Erta Ale Volcano | John Seach


Afar, Ethiopia

13.60 N, 40.67 E,
summit elevation 613 m
Shield Volcano

Erta Ale is a desert shield volcano. The name refers to a volcano as well as a mountain range. The base of the volcano is 75 m below sea level in the desert. Erta Ale volcano has an active lava lake which may have been present for as long as 80 years.

Records of the volcano date to the 1600's, but a lava lake was only identified in 1960's. The Afar language calls it "smoking mountain" which indicates it has been active for a long time. The Afar region is the only place on earth where a tectonic triple junction is located above sea level (Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and African Rift Valley).

Erta Ale volcano can be considered equivalent to submarine spreading ridges. The Erta Ale Range is 95 km long and 50 km wide. Erta Ale volcano has feature similar to the Hawaiian volcanoes of Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The caldera is 1.6 km x 0.7 km in diameter and two pit craters are often filled by lava lakes.

The summit of Erta Ale is occupied by an ellipse-shaped sink elongated NNW-SSE (1600 X 700 m). Its northern end contains two pit-craters. The sink probably resulted from three collapse-structures. The northern one corresponds to the main pit crater. The southern and central pits could either corresponds to an ancient pit, or to a simple collapse structure. The main pit-crater, 200 m deep and 350 m across, is sub circular and three storied. The smaller southern pit is 65 m wide and about 100 m deep.

A large collapse structure is located South of Erta Ale volcano. It consist of an elliptic sink-hole (3.1 x 1.8 km).

2013 Eruptions
Erta Ale remains active in January 2013 with satellite images showing hotspots over the volcano.

Further reading
Xu, W., Xie, L., Aoki, Y., Rivalta, E. and Jónsson, S., 2020. Volcano‐wide deformation after the 2017 Erta Ale dike intrusion, Ethiopia, observed with radar interferometry. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth125(8), p.e2020JB019562.

Sawyer, G.M., Oppenheimer, C., Tsanev, V.I. and Yirgu, G., 2008. Magmatic degassing at Erta'Ale volcano, Ethiopia. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research178(4), pp.837-846.

Oppenheimer, C., McGonigle, A.J.S., Allard, P., Wooster, M.J. and Tsanev, V., 2004. Sulfur, heat, and magma budget of Erta ‘Ale lava lake, Ethiopia. Geology32(6), pp.509-512.

Barberi, F., Cheminee, J.L. and Varet, J., 1973. Long-lived lava lakes of Erta Ale volcano. Rev. Geogr. Phys. Geol. Dyn15, pp.347-351.

Barberi, F. and Varet, J., 1970. The Erta Ale volcanic range (Danakil depression, northern afar, Ethiopia). Bulletin Volcanologique34(4), pp.848-917.

Erta Ale Volcano Eruptions

1967-2021, 1960, 1940, 1906, 1904?, 1903?, 1873?