Guest videos: East African Rift, Kilimanjaro, and the Danakil Depression

Perhaps you have seen interferograms from the recent great earthquake in Nepal? Earth scientists used satellite measurements of the ground, taken at different times, to show that an area about 120 x 50 km (75 x 31 miles) around Kathmandu was pushed up as much as 1 m (over 3 feet).

Contains Copernicus data (2015)/ESA/Norut/PPO.labs/COMET–ESA SEOM INSARAP study/LiveScience

Contains Copernicus data (2015)/ESA/Norut/PPO.labs/COMET–ESA SEOM INSARAP study/LiveScience


Interferometry is also very useful when monitoring changes in ground level due to volcanic activity even though such changes are too small and gradual for humans to notice.

The European Space Agency turned its satellites on the East African Rift, where the African continent is splitting apart, and discovered it is a very dynamic place.


In that video they are looking at the overall movement of the Earth. It’s also true that at a rift zone, cracks in the ground allow magma to reach the surface, which is why there are so many volcanoes here, including Longonot.

We have already looked at East African Rift volcano Oldoinyo Lengai in detail, and mentioned Ngorongoro, near Olduvai Gorge, while looking at caldera volcanoes. The Rift’s most beloved volcano – and also its highest – is Kilimanjaro, which has a deep fascination for human beings.


You won’t find such crowds at the lowest point in the East African Rift system – the Danakil Depression. This also one of the lowest points of land on Earth, as well as one of the hottest. It contains several volcanic vents, the most famous of which is Erta Ale.

Here’s a video – surprisingly artistic for such a bleak and hellish place – showing some of the Danakil’s scenery and more notable volcanoes. Wait – it’s not bleak at all. Some amazing people live there!

Finally, although no video is available, a large igneous province is also in the East African Rift – it was the January 2005 LIP of the month for some Earth scientists!

Categories: Sunday morning volcano

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