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Erta Ale eruption reported 5 November 2008

Posted by admin in activity reports, Erta Ale, eruptions, Ethiopia.
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Erta Ale, January 2007 (image by Flickr user filippo_jean, licensed under Creative Commons)

Erta Ale, Ethiopia’s most active volcano and one of the most active in Africa, has been busy with its current low-intensity eruptive phase since around 1967. A basaltic shield volcano, Erta Ale is well known for its remoteness, forbidding environment, and long-lasting lava lake (pictured above). A report today from the African Press Agency, quoting the Institute of Geophysics, Space Sciences and Astronomy at Addis Ababa University, says that a significant eruption took place late yesterday without ‘human or material damage’, but details are scarce. There is a fuller report at the South African business news site Moneybiz (also at the Independent Online) which talks of a 300 sq km lava flow and quotes expert opinion that the eruptions of Erta Ale are due to ‘the expansion of tectonic plates under the Great Rift Valley’. Hmm.

In August 2007 an eruption of Erta Ale caused some fatalities and forced local evacuations. UPDATE: Boris Behncke notes (see comments on this post, below) that this 2007 eruption was not at Erta Ale but at Manda Hararo volcano some distance to the south.

Image: lava lake at Erta Ale volcano, January 2007. Credit: Flickr user filippo_jean. Re-used here under a Creative Commons licence. [source]

Afar in Ethiopia rocked by volcano – African Press Agency, 5 November 2008
Record volcanic eruption in Ethiopia – Moneybiz, 5 November 2008
Volcano erupts in Ethiopia – Independent Online, 5 November 2008
Ethiopia volcano sets lava record – BBC News, 5 November 2008

Global Volcanism Program: Erta Ale – information about Erta Ale (0201-08=)
Geophysical Observatory – Institute of Geophysics, Space Sciences and Astronomy at Addis Ababa University
L’Erta Alé, volcan actif dans le Danakil – a French page with many pictures of Erta Ale from an expedition to the volcano which took place in November 2006

The Volcanism Blog


1. Nickolay Krotkov - 5 November 2008

Ozone monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA Aura satellite first observed extensive Erta Ale SO2 plume on Monday, Nov 4 at 10:50UT.
Estimated SO2 mass 100-200ktonnes depending on plume altitude.
24 hour OMI SO2 composite (preliminary near-real time data) is available from NOAA site:


2. Boris Behncke - 5 November 2008

It should be mentioned that the 2007 eruption said to have caused “some fatalities” did not occur at Erta-Ale, but much farther south, at Manda Hararo volcano; it was a rather small eruption. A detailed description of that event can be found at the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Network Program web site:
It will be interesting to see whether it was really Erta-Ale to produce this latest eruption, or some more silicic volcano nearby, especially considering the large SO2 plume reported in the previous comment.

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