Investigations into the degassing and eruption mechanisms of Nyamuragira volcano, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Africa)
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Geology (PhD)
College, School or Department Name
Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences
Simon Anthony Carn
One of two active volcanoes in the western branch of the East African Rift, Nyamuragira (1.408ºS, 29.20ºE; 3058 m) is located in the D.R. Congo. Nyamuragira emits large amounts of SO2 (up to ~1 Mt/day) and erupts low-silica, alkalic lavas, which achieve flow rates of up to ~20 km/hr. The source of the large SO2 emissions and pre-eruptive magma conditions were unknown prior to this study, and 1994-2010 lava volumes were only recently mapped via satellite imagery, mainly due to the region’s political instability. In this study, new olivine-hosted melt inclusion volatile (H2O, CO2, S, Cl, F) and major element data from five historic Nyamuragira eruptions (1912, 1938, 1948, 1986, 2006) are presented. Melt compositions derived from the 1986 and 2006 tephra samples best represent pre-eruptive volatile compositions because these samples contain naturally glassy inclusions that underwent less post-entrapment modification than crystallized inclusions. The total amount of SO2 released from the 1986 (0.04 Mt) and 2006 (0.06 Mt) eruptions are derived using the petrologic method, whereby S contents in melt inclusions are scaled to erupted lava volumes. These amounts are significantly less than satellite-based SO2 emissions for the same eruptions (1986 = ~1 Mt; 2006 = ~2 Mt). Potential explanations for this observation are: 1) accumulation of a vapor phase within the magmatic system that is only released during eruptions, and/or 2) syn-eruptive gas release from unerupted magma. Post-1994 Nyamuragira lava volumes were not available at the beginning of this study. These flows (along with others since 1967) are mapped with Landsat MSS, TM, and ETM+, Hyperion, and ALI satellite data and combined with published flow thicknesses to derive volumes. Satellite remote sensing data was also used to evaluate Nyamuragira SO2 emissions. These results show that the most recent Nyamuragira eruptions injected SO2 into the atmosphere between 15 km (2006 eruption) and 5 km (2010 eruption). This suggests that past effusive basaltic eruptions (e.g., Laki 1783) are capable of similar plume heights that reached the upper troposphere or tropopause, allowing SO2 and resultant aerosols to remain longer in the atmosphere, travel farther around the globe, and affect global climates.
Head, Elisabet Marie, "Investigations into the degassing and eruption mechanisms of Nyamuragira volcano, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Africa) ", Dissertation, Michigan Technological University, 2012.