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.

Rumbles Around Reykjavik

Iceland Review reported yesterday that

An intense earthquake swarm started on the Reykjanes Peninsula on February 24th with an earthquake M5.7 followed by an M5.0. Since then, quite a few earthquakes over M4.0 have been detected and two earthquakes over M5.0, occurring on February 27 and March 1. The swarm is still ongoing and the SIL system has detected around 15,000 earthquakes in the area. At 2.12 AM today, an M4.1 magnitude earthquake was detected around 2 km SSW of Keilir. At 11:05 AM an earthquake M3.8 was detected 1 km SW of Keilir.

Reykjanes Peninsula is the most populated part of the country, with the capital Reykjavik in its northeast, and Keflavik, the location of Iceland’s international airport, in the far west.

From Iceland Monitor, click in the photo above for a live camera trained on Keilir mountain. They say “This is the area where an eruption is considered likely.”

In 2010, an ash cloud from eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano disrupted air travel across the Atlantic for about a month, costing the airline industry around US$1.7 billion (£1.1 billion, €1.3 billion), IATA says

In this case, Iceland Review thinks,

If an eruption is to occur on the Reykjanes peninsula, it will likely produce lava but no ash and won’t threaten inhabited areas.

Wet

The second hurricane of 2018 will come calling across Georgia today. In the run-up, the trees are loud with wind, and clouds barrel in fast and low. It looks a lot like what started out innocently as a long weekend at pretty little Lake Atitlan in Guatemala a few years back (from ATL, this is a shorter flight than to SFO). By the time it was over we’d fled a tropical storm back to the capital, then had to evacuate to El Salvador after a volcanic eruption.

Tropical Storm Agatha crept up from behind, from the Pacific, while nobody was looking, and walloped Guatemala. This bridge collapsed a few hours after we crossed, trapping people on the wrong side of it for several days.

Streets flooded.

This post describes our evacuation from the lake back to Guatemala City, and here is a post titled Mostly Calamity, As It Turns Out, dated May 29, 2010, with more photos.

Meanwhile, and also unknown to us, it turns out that Volcan de Picaya erupted hours after we arrived on a Thursday closing the Guatemala City airport due to volcanic ash until the following Tuesday. Flights backed up and our first shot at leaving wasn’t for several days, so we arranged transportation to El Salvador and managed to fly home just three days late.

Here is wet volcanic ash and storm damage at a construction site adjacent to the hotel in Guatemala City.

It was supposed to be just a quiet weekend getaway at the lake.

 

Volcan Calbuco Eruption Today

Here, in quieter times, is the Calbuco volcano in the completely lovely Lakes District of Chile.

Calbuco

Here is dramatic YouTube video from today.

Best of luck to everybody in Puerto Varas, Puerto Montt and around.

Arctic Eclipse, March 2015

Eclipse

The countdown is on. Less than sixty days until we’re headed up to Svalbard for the 20 March total solar eclipse. At the North Pole itself, the sun returns after a polar night that has lasted 6 months and is eclipsed the same day. That’s just incredible, romantic, coincidental and, I’m guessing, utterly rare.

800 miles south of the pole, way down at 78.22 degrees north latitude, totality for those of us at Longyearbyen will last two minutes and twenty seven seconds, similar to the length of totality at Lake Balaton, Hungary, for the 11 August, 1999 eclipse, which is where the photo above comes from.

This is a real adventure trip with the possibility of seeing polar bears, the aurora borealis and later, a day trip to try to get close to the currently erupting volcano in Iceland, weather permitting. Much more to come.

Tambora: the Eruption that Changed the World

Who knew? Fascinating.