Lava lake activity over time at the Nyiragongo volcano.
Lava lake activity over time at the Nyiragongo volcano, Democratic Republic of Congo. (a) Photos of Nyragongo and its summit crater, with an active lava lake, taken by the Goma Volcano Observatory in November 2013 (left) and April 2014 (right). (b) Lava lake elevation (in meters above sea level) from historical field records and recent expeditions (1948-2020) and from the continuous estimates obtained via satellite radar data since 2006 (red line). Changes in lava lake and crater elevation are tied to eruptive activity, with major drops associated with flank eruptions in 1977, 2002, and 2021. The 2021 flank eruption was preceded by an increase that suggested pressurization within the volcano’s magma plumbing system. Credit: Barrière et al. [2022], Figure 1
Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent papers by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

Volcanic eruptions are often preceded by measurable changes, like seismicity, gas emissions, or variations in ongoing low-level eruptive activity.  These changes, which can aid in forecasting hazards for surrounding populations, can be difficult to detect at remote or inaccessible volcanoes.  At Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo, past flank eruptions have repeatedly devastated the densely populated city of Goma and its surroundings, mostly recently in May 2021.

Barrière et al. [2022] use satellite data, especially synthetic aperture radar, to quantitatively measure the level of the lava lake within Nyiragongo’s summit crater and determining the rate of lava effusion over time.  Variations in lava level and effusion rate correlate well with seismicity and indicate changes in subsurface dynamics and pressure within the volcano’s magma plumbing system.  These data offer an important tool to aid in forecasting periods of heightened hazard at this and similar volcanoes worldwide.

Citation: Barrière, J., Nicolas d’Oreye, , Smets, B., Oth, A., Delhaye, L., Subira, J., et al. (2022). Intra-crater eruption dynamics at Nyiragongo (D.R. Congo), 2002–2021. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 127, e2021JB023858.

—Michael Poland, Associate Editor, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth

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