Erta Ale volcano is a large basaltic shield volcano in the Erta Ale volcanic range in the central northern Danakil depression (NE Ethiopia). Erta Ale is one of the main attractions of the Danakil, and had become a popular tour destination in recent years. In Ethiopia’s Afar region—where three tectonic plates wrench themselves apart deep underground—molten rock often bubbles up to the surface, sustaining a network of volcanoes and volcanic fissures. On November 5, 2008, reports emerged about new volcanic activity in this region, including a fresh lava flow.
The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured images before and after the eruption. These images are made from a combination of visible and near-infrared light. In both images, the Dalaffilla summit appears ghostly white, thanks to a rock composition that differs from those in the surrounding area. Old lava flows appear in varying shades of purple-brown. The fresh lava flow produced in early 2008 appears much darker than most of the rest of the landscape.
The lava erupted from somewhere in the Erta Ale Range. Other active volcanoes in the region include Dalaffilla and Alu. The lava appears to have erupted from fissures between these volcanoes. Dalaffilla Volcano is a stratovolcano composed of alternating layers of hardened lava, solidified ash, and rocks ejected by previous eruptions.
Image created by Jesse Allen, using data provided courtesy of NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team. Caption by Michon Scott edited by Alireza Taravat.