, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 99-115

Large magnitude silicic volcanism in north Afar: the Nabro Volcanic Range and Ma’alalta volcano

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Abstract

Much of the volcanological work carried out in north Afar (Ethiopia and Eritrea) has focused on the nature of Quaternary basaltic volcanic ranges, which have been interpreted by some as incipient oceanic ridges. However, we show here that comparable volumes of silicic magmas have been erupted in the region. In particular, the virtually undocumented Nabro Volcanic Range, which runs NNE for more than 100 km from the margin of the Danakil Depression to the Red Sea coast, has a subaerial volume of the order of 550 km3, comparable to the volume of the much better known Erta’Ale axial volcanic range. Nabro volcano itself forms part of an enigmatic double caldera structure with a neighbouring volcano, Mallahle. The twin caldera may have formed simultaneously with the eruption of between 20 and 100 km3 of ignimbrite, which is readily identified in Landsat Thematic Mapper imagery. This may have been the largest explosive eruption in north Afar, and is certain to have deposited a regionally distributed tephra layer which could in the future be located in distal sections as a stratigraphic marker. An integrated analysis of optical and synthetic aperture radar imagery, digital topographic data, field observations and limited geochemical measurements, permits here descriptions and first order inferences about the structure, stratigraphy and compositions of several major volcanoes of the Afar Triangle, and a reappraisal of their regional significance.

Editorial Responsibility: P. Mouginis-Mark