Possible eruption in Virunga National Park, Congo

Busy ... so busy! I'll try to have more later today but the next 24 hours for me are super duper busy.

However, I did want to pass along some news that was noticed by the Volcanism Blog that a volcano at Virunga National Park in the Congo erupted overnight. Now, I haven't been able to find much information beyond the single report in the Irish Independent - and that report doesn't even specify what volcano is doing the erupting - Nyamuragira or Nyiragongo. However, we've seen eruptions at the park earlier this year so the volcanoes are almost constantly degassing, so this should be a surprise. However, until I can get more information, I'm calling this a "possible eruption."

More later on this, Sinabung, Etna and whatever other volcano decides to add to the week!

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Watch out Carl, that article you linked to is from the January 2010 eruption!

Mea culpa, just noticed... Recanting former statement.

Something tells me that this was a "duck".
It is weird that the Irish Independent breaks the news, especially since there was some rather spectacular photos from Nyiragongo released yesterday with soldiers photographed looking down into the lava lake. Photos where dated august 30 2010.
I guess an overexcited editor in Ireland thought that was an eruption after cuaffing a few Guinness.

@Thomas Wipf

I suppose it means that the wavy harmonic line ( *buzz* ) on the seismometer plot is getting thicker. Not easy to tell however


@Thomas Wipf & Raving: The current increase in volcanic tremor amplitude at Etna could mean that the central conduit system is pressurizing (which has been pretty evident over the past few days); at the same time there have been no further ash emissions (caused by explosions or crater wall collapse) from the Bocca Nuova since the morning of 30 August. It is not excluded that one or more large, vent-clearing phreatomagmatic explosions will occur anytime soon, and for this reason access to the summit craters of Etna is prohibited since 27 August. We had the first such explosion on 25 August, but the Bocca Nuova continues to be obstructed.

At the same time, the conduit of the Northeast Crater on the other side of Etna's summit area is open and has been the site of deep, loud explosions since several months, and it is well possible that magma is gradually rising in this conduit.

I guess we will better understand what is going on quite soon ...

I have been away from posting for a while and I am way behind in reading so I think I will start back here. I may get to some of the other threads later, but right now, I just want to get back in.

Looks like some interesting things going on with a volcano that the authorities thought was extinct? Hmmm. I have my own theory on that and I know some here would disagree with me, but I don't believe any volcano is truely extinct. There is a college right in the middle of a crater called Howell Mt. in N CA and not too far from that crater is a geyser that they call the "Old Faithful" of CA. It is not that predictable, but it does go off frequently and you can get rather close to it: as within about 30' or less. You can also get right up to it and there are fish living in the water by the blow hole.

I don't know much about this, but I do know that Mt St. Helena is near Howell. The former is not extinct. So I have a question for those of you who are more knowledgeable than I am to explain what constitutes an extinct volcano. I know there are geologic reasons that can show that some volcanoes are extinct, such as the cones on the flank of Etna that erupt once and that is it for them. Or is it? What would stop them from erupting a 1000yrs down the line?

Just wondering. I have my reasons for believing that no volcano is truely extinct and it is just based on theory and speculation, not what is seen, the geology of the area around the volcanoes, plate techtonics, and whatever else is going on deep below the crust, which would indicate that a volcano is extinct.

Any thoughts?

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

@11parclair, great link - those observatory videos are something, thanks.

By birdseyeUSA (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

Diane: I think time scales have something to do with it. Southern Finland was full of very active volcanoes over 1,5 billion years ago. None of them has erupted during the last 1,5 billion years. I guess those can be considered extinct?

The Indonesian authorities never claimed that Sinabung was extinct.

Volcanoes are described as active, dormant, or extinct. These are relative, descriptive terms.

Active Volcano: A volcano that is erupting. Also, a volcano that is not presently erupting, but that has erupted within historical time and is considered likely to do so in the future.

Dormant Volcano: Literally, "sleeping." The term is used to describe a volcano which is presently inactive but which may erupt again. Most of the major Cascade volcanoes are believed to be dormant rather than extinct.

Extinct Volcano: A volcano that is not presently erupting and is not likely to do so for a very long time in the future.

Mt Sinabung has shown anecdotal evidence of being weakly active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but *relative* to the many active volcanoes in Sumatra, it was given a classification by government geologists, as 'known active in the past, presently inactive' (B group).

The Indonesian government had to prioritize monitoring centers for earthquake, tsunami and volcanic hazards because resources are spread thinly, as the island arcs (several) sit on an exceptionally geologically active region.

Relative volcanic risk, for Indonesia, means that volcanoes that were not active in the past 100 years are probably not going to be very active in near future. When you must pick and choose between critical monitoring needs with limited resources, decisions on where to site equipment and assign manpower must be made on the best available information.

@Lurking #13, thanks. I had no idea there was a volcano under Jackson Miss. That is a great map of the volcano, too.

@Passerby, I figured you would give me a good answer to my inquiry. Thanks for clarifying some terms for me. I got the idea the Indonisian gov. figured it was extinct because, if I remember right, someone else thought they did. I can see why they have to pick and choose. There is so much going on over there they probably can't really keep up with all the activity.

@Jack #15, I forgot about Finland's volcanoes. It has been mentioned before so I should have remembered. :-) Anyway, I suppose they could be considered extinct.

Does anyone have any idea when the last time the Sutter Buttes in the Northern Central Valley of CA erupted? I know someone mentioned it before, but it was quite a while ago so I don't remember. (note to self: write it down!)

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink


@ Diane, #12: Another possibility might be the "hot spot one": a plate moves over a hot spot, creating a chain of volcanic islands. Any volcanic island that is far enough removed from the hot spot through plate tectonics might safely be considered as extinct, I guess (what ever "far enough" is).

@Diane [17] -
Our volcanoes can indeed be considered extinct - nothing visible remains of them, only the pipes & diamonds...

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink


to go with CK's comment, Midway is a "hawaiian" volcano, it is extinct. I believe that Diamond head on Oahu is considered extinct. The big island has several (3-5) active volcanoes and Maui has 1-2 active/dormant volcanos. However all of them, including Midway 1000 miles away are the same hotspot.

OT, but just out of curiosity.

Mag 2.7 Date-Time: Tue, August 31, 2010 at 18:00:30 UTC

Location41.781°N, 87.850°W
Depth0 km (~0 mile) set by location program
RegionILLINOIS 20 km (10 miles) WSW of Chicago, Illinois

Mag 2.7 comes up at about 11.2 Tons TNT (â707 MJ). That lat and lon do pop up in a quarry, Vulcan McCook Quarry.

Isn't that a little large for a quarry less than a mile from a residential area?

I am seeing interesting change in the tremor plots around Eyjafjallajökull. The eruption has not resumed at this point. But this change in tremor plots is interesting and does not seem to be related to weather changes. Sometimes the tremor plot change before something happens. But only time is going to tell is if that is the case now in Eyjafjallajökull or not.

The change can be seen on station esk (Eystri Skógar), mid (Miðmörk) so far.

@Jón FrÃmann

The other day I was trying to relate what the difference in "tremor" and "quake" to my wife. I used an analogy of being able to hear water running in a pipe, as the fluid moves through it. But magma and hydrothermal fluid being much much lower in frequency.

Was my analogy correct?

If so, does the climb in the low frequency tremor level denote a deeper location for this movement?

@Lurking, This is like water under pressure, a lot of pressure. When it gets released from that pressure, it boils and sometimes explodes like we sometimes see. Your analogy is good enough to explain magma. But this is far more complex that in my opinion. But you should ask the real experts here on this question, like Erik or Boris.

This did happen in Eyjafjallajökull at the start of the eruption. But when water got stuck under the glacier in the first few hours there where massive spikes in the harmonic tremor plots on the low frequency, that is 0.5 - 1Hz.

@22, Lurking, that is a functioning quarry and a recycling center, near Midway Airport (you can see it on the Waymarking map by zooming in at the next link), according to this site: http://www.vmcmccook.com/

It's been running for 100 years and covers 650 acres. Maybe they do blasting? If so, there should have been many other quake-type episodes, but I've never noticed any. Quakes are more often on the Mississippi River by Missouri and Arkansas. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM501Q_McCook_Quarry_Vulcan_Material…


It wasn't really a question of it being a quarry... just in the calculated size of the blast.

It generated a Mag 2.7 seismic event. At the equivalent of about 11.2 Tons of TNT, that's about the size one would expect of a Western State open pit mine in a cast shot with ANFO. Not in a neighborhood quarry mining building material. Sure, they have issues with the State over compensations for Joliet Rd starting to slip off of what is left of the ground it is precariously perched on, but 11.2 tons equiv of TNT in one blast? Think autos... that is the same as about seven pickup trucks packed to the gills with explosives.

In 1899, a fire at Ft Pickens set off 8000 lbs of black powder (a much weaker explosive) and hurled bricks across the bay to Ft Barrancas when the powder mag was destroyed. That's about 1.5 miles.

Thanks for all the answers. I appreciate it. I did not know that the Sutter Buttes were considered to be the southern most outcrop of the Cascades. I always thought it was Lassen. When I took geology, the teachers told us that no one at that time knew why there was a volcanic eruption right in the middle of the northern part of the Central Valley. Maybe they know more about it now. It is sort of a strange place for a volcano to come up.

Thanks, Doug Merson for that link.

Kultsi, what part of Finland are the pipes and whatever else is left of the volcanoes there? I do remember you telling us, but lately my brain has been discombobulated. LOL. Anyway, thanks for letting me know what is left there to see. Do you have any links to a picture of them?

By Diane N CA (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

Did the USGS have it listed on their map as a possible quarry blast when you posted your first comment, Lurking?

It is now.

Difference in seismic wave patterns, volcanic and tectonic:


Show that to your wife. The wave form is quite different, as you can see. She's not that fluffy, or you wouldn't have married her.


Yup... listed as a possible quarry blast, pulled up Google Earth and zoomed in, "epicenter" slap dab in the middle of a quarry. Used street view to find out the name of it, found out that they are having 'issin contest with the state over the road that has been closed since either side has been mined down to roughly a 70 to 100 foot drop on either side and it's now starting slide off of it's perch.

The wife doesn't follow this like I do, but occasionally she finds amusement and interest as I leap around the house ranting about seismic activity.

Eh.. it's a hobby. At least I haven't scared the dog lately.

Maybe the removed the damaged road bed; it's a safety hazard.

>Difference in seismic wave patterns, volcanic and tectonic:

That USGS image is very misleading as it's got a very uncompressed waveform scale (240 pixels/10 seconds) compared to most helicorder views that can be seen on the web. This is what is becomes after it becomes comparable in scale (about 12 pixels/10 seconds):


Very little detail can be understood from such compressed yet widely used scale.

QuakeExplorer allows you to zoom in on an event... provided you can wrangle the right miniseed into it. (that is, if you can find it to begin with)


I'm still trying to figure it out, and am looking for something with a more idiot proof interface.

I was able to pull off an interesting trick with it though, I was able to pipe the waveform out as a .wav formated file, drag it into Dplot and run FFT's on the data. Sure, QuakeExplorer offers a frequency component display, but doing it via Dplot allows me to compare time segments (obtained via different set ups for the seed link) overlaid on each other.

Quite handy if I can figure out what I'm looking at.

#28 Best word of the year: "discombobulated". That's the way I feel when I come back from a hard day's work and read so many new posts. Thanks, Diane, for making me laugh. I needed it!

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

I'm still feeling a little verklempt after reading the last few posts in the previous thread. :(

I seriously regret having asked about the underground bunkers that poster "Val" mentioned.

I understand that there are certain types of people in this world who believe it's OK to create a profit-making venture out of other people's death and misery, but I'll always consider it disgusting and disrespectful.

By Princess Frito (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#40 No verklempt feelings,YRH - you have a great heart.

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

Umm.... that's a lot of stations.

For anyone with a proclivity for the technical side of seismology...

The IRIS network list:


and the IRIS BUD (Basic Uniform Data) link:


Best I can find is that one station that I mentioned earlier at Toba, however there are quite a few Malaysian stations that would likely pick up the larger events in Indonesia.

*sigh... back to square one.

#40 I very much agree. I went to the village of Kaliadem (where the fateful bunker is located) for the magnificent view of Merapi from there. What was shocking on my arrival was that only a year after the tragedy, literally dozens of stalls were set up near the bunker selling "souvenirs" from the pyroclastic flow location, including video of the digging/rescue operation! And the only reason the two victims were there in the first place was to help save the local population...

The bunker in Kaliadem is a very sad example of an otherwise great idea gone wrong. If that door had shut properly, the bunker would likely have saved the lives of two people who would have had no other way of escaping the pyroclastic flow on time. Another feature in areas close to and south of Merapi are pyroclastic flow dams, including one in Kaliadem that may have slowed down some of the PFs in 2006 and helped protect some of the areas further downslope.

#41 Renato, some people never know the comfort their kindness brings to others.

I remember spending so many wonderful hours laughing and learning with all of you while watching the sun set and rise over Eyjafjallajökull after my twin sister passed away suddenly in March.

Renato, you and many others here have such great hearts. I'm forever grateful.

By Princess Frito (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#47 Princess: If you start talking like this, I'll get "discombobulated" again.
Love you guys!
Take a look at Parclair's YouTube video on "Empathy" over the other thread ("A request by me"). You will surely find some comfort from it.
In the meanwhile, we have a lot of work trying to cope with these two ongoing eruptions.
Always missing you around. Would like to hear from your Haitian protégé.
PS: I still watch the sunrise and set at Eyjaf.

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#48 Right now there are flocks of birds hovering frá new Ãorvaldseyri cam (the only one working besides Múlakot)
And I must hit the bed. Good night!
OT: Missed a post from you over the "A request from me " thread.
You should show your whole cold blooded genealogical three dating back from the Tudors. Promise I'll keep paparazzi away.

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#49 *typo* genealogical tree

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

Does somebody have an interest in Nyatambe hill in Gwassi at the shore of Lake Victoria, Kenya. It has a very deep crater at the top and many volcanic rocks around it which the locals call 'kamasia'. I nver read about it in Geography and with the settlements around it, I am worried that if it is not extinct, then there is a disaster waiting to happen.

By Lehman Leo (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

Thank you Renato. I'm watching the video right now (thank you Parclair!), but have paused it to say: the boy I sent to high school in Haiti has chosen to stay working in carpentry but his younger sister will be taking his place at the school, so it's all good. :)

By Princess Frito (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#51 Please, Lehman Leo, tell Nyatambe to give us some time 'till we get our feet on the ground over these too already in motion. ;)

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#52 Thanks to your spontaneous act of empathy. Be good!

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#49 Renato the fra-hvolsvelli cam is showing a beautiful sunrise (but I know what you mean - the cams are hit-and-miss these days)

May I post on the "A request from me " thread tomorrow Sir Renato? I've had three careers to date, my resume is outdated, it's 4 a.m. and I'm exhausted and discombobulated all at the same time.

Oooh! Did you hear there's a new season of The Tudors on CBC this fall? No need to keep the paparazzi away. I'm just an illegitimate corn chip offspring trying to keep a low profile (see paragraph #2) :)

By Princess Frito (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#57 Till tomorrow then. I'm already falling apart. Tschüss!

By Renato Rio (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

#51 Lehman Leo - Isn't Nyatambe Hill just ... a hill?

By Princess Frito (not verified) on 31 Aug 2010 #permalink

@Renato Rio #55, that photo shows the active lava dome of Kelut (or Kelud) which grew during the winter 2007-2008. Similar and extremely spectacular photographs of that lava dome are at Volcano Discovery: www.volcanodiscovery.com/en/kelud/1107/lava_dome.html

@Princess Frito #59, if you knew how many rather peaceful-looking hills are actually volcanoes ^-^

ETNA UPDATE - a summary on Etna's activity during the month of August 2010 is available at the INGV-Catania web site:

Italian - www.ct.ingv.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=240

English - http://www.ct.ingv.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=243

@Boris Behncke (#60) Glad to see you chipper this morning

Might be a typo in your report?

"... The explosive evento f 15 August was accompanied ..."


Regarding Virunga National Park eruption...
Seems like some editors brain ran a bit to far with some newly released photographs taken on 30 august 2010 showing soldiers trecking around on Nyiragongo with the lovely lava lake in the background. For a layman journalist it is quite understandable that they think that it is an eruption.
But on the other hand, what is an eruption after all, lava flowing around happily in a lake could in some sense of the word be considered as an eruption.

Here is a link of some of the photographs, there are more on Xinhua/Reuters if you have access to their archives.

@Thomas Wipf #64, the summit craters are currently off-limits - access is forbidden due to the fact that the conduits of the Bocca Nuova, Voragine and Southeast Crater are obstructed and the gradually increasing tremor amplitude might be a sign of rising gas pressure, which could be released with a large phreatic or phreatomagmatic explosion.

I have been an avid lurker of this forum for some time. Felt I should say that the reason the Irish Indo was the 1st paper to publish this story(I believe) is because the Irish Army is in the Congo as peacekeepers.
The Irish Army has been there for many decades and as a result there are strong links between the Irish and the Congolese.

The role of the Ãglaigh na h-Eireann there goes beyond Peacekeeping. They provide alot of humanitarian and rescue work. The would know the lay of the landscape pretty well.

@Diane [28] -

The pipes are mostly on the Eastern side of Finland, tens of kimberlite pipes have been fond this far. This is old crust area; the aging of the pipes is between 590 to 625 Ma. Not all pipes contain diamonds, and the prospecting is very expensive, as the pipes are often covered with glacial moraines several tens of meters thick.

No indication of the ancient volcanoes remain visible: we had this great grinder at work during the last ice age; also kimberlite is quite suspect to erosion, so it is not easy to find.

Picking up a diamond on the ground here is possible, but the most likely reason for that is that somebody dropped it...

By Kultsi, Askola, FI (not verified) on 01 Sep 2010 #permalink

This sounds decent. We are resting here in my own hotel room in Killarney checking a lot of these comments. Several are good while some do not help to make a lot of common sense at all. I'm just on vacation however I could not help myself from looking around this blog although my hotel room right here in Killarney charges on line usage per hour.5 star hotels killarney kerry,5 star hotels killarney special offers

Nyatambe is just a hill right at the shore of lake Victoria in Gwassi, Kenya but with a deep crator at the top. Local legend has it that if you fall into the crater, the only place to discover your daed body is in Lake Victoria.

You can come and see for yourself by visiting Gwassi.

By Faulu Suba (not verified) on 22 Nov 2010 #permalink

My mate and I had been just discussing this specific subject, she is normally looking for to prove me totally! I am about to show her this post and additionally rub it in a bit!