Eruption at Nyamulagira volcano – 4.5 km (15 000 feet) a.s.l. plume, Aviation Color Code Red, DR Congo

nyamulagira volcano march 8 2023 sentinel-2 f

The Goma Volcanic Observatory (OVG) has reported an eruption of the Nyamulagira volcano, also known as Nyamuragira, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A plume was observed rising 1 500 m (4 900 feet) above the summit, reaching an altitude of about 4.5 km (15 000 feet) above sea level.

  • Nyamulagira is located near the Nyiragongo volcano, which erupted in 2021, resulting in 32 deaths and the destruction of 1 000 homes.
  • While Nyiragongo’s eruption directly threatened the city of Goma, past eruptions of Nyamulagira have been primarily directed towards the Virunga Park or nearby roads.

The Toulouse VAAC Volcanic Ash Advisory, released at 13:45 UTC on March 14, 2023, confirmed the plume’s height but noted that volcanic ash clouds were not visible on satellite imagery due to cloud cover. As a precaution, the Aviation Color Code has been raised to Red.1

On March 13, a strong glow was observed at the volcano around 16:00 UTC (18:00 local time), accompanied by seismic activity indicating magma movement at shallow depths toward Nyamulagira’s central crater. The OVG has reassured Goma residents, stating that if a flank eruption occurs, lava would flow into Virunga National Park and urged them to remain calm.2

Authorities have advised the public to follow instructions for washing vegetables, as volcanic products like ash and slag could fall into inhabited areas. Aviators have been asked to take wind direction into account when flying over the Virunga region.

nyamulagira and nyiragongo volcanoes on march 8 2023 sentinel-2
Image credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, EO Browser, The Watchers. Acquired on March 8, 2023

In February 2023, the OVG reported that Nyamuragira’s lava lake remained active from February 13 to 19, with low seismicity and a few long-period earthquakes detected up to 15 km (9 miles) deep along the large fracture connecting Nyamulagira and Nyiragongo. High concentrations of carbon dioxide were measured in the Mazuku and Lac Vert district areas, prompting the OVG to warn residents to avoid those locations.3

Nyamulagira is located near the Nyiragongo volcano, which erupted on May 22, 2021, resulting in 32 deaths and the destruction of 1 000 homes.

Geological summary

Africa’s most active volcano, Nyamulagira (also known as Nyamuragira), is a massive high-potassium basaltic shield about 25 km (15.5 miles) N of Lake Kivu and 15 km (9.3 miles) NE of the steep-sided Nyiragongo volcano.

The summit is truncated by a small 2 x 2.3 km (1.24 x 1.43 miles) caldera that has walls up to about 100 m (328 feet) high. Documented eruptions have occurred within the summit caldera, as well as from the numerous flank fissures and cinder cones.

A lava lake in the summit crater, active since at least 1921, drained in 1938, at the time of a major flank eruption.

Recent lava flows extend down the flanks more than 30 km (18.6 miles) from the summit as far as Lake Kivu; extensive lava flows from this volcano have covered 1 500 km2 (579.15 mi2) of the western branch of the East African Rift.

This volcano is located within the Virunga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage property.4

References:

1 Nyamulagira VAA – Toulouse VAAC – 13:45 UTC on March 14, 2023

2 DRC: Observatory sights “burning light” atop a volcano, calls for calm – March 13, 2023

3 Global Volcanism Program, 2023. Report on Nyamulagira (DR Congo). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 22 February-28 February 2023. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.

4 Nyamulagira – Geological summary – GVP

Featured image: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, EO Browser, The Watchers. Acquired on March 8, 2023

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