Lava flows on the flanks of Nyamulagira volcano, large emissions of gas and fine particles, DR Congo

glow over nyamulagira volcano may 19 2023 f

Eruptive activity at Nyamulagira volcano, Democratic Republic of Congo increased on May 17, 2023, leading to lava flows in the Virunga National Park. While the lava flows pose no danger to the population, the volcano is emitting large quantities of gas and fine particles.

  • 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

A large glow above the volcano was seen on May 17, related to the presence of lava flows observed inside the central crater of Nyamulagira volcano since May 9, 2023.

Thermal radiation over the crater increased sharply on May 19, indicating an increase in the outpouring of lava but the activity was still confined to the summit.

Effusive activity increased further on May 20, forming two large lobes — one outside the caldera to the west and another to the south.

nyamuragira may 19 2023 ovg
Image credit: GVO. Acquired on May 19, 2023
nyamuragira may 20 2023 ovg
Image credit: J. Williams via Charles Balagizi. Acquired on May 20, 2023
nyamulagira lava flows may 20 2023 usgs
Image credit: GVO
nyamuragira may 21 2023 ovg
Image credit: GVO. Acquired on May 21, 2023

Although not visible, large quantities of gas and fine particles are emitted by the current eruption at the volcano, as evidenced by satellite images showing enormous quantities of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emitted on May 19 and 20, said Charles Balagizi, Geochemist and Geohazards Researcher at Goma Volcano Observatory (GVO)

“This is why during this period it is strongly recommended to wash vegetables before cooking them, especially for the populations west of Goma city,” Balagizi said.

GVO is urging the population of Goma to remain calm.

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.


1 Press releases by Volcanological Observatory of Goma (GVO / OVG) – May 2023

2 Nyamulagira – Geological Summary – GVP

Featured image credit: GVO


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