This volcano erupted without warning and it’s concerning

In May 2021, the Nyiragongo volcano suddenly erupted without producing any warning signs. Scientists explain this unusual but dangerous behavior.

In May last year, the Nyiragongo volcano, located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, entered into rash suddenly. Taken aback, the population had no choice but to flee the lava flows tumbling down the sides. The disaster killed several hundred people.

A rash without warning signs

However, the volcano had been closely monitored for six years by scientists who had placed numerous instruments around and on the volcano in order to detect the usual warning signs. In general, the volcanic eruptions are in fact preceded by abnormal seismic activity, swelling of the flanks, escapes of gas and fumaroles

These signals indicate that the magma chamber is filling up and the pressure Critically increases within the magma system. If the exact date and time of an eruption cannot be predicted with certainty, these elements nevertheless make it possible to warn populations against an imminent risk of an eruption.

However, the Nyiragongo did not emit any warning signal, causing the surprise of the populations but also of the scientists. So what happened?

A volcano “ready” to erupt for a long time

By looking into this question, researchers have shown that there was no malfunction of the monitoring equipment. On closer inspection, however, some signs were visible, but insufficient to trigger an alert. Level from the lava lake in the crater was rising slightly, but not unusually. A few cracks had appeared on the sides and small earthquake were felt just before the eruption, but these are normal behaviors for an active volcano.

To explain the absence of clear signals preceding the eruption, scientists suggest the fact that the volcano was already ready to erupt for a long time, the recharge in magma and the rise in pressure having been done gradually over time, thus going unnoticed. The magma was therefore already very close to the surface, which explains why the eruption was not preceded by the classic signs indicating its rise.

These results, published in Natureshow that each volcano is different and highlight light the need to individualize scientific equipment and alert procedures depending on the case.

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