Nyiragongo

This text is an updated version of the page dedicated to Nyiragongo on the GORISK website.

Nyiragongo (3470 m a.s.l.) is, by shape, a stratovolcano. It is located in the western part of the Virunga volcanic province (North Kivu, D.R. Congo), in the depression of the western branch of the East African Rift. The main volcanic edifice is composed by a 1.3 km-wide central crater surrounded by two main adventive cones; the Baruta on the northern flank and the Shaheru on the southern flank.

Nyiragongo volcano observed from NE. July 1, 2014

Nyiragongo volcano observed from NE. the main crater of the volcano in on the right. The adventive crater on the left is called Baruta.
July 1, 2014

The current eruptive activity of Nyiragongo is caracterized by the presence of a permanent active lava lake inside the main crater. This ~260 m-wide lava lake is often referred as the largest on Earth. A SO2-rich gas plume is continuously released from the lava lake and frequently causes important acidic rainfalls that affect vegetation, crops, human infrastructures, surface water quality and also probably human health. Two historical flank eruptions are known and occurred on 10th January 1977 and 17th January 2002. These eruptions caused long and very fast lava flows, partly associated with the lava lake drainage, which came from eruptive fissures on the volcano flanks. Both 1977 and 2002 events caused casualties and huge damages to the Goma region. In January 2002, 100 to 150 persons were killed, more than 100 000 persons became homeless and at least 10 % of the city of Goma were destroyed by lavas. This eruption had a huge humanitarian and economical impact, which affected the whole Great Lake Region.

The current activity of the Nyiragongo lava lake is marked by -sometimes large- level oscillations and frequent lava overflows on the lower platform of the crater, which progressively rises up to tens of metres per year. Since the end of September 2011, the lava lake level decreased, especially after the major flank eruption of Nyamulagira, which lasted from 6th November 2011 to April 2012.

Nyiragongo lava lake during a minor overflow, in September 2011. (Photo: B. Smets, 2011)

Nyiragongo lava lake during a minor overflow, in September 2011. Photo (c) B. Smets, 2011

Selection of scientific publications on Nyiragongo

  • Allard, P., Baxter P., Halbwachs, M., Komorowski,J.-C., 2002. The January 2002 eruption of Nyiragongo volcano (Dem. Repub. Congo) and related hazards : observations and recommendations. Final report of the French-British scientific team: submitted to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Paris, France, Foreign Office, London, United Kingdom and respective Embassies in Democratic Republic of Congo and Republic of Rwanda, Paris, 35 p. [Available online]
  • Demant, A., Lestrade, P., Lubala, R.T., Kampunzu, A.B., Durieux, J., 1994. Volcanological and petrological evolution of Nyiragongo volcano, Virunga volcanic field, Zaire. Bulletin of Volcanology 56, 47–61. [Link]
  • Pottier, Y., 1978. Première éruption historique du Nyiragongo et manifestations adventives simultanées du Volcan Nyamulagira (Chaîne des Virunga-Kivu-Zaire: Décembre 76-Juin 77). Musée Royal de l’Afrique Centrale (Tervuren, Belgium): Rapport Annuel du Département de Géologie et de Minéralogie (1977) 157–175. [Available here]
  • Tazieff, H., 1949. Première exploration du cratère du volcan Nyiragongo. Bulletin de la Société Belge de Géologie 48, 165–172. [Available here]
  • Wauthier, C., Cayol, V., Kervyn, F., d’Oreye, N., 2012. Magma sources involved in the 2002 Nyiragongo eruption, as inferred from an InSAR analysis. Journal of Geophysical Research 117, B05411. doi:10.1029/2011JB008257 [Link]

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