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Pictures from an eruption

The erupting lava lake at Erta Ale

The erupting lava lake at Erta Ale Lorraine Field

The eruption at night

The eruption at night Lorraine Field

7 December 2010

Scientists from Bristol were among a group visiting the Afar Rift in Ethiopia in November when a volcano in the region began erupting – the first time that scientists have witnessed such an occurrence there.

Lorraine Field, a PhD student in the Department of Earth Sciences, took photographs and video clips of the eruption, which is the latest event in a long process that may ultimately lead to the birth of a new ocean. Bristol is one of the members of the Afar Rift Consortium, an international group studying this rupture in the earth’s surface (see the news item from 2008 for further details).

Erta Ale is a remote volcano in the north of Afar – one of five volcanoes within the Erta Ale magmatic segment, which forms a land continuation of a rift in the Red Sea. The volcano hosts a long-lived lava lake, one of only five known lava lakes in the world. This lake usually sits within a deep pit around 30 metres below the level of the main crater, but on 21 November, the lava lake erupted, spilling lava into the main crater.

‘Just before the eruption, an earthquake swarm was recorded in the Gulf of Aden,’ said Field. ‘One of the questions we’re now investigating is whether there is a connection between the two events.’

Further details and images are available in a downloadable pdf, 'Observations from Erta Ale'.

Further information

The Afar Rift Consortium involves scientists from the universities of Bristol, Leeds, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Oxford and has links with others in the US, Ethiopia, France and New Zealand.