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Gas-driven lava lake fluctuations at Erta 'Ale volcano (Ethiopia) revealed by MODIS measurements

Abstract : The long-lived lava lake of Erta 'Ale volcano (Ethiopia) is remotely monitored by moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometers (MODIS) installed on satellites. The Normalised Thermal Index (NTI) (Wright et al. Remote Sens Environ 82:135-155 2002) is shown to be proportional to the volume of the lava lake based on visual observations. The lava lake's variable level can be plausibly related to a stable foam, i.e. a mixture composed of densely packed non-coalescing bubbles in suspension within a liquid. This foam is trapped at the top of the magma reservoir, and its thickness changes in response to the gas flux feeding the foam being successively turned on and off. The temporal evolution of the foam thickness, and the resulting variation of the volume of the lava lake, is calculated numerically by assuming that the gas flux feeding the foam, initially constant and homogeneous since December 9, 2002, is suddenly stopped on December 13, 2002 and not restarted before May 2003. The best fit between the theoretical foam thickness and the level of the lava lake deduced from the NTI provides an estimate of both the reservoir radius, 155-170 m, and the gas flux feeding the foam, 5.5×10-3-7.2×10-3 m 3 s -1 when existing. This is in agreement with previous estimates from acoustic measurements (Bouche et al. Earth Planet Sci Lett 295:37-48 2010). The very good agreement between the theoretical foam thickness and that deduced from MODIS data shows for the first time the existence of a regime based on the behaviour of a stable foam, whose spreading towards the conduit ("wide" conduit condition), can explain the long-lived activity. Our predictive model, which links the gas flux at the vent to the foam spreading, could potentially be used on any volcano with a long-lived activity. The underlying gas flux and the horizontal surface area of the magma reservoir can then be deduced by combining modelling to continuous measurements of gas flux. The lava lake, when high, often shows regular rise and fall of its level. We have recognised a minimum of 26 very well marked cycles between January 2001 and December 13, 2002, corresponding to a typical return time of 10.8 ± 2.3 days and a gas volume of 8.3×105 ± 2.0×105 m 3. This corresponds to a gas volume fraction in the reservoir equal to 0.023-0.063 %. The yearly gas flux, estimated between December 13, 2002 and September 27, 2004, varies between 2.3×10-6 and 5.9×10-6 m 3 s -1 at the depth of the reservoir. The long-time series provided by infra-red sensors mounted on satellites could be used on any persistent volcano to detect potential periodic variations in the level of lava lakes or lava columns, providing that the vent has a funnel shape, as often, and is sufficiently large.
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Submitted on : Saturday, February 19, 2022 - 12:54:42 PM
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Sylvie Vergniolle, Emmanuella Bouche. Gas-driven lava lake fluctuations at Erta 'Ale volcano (Ethiopia) revealed by MODIS measurements. Bulletin of Volcanology, 2016, 78, 28 pp. ⟨10.1007/s00445-016-1047-y⟩. ⟨insu-03581301⟩

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