Mount Nyiragongo

Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano that is located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This volcano is part of the Virunga Mountains and is located in Virunga National Park. It reaches an elevation of 11,385 feet and has a crater that reaches 1.2 miles in width. This crater typically holds a lava lake that has varied between 2,000 and 10,660 feet in depth. It is not known how long this volcano has been active, but at least 34 eruptions have been recorded since 1882.

Mount Nyiragongo is often active, even for years at a time, and is distinguished from other volcanos in that it has extremely liquid lava that moves at a fast and dangerous rate. It is thought that the rate at which this lava travels is due to an alkali-rich chemical content. An eruption in 1977 cracked the crater that was holding the lava lake, causing it to completely drain in less than one hour. The lava flowed at over sixty miles an hour, killing at least seventy people and destroying many villages.

In 2002, after the lava lake had refilled, the fumarolic and seismic activity increased and and eruptions occurred shortly after. Although 400,000 thousand people were evacuated from the nearby city of Goma, about 147 died due to collapsing buildings and asphyxiation by carbon dioxide. More destruction occurred after the eruption, as earthquakes shook the area for about three months. A second eruption occurred in 2002, but current activity from the volcano is limited to the lava lake. Although the threat of another eruption does remain, high levels of carbon dioxide in the air near Mount Nyiragongo are thought to be the most dangerous threat at this time.

Image Caption: Mount Nyiragongo. Credit: Maik Bunschkowski/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)