Webpage by:
Theresa Kayzar “T.K.”

Nyiragongo Volcano
Supplying heat to Lake Kivu: Unable to be safely monitored...

Nyiragongo scenic

Nyiragongo Volcano


Virunga Volcanic Field, East-African rift system

20 km north of Lake Kivu

(Martinelli, 1991)

Unfortunately, Lake Kivu has many possible sources for heat flux, the primary source of concern being Nyiragongo volcano. Nyiragongo was first studied for its permanent lava lake. Only about a half a dozen lava lakes have been discovered, and few have been studied at any depth. Nyiragongo was difficult for volcanologists to reach because of bureaucratic reasons, and political situations (Tazieff, 1994).

volcanoes DRC

The most recent large eruption of Nyiragongo occurred in 2002
 147 people killed
 During this eruption lava flows moved through the city of Goma on the shores of Lake Kivu
destroying 13% of the city and approximately 12,000 to 15,000 homes
displaced hundreds of thousands of people
flows entered lake Kivu and posed a threat of releasing the CO2 and CH4 stored within the lake

(IRIS, 2002; Reed, 2002).

lava entering lake kivu nyiragongo lave in goma

Eruptive History


Drained lava lake, killed over 1,000 people because of fast moving flows


Rwandan refugees fleeing during eruption caused a lot of destruction


Lava flows through downtown Goma, reaches Lake Kivu, only to ~150 km depth

2002 - present

Constant activity, seismic tremors, smaller eruptions

 (Witze, 2002; Martinelli, 1991)

 Nyiragongo poses many potential hazards other than lava flows, such as Mazukus (“evil winds” in Swahili), which are low-lying locations with dry CO2 vents, volcanic ash, phreatomagmatic eruptions from the high water table, earthquakes, and the possibility of the degassing of Lake Kivu (Lockwood, 1994).

An Evolving Rift System

If the rift system continues to evolve underneath Lake Kivu and nearby Nyiragongo volcano, there is the possibility that lava may again break out in the city of Goma, or worse yet, underneath Lake Kivu (Reed, 2002). Possible fissures associated with rifting would be more hazardous than any prior volcanic eruption if they cause rollover within the lake. It is important to realize that although Lake Kivu has not overturned recently, the chance of occurrence still exits. It is when even well studied volcanoes depart from their “expected” behavior that hazards take place (Martinelli, 1991). Perfect examples are the catastrophic eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington which consisted of a lateral blast never before displayed by the volcano, the eruption of Mt. Unzen in Japan which killed volcanologists Maurice and Katja Krafft as well as many journalists in which a slightly larger than average pyroclastic flow was observed, and the previously described eruption of CO2 gas from Lake Nyos before which a large scale release of gas from a volcanic lake had never been seen.

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