NYALHA (2012-2015)

NYALHA – Dynamics of volcanic activity related to Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira volcanoes (North Kivu, D.R.C.), studied by means of remote sensing and ground-based monitoring techniques


DURATION: 2012-2015 (4 years)


PhD Candidate: B. Smets
ECGS Supervisor: Dr. N. d’Oreye
VUB Supervisor: Dr. M. Kervyn
RMCA Supervisor: Dr. F. Kervyn


  • AFR PhD Grant n°3221321, FNR (Luxembourg)
  • Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium)


Nyiragongo volcano (Virunga Volcanic Province, North Kivu, D.R. Congo) hosts the largest (semi-) permanent lava lake (~200m-wide) on Earth. It is also probably the most dangerous volcano in Africa as it directly threatens ± 1 million persons. Its highly fluid silica-undersaturated lava can flows at several tens of km/h even on gentle slopes (Tazieff, 1977). During the only two known historical flank eruptions (1977 and 2002), the lava lake drained and fed >10km-long flows that destroyed entire villages and a part of the city of Goma within few hours. The neighbouring volcano, Nyamulagira, is also very active, with one eruption every one to four years. If this volcano is less directly dangerous for the local population, its major eruptive events are able to influence the Nyiragongo activity.

NYALHA is a PhD project funded by the FNR through the AFR PhD Grant Scheme (AFR Grant n°3221321) and is performed at the European Center for Geodynamics & Seismology, in collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium) and the Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium). This project focuses on the study of the mechanisms that control the eruptive activity of Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira, in order to help better assess the potential impact of new lava flows.

In a first part, the geological and structural setting of the Virunga Volcanic Province will be reviewed and reinterpreted in the light of modern concepts and recent observations, in order to highlight the parameters that influence the volcanic activity.

The second part will focus on the reconstruction of past volcanic activity and hence contribute to assess the potential impact of future events.

The third part is dedicated to the study of the current activity. Available monitoring techniques (geodetic, seismic, geochemical) will be complemented with an innovative combination of close-range photogrammetry and stereographic time-lapse camera technique providing the first quantitative measurements of the Nyiragongo lava lake activity.

Results will be used to improve eruption scenarios, map eruption susceptibility and calculate the probability of lava flow invasion, using existing and improved lava flow simulation models.

Associated projects: Vi-X Project, GeoRisCA Project