Date of Award


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Geology (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences


Simon Carn


June 2011 saw the first historic eruption of Nabro volcano, one of an ongoing sequence of eruptions in the Afar-Red Sea region since 2005. It halted air travel in northern Africa, contaminated food and water sources, and displaced thousands from their homes. Due to its remote location, little was known about this event in terms of the quantity of erupted products and the timing and mechanisms of their emplacement. Geographic isolation, previous quiescence and regional civil unrest meant that this volcano was effectively unmonitored at the time of eruption, and opportunities for field study are limited. Using free, publicly available satellite data, I examined rates of lava effusion and SO2 emission in order to quantify the amount of erupted products and understand the temporal evolution of the eruption, as well as explore what information can be gleaned about eruption mechanisms using remote sensing data. These data revealed a bimodal eruption, beginning with explosive activity marked by high SO2 emission totalling 1824 - 2299 KT, and extensive ash fall of 270 - 440 km2. This gave way to a period of rapid effusion, producing a ~17 km long lava flow, and a volume of ~22.1 x 106 m3. Mass balance between the SO2 and lava flows reveals no sulfur 'excess', suggesting that nearly all of the degassed magma was extruded. The 2011 eruption of Nabro lasted nearly 6 weeks, and may be considered the second largest historic eruption in Africa. Work such as this highlights the importance of satellite remote sensing for studying and monitoring volcanoes, particularly those in remote regions that may be otherwise inaccessible.