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Reports from Nigeria: dormant volcano stirring? 17 June 2011

Posted by admin in activity reports, Africa, Nigeria.

Some rather strange reports from Nigeria seem to suggest some kind of volcanic activity in Gombe State in the north-east of the country: emissions of some kind, possibly including toxic/environmentally harmful gases, have apparently been taking place in the Abaduguri range in Funakaye Local Government Area. North-eastern Nigeria does have a history of active volcanism (although how recently the area was active is not known) so the idea isn’t intrinsically unlikely. Descriptions of the supposed current activity, however, are rather baffling.

The Nigerian Observer quotes the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency saying that ‘the rock, which has been emitting smoke in the past seven months, was a sign of “a dormant volcano which may erupt in future”‘, while a scientist from the Centre for Geodesy and Geodynamics of the National Space Research and Development Agency called the activity ‘a result of the impact of an earthquake that occurred in Pindiga formation, Gombe State, hundreds of years ago’. Elombah.com reports that ‘Local communities living around the Ndanijam Kargo Hill  in Funakaye Local Goverment Area and the surrounding villages in Gombe State of the North-Eastern part of Nigeria have been advised to relocate as a result of smoke emission at Abadaguri rocky range because the dormant volcano in the area is likely to erupt any time from now’. The gas has apparently been ‘gushing out from the rocky area’ for seven or eight months, and has ‘an odour of burning plastic’. The Daily Champion reports reassuringly that the Nigeria Meteorological Agency has described the eruption as ‘extinct or dormant’, and adds the interesting information (from a Funakaye local official) that ‘the crack where the smoke was emitting from, used to be the entrance to the house of a renowned hunter in the area, Abbaguri ,who lived in the cafe hundreds of years ago’.

Perhaps the situation will become clearer as new reports emerge. Hat tip to Eruptions commenter Shérine for spotting these mysterious reports.

UPDATE. Experts from Nigeria’s Centre for Geodesy and Geodynamics have been testing gases at the location of the emissions, reports the Abuja newspaper Daily Trust. Apparently their analysis revealed that ‘gases could result to the formation of magma capable of causing volcanic eruption in the area’.

Dormant volcano comes alive in north-eastern Nigeria – Elombah.com, 10 June 2011
Volcanic eruption in Gombe dormantDaily Champion, 12 June 2011
Smoke-emitting rock may erupt, says NESREANigerian Observer, 17 June 2011

Global Volcanism Program: Biu Plateau – summary information from the GVP for the Biu Plateau volcanic field (0204-05-)

The Volcanism Blog


1. Eric - 18 June 2011

Looks more like a coal seam fire. If you Google “gombe coal” you’ll see there is a lot of coal in that area.

2. Rustynailer - 18 June 2011

There is a lot of coal in Nigeria, probbably man made the fire from the usual waste burning….
Just imagine if a lava dike intrusion set fire to a coal seam. I suppose that has happened before somewhere in the world.
Nice to see this blog up and running again, I and lots of others missed it a lot.

3. admin - 18 June 2011

Thank you Rustynailer!

I agree, it looks like a burning coal seam. The list of gases supposedly identified in the analysis given in the Daily Trust report is consistent with a coal fire.

4. Beano - 18 June 2011

Welcome back Dr. Ralph.

There is a burning coal seam in New South Wales, Australia – known as the Burning Mountain. Has been estimated to have been burning for over 6000 years. Original explorers to Australia thought that this was an active volcano.

During the 1982 El Nino drought in Kalimantan Indonesia, 6 million hectares of virgin growth tropical rain forest was destroyed by fires started by local farmers using the slash and burn dry crop planting method.
The rain forest had grown in a layer of peat that had accumulated on the ground over a period of thousands of years. Underneath the peat there are coal seams very close to the surface.
After the rainforest had burnt away the peat and coal seams caught fire and there are some areas which are still smouldering to this day. The smouldering is far down in the coal seams under ground. During 1982 – 1984 some of the international oil companies exploring in the adjacent areas sent out water tanker trucks whose crews poured water down broken cracks in the ground in an effort to extinguish the smouldering.
This destruction of the rain forest was a tragedy of huge proportion. The rain forest can never grow back as long as there are humans around to disturb the area. It took many thousands of years for the peat layer to build up and then this acted as a compost layer in which the trees grew in. It took thousands of years for the forest to grow. The top soil underneath is very thin and very poor in nutrients. If Kalimantan (Borneo) was located not in the tropics but at a different latitude it would be a desert.
Clearing millions of hectares of tropical forest alters the local climatology and this is certainly evident in the East Kalimantan area.

5. Lafon - 24 June 2011

You are very rational in what I see. But know that the region of Gombe also contains very vast one fields volcanic in only 90 km in the northeast of this city for the closest cone (small cone which I identified thanks to earth Google). Complex a volcanic chain 90 km long on directed 80 wide southeast northwest. Appearances seem rather ancient (1 million years in some hundreds of thousand years?), because the reliefs of certain lava flows seem inverted. The lava flows which flowed at the bottom of valleys became of trays of basalt with the erosion of the surrounding grounds. Appearances at the origin of the current volcanic chain it is very recent on the geological scale of time (approximately 10 000 years for the youngest volcanoes?). These last ones are very well preserved.

A complex in the forms varied enough since the space. Cones of scorias, domes and needles of lavas, depressions of type maar and even, maybe a stratovolcan young in the North of the chain. Eruptions were very violent to judge the dimension it of certain craters. To create a 3 or 4 km caldera, was needed an eruption so violent as that of Pinatubo in 1991

10 000 years, it is young on the scale of geologic time. It is not thus impossible that new eruptions have places, maybe in 2 months, or 2000 years old. The geological appearances observed by the local inhabitants peuvennt thus to be of origins volcanic. But only a study of ground can confirm it.

I know no document telling the formation of the volcano of Biu. The geological indications which I gave are deductions made from satellite pictures and of my knowledge in geology.

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