Watch Mt. Nyiragongo

Goma, Congo and Lake Kivu

One night in 1986 heavy rain pounded the land around Lake Nyos in Cameroon. A local health care worker named Emmanuel Ngu Mbi took shelter in the village of Wum and slept. The next morning he hopped onto his bicycle and began pedaling. He saw an antelope lying dead along the path, and then rats, dogs, other animals. At the next village he was astounded to see dead bodies everywhere.

Overnight a cloud of carbon dioxide, which is heavier than air, escaped from a fault, a volcanic vent that ran under the lake. The carbon dioxide displaced the air, crept along the ground and in all, some 1746 people and all their livestock were asphyxiated. This was what geologists call a limnic eruption. 

Mt. Nyiragongo erupted on 22 May and scientists predict a further eruption which could come, as eruptions often do, with earthquakes. Mt. Nyiragongo looms over the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda at 11,385 feet, abutting the Congolese town of Goma and a short distance from the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi. Perhaps 750,000 people live in the area, and around a million more at the other end of the lake, in the DRC’s Bukavu.

Lake Kivu

Both Goma and Gisenyi share a pretty shoreline along Lake Kivu, a deep lake at the bottom of which lie layers of carbon dioxide and methane. Should any kind of disruption sufficiently disturb these lower layers, say, an underwater landslide brought on by seismic activity caused by Nyiragongo, accumulated, released gases could create clouds of CO2, like at Nyos. Mt. Nyiragongo is perhaps a dozen miles north of Lake Kivu.

Should that happen, limnologist Sally MacIntyre of the University of California, Santa Barbara says, “it would be completely catastrophic.” Whereas the Lake Nyos eruption released about a cubic mile of carbon dioxide, scientists reckon Lake Kivu contains 300 cubic kilometres. 

Meanwhile tens of thousands of residents of Goma and Gisenyi are on the move because the military governor of Congo’s North Kivu province, Lt. Gen. Constant Ndima Kongba said Thursday,

“Based on … scientific observations, we cannot currently rule out an eruption on land or under the lake. And this could happen with very little, or no, warning.”

Gisenyi, Rwanda

Iceland Volcano Webcam

Click the photo for a great webcam feed of the little volcano on the Reykjanes peninsula in Iceland.

Looking Up in Svalbard

After it’s annual four month absence, the sun returned to Longyearbyen, Svalbard yesterday.

Read about it in Svalbard’s English language newspaper Ice People.

Every Second Is a Day

No, that’s not a reflection on life under Coronavirus lockdown (though some days it might be). It’s an explanation of how this absorbing compilation of images of the sun works. NASA has compiled 425 million high-resolution images into a one hour “decade in the life of the sun.”

Sky Photography from Miguel Claro

I commend to you the work of Miguel Claro, Portuguese photographer. Here’s a screen grab of some of his work. Click through to his site.

Remarkable, Too

Here is a video that displays the rotation of the earth. From BoingBoing,

“Eric created this time-lapse by using a star-tracker with his camera. A star-tracker rotates the camera at the same speed as the Earth, but in the opposite direction. It has the visual effect of stabilizing the sky. Usually, star-trackers are used to stabilize the camera during a long exposure, to avoid blurry or streaked stars in the image.”

Annular Solar Eclipse

Visible Christmas night US time across Indonesia, southern India, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Click this screen grab for video from Slooh.

Happy Summer Solstice

A midsummer ceremony at Stonehenge.

“The summer solstice occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer, or 23.5 degrees north latitude. This will occur at exactly 11:54 am Eastern on Friday the 21st.”

Here is more from Vox.

Here is a live feed from Stonehenge.

Dramatic Rift This Week

In geology, a rift is a tearing apart of the earth’s surface due to tectonic activity. Here are two photos of a rift, a physical tear in the earth, along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at Þingvellir National Park, Iceland, where the North American and Eurasian Plates are moving apart. We visited and talked about Þingvellir in Out in the Cold. If you’ll remind me, I’ll excerpt that portion of the book in a separate post.

There have been dramatic happenings in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley over the last several days. Last week, the split you can see in the reports below wasn’t there:

Equinox in Ecuador

Happy Vernal Equinox, the day of the year when the sun is directly over the equator. Its direct rays are northbound, coming to warm the northern hemisphere for our local summer.

Balancing an egg on the equinox, when the sun is directly overhead, is supposed to demonstrate the temporary lack of the Coriolis effect. That this is true is thoroughly debunked around the internet. In March of 1997, though, while on the equator in Ecuador, I saw it done. Was this man just good at balancing things? Was it a trick egg? You decide. I’m believing my lying eyes. Regardless, a bit of good fun.