How Many Times Has Mount Nyiragongo Erupted? It’s impossible to say how many times Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has erupted. Mount Nyiragongo, on the other hand, is thought to have erupted at least 34 times since 1882. Mount Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is famed for its molten lava lake, which is considered to be the world’s biggest.
Mount Nyiragongo is never quiet. The high volcano in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s east is one of the few sites on the planet with a permanent lake of lava boiling within its summit crater.
You’d think that the bottom of a steep volcano with the world’s largest flowing lava lake would be the last place anybody would choose to live. Despite the continual fear of cataclysmic fiery death, the region around Mount Nyiragongo is densely inhabited with vibrant settlements.
One such calamity happened in 1977, when the crater’s walls collapsed and the lake of molten lava emptied in less than an hour, rushing down into the settlements at a terrifying pace of up to 60 mph. Unlike typical lava flows, the presence of an alkali-rich volcanic rock, melilite nephelinite, generates a very fluid consistency that allows it to move at speeds that easily overpower anything in its path. The official death toll was 70, but many others claim significantly higher figures, with some believing the loss to be in the thousands.
The 1977 eruption occurred when the lake reached its deepest point, 10,700 feet, although the extent of its volume vary depending on activity. No one knows how long the volcano has been active, but it has erupted at least 34 times since 1882, periodically boiling and shooting fire for years before calming down.
Mount Nyiragongo, located in Virunga National Park approximately 20 kilometers north of Goma, is still active, with its most recent fatal eruption killing 147 people in 2002. Mount Nyiragongo erupted again in late May 2022. Fractures formed in the volcano’s stony flanks, allowing fast-moving lava to flow down its slopes. Some of it made its way to Goma, a six-mile-distance metropolis with a population of around 1.5 million people. The night sky glowed crimson as lava, sometimes three storeys high, rushed into the streets of many villages around Goma and devoured whatever buildings it came across, lighting them fire.
The lethal reputation of Mount Nyiragongo is the result of a perfect storm of events. Because of the region’s geologic complexity, its lava is incredibly fluid, capable of moving at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. Large volumes of dangerous carbon dioxide gas can also be emitted by eruptions. This is particularly concerning given that millions of people live in the volcano’s shadow. Its activity is currently restricted to the crater, where the lava lake is slowly rising again.
The presence of Nyiragongo, whose top rises 11,400 feet above the Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is due to two factors. One example is Eastern Africa’s sluggish geologic fragmentation. A swath of land stretching from the Red Sea to Mozambique is being ripped apart, with the Nubian plate to the northwest and the Somalian plate to the southeast shifting in opposing directions by a few inches every decade. The East African Rift is the name given to this tectonic split.
This rifting motion, among other things, creates channels for magma to ascend and form volcanoes. Furthermore, a plume of superheated but solid mantle material is rising from great depths to interact with the tectonic plate underneath.
Mount Nyiragongo’s lava has such a low silica content that it zips over the ground, especially if it is erupting rapidly. If the lava erupts at a high height, the volcano’s steep slope may give it an extra boost of speed.
The magma of the volcano is also exceptionally rich in carbon dioxide, an odorless, colorless gas. This gas frequently silently escapes to the surface through aquifers atop deep-seated volumes of degassing magma. Because it is denser than air, the gas accumulates unobserved in low-lying locations. Locals call it mazuku, which translates to “bad wind.”
Volcanic Eruptions on Mount Nyiragongo in DR Congo.
In general, eruptions in Nyiragongo occur when the pressure of accumulated magma or an earthquake pushes open fractures in the mountain’s flanks, resulting in the catastrophic draining of the lava lake or the release of magma stored further down.
Individual eruptions, like the volcanoes that produce them, have distinct behaviors and attributes, and no two are same. Monitoring volcanoes for indicators of impending paroxysms is very tough, and Nyiragongo’s current flare-up is a prime example of these problems.
Nyiragongo’s summit crater tends to fill up with magma between eruptions, and it has been doing so since the 2002 eruption. A second vent emerged at the top in 2016. Volcanologists brought in by UN forces who protected the scientists from armed rebels in the area noted the lava lake was filling up quicker than ever in 2020. Scientists are unsure if the height of the lava lake is a sign of the volcano’s preparedness to erupt.
The Goma Volcano Observatory recorded an increase in seismic activity at the summit on May 10, 2021. This was maybe indicative of magma moving about at shallow depths, but it was not a sure sign of an impending eruption.
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