In one of the most oddly worded articles I’ve seen from the BBC, a lava flow from Erta Ale an unidentified volcano in the Erte Ale range in Ethiopia has erupted a significant amount of lava. The headline states “Ethiopia volcano sets lava record”, which is strange on multiple counts, but mostly because I’m not familiar with any “lava records”, who might keep track of them and what, exactly, this “lava record” is. In fact, they don’t even mention it in the article itself. They do, however, point out that lava from this eruption has covered 300 square kilometers, which is a decent chunk of real estate, but no mention is made of how long it took to do this (or what type of lava, for that matter, but it is likely basalt). So, take this article as you will. The take home message is that Erte Ale a volcano in the Erta Ale range, near Alu, has had a significant eruption with some associated earthquakes to go along with it.

Erta Ale is located on the East African Rift in Ethiopia – part of the Erte Ale Range – and is a fairly active shield volcano that erupts basaltic lava flows from both the central vent and from fissues, along with sometimes have a lava lake in the main caldera. These eruptions aren’t too much of a danger to the people who live near the volcano as it mostly issues lava flows rather than erupting explosively. It hasn’t erupted since 1967 according to the GVP, however, the volcano did erupt in 2005 (see above), displacing thousands of people.

NEW INFORMATION (2200 Pacific Time)

Just got this email about the eruption in northern Afar, Ethiopia. Sounds like it has released a significant amount of sulfur into the atmosphere:

Satellite instruments detected an eruption in northern Afar, Ethiopia
on November 3. The eruption first manifested itself as a large sulfur
dioxide (SO2) cloud drifting eastwards over the Arabian peninsula,
detected by the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and the Atmospheric
Infrared Sounder (AIRS). MODIS data from the University of Hawaii’s
MODVOLC hot-spot monitoring tool (
confirmed an extensive hot-spot (presumably lava flows) near Alu
volcano, in the northern part of the Erta ‘Ale range. Details are
still sketchy and these observations are as yet unconfirmed from the

A total of 0.1-0.2 Tg of SO2 was measured in the eruption cloud by OMI
at ~1100 UT on November 4, by which time the SO2 cloud had reached
southern Iran. Using the OMI SO2 data and radiosonde soundings,
observed SO2 cloud drift yields a preliminary estimate of the eruption
onset time of 1400-1600 UT on November

More details as they are available.


  1. #1 Perry
    November 6, 2008

    The BBC website has a deserved reputation for posting first and amending afterwards. This is due to their acknowledged left wing bias that has caused the BBC to employ lefties, who are out of their collective depths when reporting such events. the are so dumb, the do not know how to access well informed site such as yours and cut and paste your reports. Actually, that may be just as well as these hacks would be not honest enough to quote you as their source. I found you via Fresh Bilge. Congratulations on your excellent standards.



  2. #2 Perry
    November 6, 2008

    Apologies. Please add the missing “Y”s



  3. #3 boris behncke
    November 6, 2008

    I do agree that Erta Ale as a source of this latest eruption is highly doubtful, if only for the high SO2 content of the eruption plume which would rather (but not necessarily) indicate an explosive event. In this light it will have to be seen whether that “record lava flow” is really a lava flow or maybe something else (a pyroclastic flow maybe?). In any case an area of 300 square kilometers is exceptionally large, consider that the whole area covered with lava during the current (nearly 26-years-long) eruption of Kilauea is less than half that area! Now, for a lava flow to cover such a large area in just one day, this would have to be a HUGE eruption more similar to the “Laki” eruption in Iceland in 1783-1784 or a small flood basalt…
    Actually, Erta Ale has been probably continuously active since 1967 (when its persistent lava lakes were first observed by volcanologists) but may have displayed the same activity since the early 20th century. There were some overflows from the lava lakes onto the outer slopes in the early 1970s, but then visits to the volcano became impossible for nearly 20 years due to civil unrest. Once visits to the volcano became once more possible (in 1992) it was seen that persistent lava lake activity was continuing, and so it has until 2008. There was no major eruption from Erta Ale in 2005, neither was there in 2007 – these events occurred further south from volcanoes without previous historical eruptions, Dabbahu (2005) and
    The Global Volcanism Program’s entry for Dabbahu is at
    and that for Manda Hararo at
    It will certainly be very interesting to receive more details about this event which, in spite of the doubts expressed above, seems to be a rather significant eruption. It has also to be noted that this is now the third major rifting event in the Afar area since 2005, after Dabbahu in 2005 and Manda Hararo in 2007.

  4. #4 activolcans
    November 7, 2008

    hi to everybody.
    When i had the information that an eruption occured in Afar, i immediatly looked on the MODVOLC website to locate the eruption site. My first interpretation was that Dallafilla volcano was the source. But the maxima of the thermal anomaly is not located on Dallafilla, but noth-east of it, quite exactly on the location of Alu volcano.

    Moreover, the volcanic profil of Alu (basaltic field) correspond to the actual activity (fluid lava flows) when volcanic profil of Dallafilla (little silicic stratovolcano) don’t.
    Based on these (probably unsufficient) elements i’m convinced that Alu volcano is the source, and not Dallafilla. But i know too that only investigations on high resolution satellite pictures and/or volcanic field trip in the area will give the real source.

    Best regards to everybody, and thanks for this website.

  5. #5 Erik Klemetti
    November 7, 2008

    Thanks for these updates. Sounds like no one is quite sure where this eruption is emanating, but Alu does seem like a good candidate. I’ll try to dig up more information this morning.

  6. #6 Doug
    November 7, 2008
  7. #7 jamie
    November 11, 2008

    Interestingly, I’ve just stumbled upon this website while looking up something in an article I was reading about Katla’s basaltic eruptions — only to suddenly realize where my friend and fellow doctoral student ran off to. I study tephrochronology in the archaeology dept here but he studies volcanology in earth sciences — and so when a friend received a phone call from him, late at night, explaining that he was leaving the country and flying via Syria to Ethiopia, because his “volcano was exploding”… Yes, it all makes a lot more sense now.

    And this blog is really interesting and useful and has definitely been added to my google reader.

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