expressions and worst jokes from time to time. But the day this is banned, it’s me who’s gonna leave the ridiculousness of spending time reading what others think in the internet…

        • Dunno which is worse… the idiocy of lighting your private parts on fire, or relying on your friends to stamp the fire out once you have succumbed to that that lapse of reason.

          Everyone knows that if you have to stamp a fire out, you do so with great vigor. Much like stomping a snake… (which in itself is stupid… God invented shovels for that.)

          • …invented shovels…
            …and guns…
            Oops, is that a political statement? I saw that more from the practical / technical point of view, in case anyone now started to hate me because they think that I shouldn’t think that a gun does as much as a kitchen knife, or a shovel, or a pair of hands, as long as no one shoots / uses it…

  6. Lets step back in time a bit… what would Hekla act like if it were to go?

    From GVP’s Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network
    VOLUME 15, NO. 12, DECEMBER 31, 1990

    On 17 January, after 10 years of repose, an eruption
    ejected tephra columns and fed numerous fluid lava flows
    from fissure vents. Local farmers noticed strong sulfurous
    around 1200-1300, 4-5 hours before the eruption
    . Instruments, however, gave less than 40 minutes
    warning of the eruption. Large anomalies began on borehole
    strainmeters near the volcano at roughly 1630 and a swarm
    of small (M<2) earthquakes started at 1642. Several events
    were recorded in the following minutes and these began to
    merge with continuous tremor of increasing amplitude at
    about 1656. Tremor, recorded by seismographs at least 130
    km away, peaked in less than half an hour and began decreasing
    slowly after 1800…

    So…. the strain meters kicked in, then the smallish quake swarm followed.

    • From memory, we saw deformation at Hierro well before the EQ swarms but I can’t find the graph that showed it (a bar chart of Prof Sagiya’s that was posted by Avcan).

  7. Stromboli Thermal Timelapse
    Seems to taking shots every 3 mins..even though my script checks every min. In my opinion this video is not very exciting, however it looks at though there were a few burps of lave during the night

    • Hey so you tried Stromboli now! Cool, thanks. If you have a youtube video running in another window while you paste the link in here, it will be shown on this blog. I did this for you now. Hope thats OK.

    • Thanks for that Greg, Schtromboli does seem to be slowing down, I guess you should choose yr own targets… yr Tolbachik video was spectacular.
      This Schtromboli cam only updates every 3 minutes…

    • This is an important deep earthquake. It does not mean Hekla will erupt today or tomorrow or next week, but it means that magma is moving underneath and that could sign an eruption in soon. Or not. Because volcanoes are difficult to predict. But when you smell those sulphur scents near Hekla, then an eruption is only hours away, regardless of the absence of earthquakes until then.

  8. ok Hekla is clearly wanting to thank Lurking for mentioning its 1990s eruption, and I’m wondering if that itself was just trying to get a hekla mini quake , as that ought to rouse Carl from the depths of his south sea yacht jagd in the basements of the volcano cafe castle?

  9. For those interested, when looking at the Mila webcam of Hekla, there are aurora’s visible from time to least, I think they are aurora’s.

  10. hi everyone

    there report over the volcano science and news blog that volcano Seulawah Gama is showing early signs of activity might be something or nothing but there no real history of eruptions, I was thinking this could turn into a tambora or worse. i do hope it go back to sleep.for next 500 or 600 hundred years by then they might find away to stop it. or maybe not. sorry to carry on. this volcano might give us the first vei 7 of 21century, it always the one that we not looking at give us the big ones.

        • To prevent flaming, here is the history on Fucking Hell Beer:

          In the year 1070 of our Lord a man by the name of Adalpert von Vucckingen settled in what is now Upper Austria. Others flocked around him and this little congregation (or flockregation) was eventually named Fucking – the name being derived from its founder Adalpert von Vuckingen (Austrian records actually use “flock” as an official classification). And the people of Fucking do enjoy their lager beer. So, what could be more approciate than dedicating a lager beer to Fucking:

          Hence “Fucking Hell”

  11. Just walked my dog Oscar. We have 8cm snow here this morning and plenty more to come today. Very unusual for the extreme South Coast of England as I am only 800 metres from the seashore.
    As it is also blowing at 27 knots the dog didn’t want to walk across the open field. 😀 What a wuss! Anyway, I am very happy with the snow.

    • I’m having a snow day! My workplace has been closed to us non-essential workers which is a good thing as there’s no way I would have attempted my usual journey once I saw the snow this morning. It’s been snowing constantly – sometimes heavily – since at least 3.30 this morning. Lots of main road around me – including the M4 and A303 – are closed because of snow and accidents caused by it. Also a small earthquake in the Midlands last night! Not felt by many people and no damage done! 🙂 My dog likes the snow but I don’t so she won’t be getting many chances to get snowballs in her fur today.

      • Hi Talla, I am surprised the M4 is closed! Many roads round here are closing and it has only been snowing since 7:30 am. but many problems caused by people not knowing how to drive in snow!!!

        • Arg, if it is snowing where you both are now, there is a chance we might get more snow in a week or so. ( Will check the meteorology sites a little later)
          It has been snowing almost constantly for 2 days here now. They say we have a new record of snowfall within a day. There are at least 30 to 40 cm in my garden ( inside town!) now, there was zero, zilch, not a single snowflake on Wednesday. House owners can be held responsible should an accident happen on the walkway in front of their house. Which means i am shoveling, shoveling shoveling, using salt and gravel. And 2 hours later i can start anew. Snow is pretty in a landscape but not really in the very center of a town.

          • Where are you Spica? Sweden? Thankfully I don’t have to clear the snow as there is a debate that sometimes people slip on the grit then perhaps they can sue you but if you don’t do anything they can only sue the snow. 😉 This is a strange country since we started suing about everything like the Americans. Daft I call it! Still no law says you must clear the path and really I feel it is safer to walk on thicker snow as you don’t slip so much.

          • Hi Newby! I agree about the pavements – my bit is north facing and only gets sunshine from April to September so if I scrape off the snow it freezes and is much worse so I leave it with crunchy snow on it. Most people walk along the other side of the street anyway as it’s wider there. The snow’s finally stopped for a bit but the wind is bitter.

        • Austria
          Walking on thicker snow is no option because like 20 people a minute walk by my house every minute during daytime… told ya.. the center of town. We always are requirred to set stick, to warn people that a load of snow might come down from the roof. Placed them yesterday… they are gone today… someone stole them. Next set is out now.

          • We’ve had a constant 35 cm of snow in NE Oregon. never melted never got above -4C
            for 21/2weeks. we finally are looking at a possible “Chinook” wind temps pushing the
            10c range…I hope.Wife’s been down with Bronchitis and we haven’t had fires
            for 3 days….Just electric and gas..ARRGH!!

          • Oh Spica, you are so lucky!! I have always wanted to live in Austria. So many beautiful mountains and lakes. Sad that even in ‘Paradise’ people will steal things.
            @Talla. Amazingly it has snowed here without stopping for seven and a half hours! I have lived here for 47 years and never remember it snowing for so long although it has snowed heavier very rarely. Now have over 5 inches/13cm of laying snow. I love it!! I don’t have to go out to work though, I bet Diana is glad hubby is off work today!

          • Newby,
            Austria is a true paradise. The problem is the same as always, as soon as there are too many people together, it get’s messy. So stay away from urban areas – small villages in Austria, there you have paradise without stealing. Maybe the people there are not the most open minded, but good hearted and correct in average.

          • Poor Spica! I know exactly what you’re talking about.
            Coincidentally, during my brief stay in Austria (Christmas and New Year) I didn’t see one single snowflake (yet tons of snow up the hills). Being from a tropical country I would have loved to have the chance to see a flurry or two.
            But Austria is indeed a paradise!
            My hopes go now for Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I shall go in February (unfortunately not for vacation).

    • I miss the snow where I live now. Here in western Washington on Puget Sound, we seldom get any heavy snowfall.

      I grew up in Hamburg, New York in the snow belt south of Buffalo. One early December in the early 60’s, we woke up to 60 cm of new snow, the first snow of the year. This did not close schools or businesses. The next morning we woke to find another 118 cm had fallen. This did close school and businesses. By 0900 the roads had been plowed and we could get around. Dad and I had to get up on the roof and remove the snow. If we had that happen here in Port Orchard, the roads would be closed until it melted as they do have the equipment here to handle snow like that.

      Monday we are headed to the Olympic Mountains, Hurricane Ridge, to spend the day snowshoeing.

  12. Tomorrow… I have to drive.

    So, a project that I was pondering will have to go on the back burner.

    Manam erupted recently. It lofted its plume to just below the average tropopause height. Great opportunity to start watching the aerosol optical depth to see if it thickens over the nexe few weeks.

    If you are interested, you can find the data on NASAs Giovanni data portal from the AIRS satellite.

    • thanks for posting that I did mean to go find it and post it when I saw that Spica was looking for updates on erta ale.

  13. OT (bizarre)

    I live in Florida. Today, on the interstate, I was passed by a Ski-Patrol truck.

    If there is a skier in trouble, and hes responding from Miami, he may not make it in time.

    • Looking at the additional strain uncorrected data, it’s all starting to look a bit “rough” but yes, the timing of where the spike is on the main page doesn’t seem to match the time of the quake … unless I’m missing something too

      Perhpas we’ll not only have the snow (or hot weather if you’re down south) to keep us entertained this weekend … wishful thinking I guess 🙂

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s