Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)

Location: 1.5S, 29.3E
Elevation: 11,365 feet (3,465 m)

Last Updated: January 26, 2004


Nyiragongo is associated with the East African Rift and is part of the Virunga Volcanic Chain. It is in the Congo, not far from the border with Rwanda. Nyiragongo is in Virunga National Park and is of Africa's most active volcanoes. Lake Kivu is at the bottom-left corner of this SPOT image. The town of Goma is just off the bottom of the image.




December 16, 2003

The activity remains at relatively low levels, with the constant presence of an active lava lake inside the crater. The Alert Level remained at Yellow.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


May 13, 2002

A dense ash plume was visible above Nyiragongo on May 2 and 3. In the following days, the lava pool in the crater was very active, with violent gas bubbling and lava splashing the walls of the pit. Also ~50-m high flames were hurled from the vents. An ash cloud <6 km was possibly visible on satellite imagery on 12 May.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


May 6, 2003

Activity remains high at Nyiragongo; nearly continuous ejection of scoria and blobs of lava were visible as well as a growing and agitated lava lake. 5 vents were also observed and one of the plumes detected rose to 5-6 km above sea level.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


April 1, 2003

During the 18th and 19th, a thick plume engulfed the volcano's crater, but a 200 m-diameter active cone was visible inside. The cone morphology changed and lava fountains rising up to 200 m, scoria ejections and fumaroles were observed.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


March 11, 2003

On the 6th (0900), an ash cloud extending ~185 km W of the volcano was visible for 3 hours.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


March 4, 2003

Activity was lower at Nyiragongo, but Pele's hair and ash continued to fall in surrounding areas. The crater's interior have changed with the present activity and the vegetation inside have died. Incandescence and lava fountaining to heights of >100 m were also observed.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


February 18, 2003

Since June 2003, thermal alerts have been visible and, on the 10th, activity finally increased at Nyiragongo. Increase in tremor amplitude was accompanied with changes in the plumes color. A continuous rain of ash and Pele's hair were also observed in Goma.


This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


February 11, 2003

From the 3-9, more volcanic earthquakes and ash emissions led to greater levels of volcanic activity. On the 8th (0443), an ash explosion and ejection of incandescent material occurred. The Alert Level was raised from 2 to 3.


October 15, 2002

A plume reaching ~3 km high has been present above the crater from mid-Sept. to October 10th. At night, a red glow caused by the Strombolian explosions was also visible. Loud noises emanating from the crater were heard and volcanic material was ejected ~150 m high. No lava lake was visible but, on Oct. 6, a partial wall collapse in the interior crater was heard.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


August 6, 2002

On August 1st, a plume rising from the crater was observed. It obscured the crater, preventing visibility of any newly erupted lava. The seimicity indicates that magma is present beneath the volcano. The Alert Level remains at Yellow.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


July 30, 2002

This week, a very large white plume, which rose almost 3 kilometers above the volcano, was ejected from a small spatter cone inside the main crater. There was lava visible inside the spatter cone. Recent observation of the active lava lake, located in the main crater, showed that it is smaller than what was expected from the size of the plume.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


July 23, 2002

Lava fountains were observed rising approximately 100 meters above the crater floor around 18:00 on the 16th.

This information was summarized from the GVP/USGS Weekly Volcanic Activity Report


January 29, 2002

An eruption began at Nyiragongo, Congo, on January 17th. Lava flowed on the eastern and southern flanks of the volcano at a rate of 1.2 to 1.8 km/hour toward the city of Goma (~10 km South). It is believed that seismicity produced fissures along the East African Rift, allowing small amount of magma to ascend. Tremors were reported to occur every 40 seconds at the beginning of the eruption, then diminished to the hour on the 18th. The population of Goma (~400,000 people) was evacuated for three days and 14 villages have been damaged by the lava flows. Reports state that the eruption killed more than 45 people and caused approximately 12,000 homeless families. On January 23rd, eruptive activity was still slowly continuing from the flanks, but it main stage is over. There has not been any new activity from March 23rd to 29th.

This information was summarized from the Smithsonian Institution's Preliminary Notices of Volcanic Activity
 


The town of Goma is 11 miles (18 km) south of the summit of Nyiragongo and on the shore of Lake Kivu. Goma served as an encampment for nearly a million refugees from the civil war in Rwanda. Photograph by Jack Lockwood, U.S. Geological Survey, August 22, 1994.

Nyiragongo is a stratovolcano. A crater at the summit of Nyiragongo contained a lava lake from 1894 to 1977. On January 10, 1977, the lava lake drained in less than one hour. The lava erupted from fissures on the flank of the volcano and moved at speeds up to 40 miles per hour (60 km/hr). About 70 people were killed. The fluid lava reached within 2,000 feet (600 m) of the Goma airport. From June 1982 to early 1982 the volcano was active with a lava lake in the crater and phreatic explosions and lava fountaining.


The most recent activity at Nyiragongo began in June of 1994. A lava lake once again filled part of the crater. The lava lake was approximately 130 feet (40 m) in diameter and sent lava flows onto the floor of the 2,600 feet (800 m) diameter crater. The surface of the lava lake was about 500 feet (150 m) below the level of the lake when it drained in 1977. Photograph of the lava lake by Jack Lockwood, U.S. Geological Survey, August 24, 1994.


Night photo of lava lake in Nyiragongo. Photograph of the lava lake by Jack Lockwood, U.S. Geological Survey, August 21, 1994.

To see SIR-C image of other volcanoes in the Virunga Volcanic Chain click here.


Sources of Information:

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 1995, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., v. 20, no. 1, p. 11-12.

McClelland, L., Simkin, T., Summers, M., Nielson, E., Stein, T.C., 1989, Global volcanism 1975-1985: Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, and American Geophysical Union, Washington DC, 655 p.

Simkin, T., and Siebert, L., 1994, Volcanoes of the world: Geoscience Press, Tucson, Arizona, 349 p.


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