Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 72, Issue 8, pp 913–931 | Cite as

Fundamental changes in the activity of the natrocarbonatite volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, Tanzania

II. Eruptive behaviour during the 2007–2008 explosive eruptions
  • Matthieu KervynEmail author
  • Gerald G. J. Ernst
  • Jörg Keller
  • R. Greg Vaughan
  • Jurgis Klaudius
  • Evelyne Pradal
  • Frederic Belton
  • Hannes B. Mattsson
  • Evelyne Mbede
  • Patric Jacobs
Research Article


On September 4, 2007, after 25 years of effusive natrocarbonatite eruptions, the eruptive activity of Oldoinyo Lengai (OL), N Tanzania, changed abruptly to episodic explosive eruptions. This transition was preceded by a voluminous lava eruption in March 2006, a year of quiescence, resumption of natrocarbonatite eruptions in June 2007, and a volcano-tectonic earthquake swarm in July 2007. Despite the lack of ground-based monitoring, the evolution in OL eruption dynamics is documented based on the available field observations, ASTER and MODIS satellite images, and almost-daily photos provided by local pilots. Satellite data enabled identification of a phase of voluminous lava effusion in the 2 weeks prior to the onset of explosive eruptions. After the onset, the activity varied from 100 m high ash jets to 2–15 km high violent, steady or unsteady, eruption columns dispersing ash to 100 km distance. The explosive eruptions built up a ∼400 m wide, ∼75 m high intra-crater pyroclastic cone. Time series data for eruption column height show distinct peaks at the end of September 2007 and February 2008, the latter being associated with the first pyroclastic flows to be documented at OL. Chemical analyses of the erupted products, presented in a companion paper (Keller et al. 2010), show that the 2007–2008 explosive eruptions are associated with an undersaturated carbonated silicate melt. This new phase of explosive eruptions provides constraints on the factors causing the transition from natrocarbonatite effusive eruptions to explosive eruptions of carbonated nephelinite magma, observed repetitively in the last 100 years at OL.


Oldoinyo Lengai Explosive eruptions Effusive-explosive cycles Ash fallout Pyroclastic flows 



We are especially grateful to Benoît Wihelmi, Tim Leach and Tom Pfeiffer for providing and granting permission to use their spectacular pictures in this paper. We also thank all who contributed with observations, photos or field assistance that enabled following OL activity. This includes Thomas Holden, Michael Dalton-Smith, Jens Fissenebert and his staff, Gwynn Morson, Celia Nyamweru, Chris Weber, Christelle Wauthier and Benoit Smets. We are also grateful to Julie Albaric, Cindy Ebinger, Christelle Wauthier, Benoît Smets, François Kervyn and Nicolas d’Oreye for discussions about the July 2007 seismic swarm. We appreciated comments by two anonymous reviewers which greatly helped to improve the manuscript. We acknowledge fruitful discussions with Barry Dawson and Richard Ferdinand. MK and GGJE are supported by the Belgian NSF (FWO—Vlaanderen). JK and JK are supported by DFG project Ke 136/40.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthieu Kervyn
    • 1
    Email author
  • Gerald G. J. Ernst
    • 1
  • Jörg Keller
    • 2
  • R. Greg Vaughan
    • 3
  • Jurgis Klaudius
    • 4
    • 9
  • Evelyne Pradal
    • 5
  • Frederic Belton
    • 6
  • Hannes B. Mattsson
    • 7
  • Evelyne Mbede
    • 8
  • Patric Jacobs
    • 1
  1. 1.Mercator & Ortelius Research Centre for Eruption Dynamics, Department of Geology and Soil ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  2. 2.Institut für Geowissenscahften, Mineralogie–GeochemieUniversität FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.Planetary Science InstituteTucsonUSA
  4. 4.Geowissenschaftliches Institut, Mineralogie-GeochemieUniversität FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  5. 5.SCITERREJuvignacFrance
  6. 6.Developmental Studies DepartmentMiddle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA
  7. 7.Institute of Geochemistry and PetrologySwiss Federal Institute of TechnologyZurichSwitzerland
  8. 8.Department of GeologyUniversity of Dar es SalaamDar es SalaamTanzania
  9. 9.Terratec Geophysical ServicesHeitersheimGermany

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