Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fledgling Mantle Plume May Be Cause Of African Volcano's Unique Lava

Date:
March 20, 2009
Source:
University of Rochester
Summary:
Nyiragongo, an active African volcano, possesses lava unlike any other in the world, which may point toward its source being a new mantle plume says a geochemist. The lava composition indicates that a mantle plume -- an upwelling of intense heat from near the core of the Earth -- may be bubbling to life beneath the soil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Nyiragongo, an active African volcano, possesses lava unlike any other in the world, which may point toward its source being a new mantle plume says a University of Rochester geochemist. The lava composition indicates that a mantle plume—an upwelling of intense heat from near the core of the Earth—may be bubbling to life beneath the soil of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"This is the most fluid lava anyone has seen in the world," says Asish Basu, professor of earth science at the University of Rochester. "It's unlike anything coming out of any other volcano. We believe we're seeing the beginning of a plume that is pushing up the entire area and contributing to volcanism and earthquakes."

Basu analyzed the lava, which resides in the world's largest lava lake—more than 600 feet wide inside the summit of Nyiragongo—and found that the isotopic compositions of neodymium and strontium are identical to ancient asteroids. This suggests, says Basu, that the lava is coming from a place deep inside the Earth where the source of molten rock is in its pristine condition.

Because the Earth's crust is undergoing constant change via tectonic motion, weathering, and resurfacing, its chemical composition has been dramatically altered over its 4-billion-year lifespan, but the Nyiragongo magma source in the deep mantle has not, says Basu. That magma source is thought to retain some of the solar system's original make-up of elements, and this is what Basu and his colleagues believe they have detected in Nyiragongo's lava lake.

Scientists believe mantle plumes can last hundreds of millions of years, and that their heat can create phenomena such as Yellowstone National Park or the string of Hawaiian Islands. Basu says Nyiragongo's frequent eruptions may be the birthing pains of a similar plume and the possible beginning of new large-scale geological formations in the region.

Basu says other well known features of the region also point toward the idea of a growing plume. Nyiragongo lies on a vast ring of volcanoes and fissures that wrap around Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, and inside this ring the land is domed upward more than a mile above sea level. Basu believes the head of the plume is pooling in this region, pushing it upward like a 500-mile-wide air bubble in a pie crust.

But it is Nyiragongo, says Basu, that is being fed directly from the plume. Another volcano, Nyamuragira, just 15 miles to the north of Nyiragongo displays much more conventional lava compositions. Basu says this is because Nyamuragira is being fed from the edge of where the plume's head is pooling, mixing in elements of melted crust and upper mantle, whereas Nyiragongo is being fed directly from the plume's main body. Together the two mountains are responsible for approximately 40 percent of all of Africa's volcanic eruptions.

"This is a very troubled region of the world, and we hope to be able to help better understand the conditions under which the people of that area must live," says Basu. Nyiragongo last erupted in 2002, sending its super-fluid lava down its slopes at more than 60 miles per hour toward the nearby town of Goma, destroying 4,500 buildings and leaving 120,000 homeless. Basu and other scientists hope that understanding the composition of the lava that feeds Nyiragongo may help ongoing worldwide scientific efforts to understand the hazards of the region.

The findings are presented in the current issue of the journal Chemical Geology. Basu's analysis was funded by the National Science Foundation. His colleagues were Ramananda Chakrabarti, research fellow at Harvard University, Alba Santo and Orlando Vaselli of the University of Florence, Italy, and Dario Tedesco of the University of Naples, Italy.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Rochester. "Fledgling Mantle Plume May Be Cause Of African Volcano's Unique Lava." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090313110733.htm>.
University of Rochester. (2009, March 20). Fledgling Mantle Plume May Be Cause Of African Volcano's Unique Lava. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090313110733.htm
University of Rochester. "Fledgling Mantle Plume May Be Cause Of African Volcano's Unique Lava." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090313110733.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pakistan's 'killer Mountain' Fails to Draw Tourists After Attack

Pakistan's 'killer Mountain' Fails to Draw Tourists After Attack

AFP (Sep. 12, 2014) In June 2013, 10 foreign mountaineers and their guide were murdered on Nanga Parbat, an iconic peak that stands at 8,126m tall in northern Pakisan. Duration: 02:34 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Solar Storm To Hit This Weekend, Scientists Not Worried

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) Two solar flares which erupted in our direction this week will arrive this weekend. The resulting solar storm will be powerful but not dangerous. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Ozone Layer Is Recovering, But It's Not All Good News

The Ozone Layer Is Recovering, But It's Not All Good News

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) The Ozone layer is recovering thickness! Hooray! But in helping its recovery, we may have also helped put more greenhouse gases out there. Hooray? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins