The Nyiragongo volcano in Congo erupted on January 17, 2002, and
subsequently sent streams of lava into the city of Goma on the north
shore of Lake Kivu. More than 100 people were killed, more than 12,000
homes were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands were forced to flee the
broader community of nearly half a million people.
This computer-generated visualization combines a Landsat satellite
image and an elevation model from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission
(SRTM) to provide a view of both the volcano and the city of Goma,
looking slightly east of north. Additionally, image data from the
Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER)
on NASA's Terra satellite were used to supply a partial map of the
recent lava flows (red), including a complete mapping of their intrusion
into Goma as of January 28, 2002. Lava is also apparent within the
volcanic crater and at a few other locations. Thick (but broken) cloud
cover during the ASTER image acquisition prevented a complete mapping of
the lava distribution, but future image acquisitions should complete the
Nyiragongo is the steep volcano on the right, Lake Kivu is in the
foreground, and the city of Goma has a light pink speckled appearance
along the shoreline. Nyiragongo peaks at about 3,470 meters (11,380
feet) elevation and reaches almost exactly 2,000 meters (6,560 feet)
above Lake Kivu. The shorter but broader Nyamuragira volcano appears in
the left background. Topographic expression has been exaggerated
vertically by a factor of 1.5 for this visualization.
Goma, Lake Kivu, Nyiragongo, Nyamuragira and other nearby volcanoes
sit within the East African Rift Valley, a zone where tectonic processes
are cracking, stretching, and lowering the earth's crust. Volcanic
activity is common here, and older but geologically recent lava flows
(magenta in this depiction) are particularly apparent on the flanks of
the Nyamuragira volcano. The Landsat image used here was acquired on
December 11, 2001, about a month before the eruption, and shows an
unusually cloud-free view of this tropical terrain. Minor clouds and
their shadows were digitally removed to clarify the view, topographic
shading derived from the SRTM elevation model was added to the Landsat
image, and a false sky was added.
Size: View width 21 kilometers (13 miles), View distance 42 kilometers (26 miles)
Location: 1.5 degrees South latitude, 29.3 degrees East longitude
Orientation: View east-northeast, 5 degrees below horizontal
Image Data: Landsat Bands 3, 2, 1 as red, green, blue, respectively. ASTER Band 12 (thermal) shown as red overlay.
Original Data Resolution: SRTM 1 arcsecond (30 meters or 98 feet), Landsat 30 meters (98 feet). ASTER (thermal) 90 meters (295 feet).
Date Acquired: February 2000 (SRTM), December 11, 2001 (Landsat), January 28, 2002 (ASTER)
When the African volcano Nyiragongo erupted unusually fluid lava in January 2002, nearly 500,000 Congo citizens were displaced, and dozens were killed. The lava did not erupt from the central crater, but instead ran from fissures along the southern slopes, just north of the city of Goma.
In central Africa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sit two volcanoes: Nyiragongo and Nyamuragira. Besides their proximity to Lake Kivu in the south, these volcanoes share the capacity for destruction, each having produced its share of catastrophic eruptions since the early twentieth century. Yet these volcanoes differ markedly from each other, one being a low-profiled structure rising subtly from the plain, and the other sporting steep slopes.