Seismic and volcanic hazards in Eritrea

Berhe Goitom, James Hammond, J M Kendall, Clive Oppenheimer, Ghebrebrhan Ogubazghi

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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The dramatic landscape of Eritrea is driven by large tectonic forces that are breaking apart the African continent. It lies at the northernmost extent of the East-Africa rift and due to these dynamic processes, volcanism and seismic activity are common in Eritrea. For example, in 1921 a local magnitude (ML) 5.8 earthquake badly damaged the city of Massawa. The Dubbi Volcano erupted in 1861 resulting in over 100 fatalities and more recently, on the 12th June 2011, Nabro volcano in the southern Red Sea region of Eritrea erupted with little warning. Ash plumes shut down regional air traffic and, together with lava flows affected local populations (12,000 people were evacuated and there were 7 fatalities). Despite these obvious impacts, little is known about the volcanic or seismic hazards in Eritrea. A recent collaboration between the Eritrea Institute of Technology and three UK universities (University of Bristol, Birkbeck, University of London and University of Cambridge) aims to address this. In 2011 UK and Eritrean scientists deployed an array of broadband seismometers across the country. From these data, together with historical data from religious transcripts dating back to 1400 and other regional deployments in the Horn of Africa we have developed a catalogue of historical seismicity in Eritrea. The resulting hazard map indicates a band of elevated hazard on the plate boundaries and around Massawa, Gulf of Zula, and Bada. Secondly, through a detailed study of geological, geophysical and satellite observations we have detailed the recent eruption of Nabro. This has led to an understanding of the volcano’s behaviour, which can be related to the six other unmonitored volcanoes in Eritrea. In the future it is hoped that our collaboration will lead to the establishment of a permanent seismic network in the country. This is important for academic research (understanding rifting in East-Africa), humanitarian needs (e.g., monitoring and hazard assessment), as well as for large infrastructure projects such as geothermal power (e.g., Alid), mining (e.g., Potash) and other infrastructure (e.g., ports around Tio and Massawa) within the active rift zones.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2016 International Conference on Eritrean Studies (ICES 2016) Proceedings
EditorsZemenfes Tsighe, Saleh Mahmud Idris, Yonas Mesfun Asfaha, Senai Andemariam, Rediet Kifle Taddese, Ghebrebrhan Ogubazghi
Place of PublicationEritrea
PublisherHdri Media
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9789994820016
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2018
EventInternational Conference on Eritrean Studies: Eritrean Studies: The Way Forward - Asmara, Eritrea
Duration: 20 Jul 201622 Jul 2016


ConferenceInternational Conference on Eritrean Studies
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