Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Volcano under the City" (Mount Nyiragongo in eastern Congo)

PBS Nova has a film “Volcano under the City”, documenting the risk to the town of Goma in the eastern Congo from Mount Nyiragongo (11,340 feet).  The website is here

The volcano had erupted in January 2002.

There have been incidents where villagers near small ponds or lakes have been suffocated by carbon dioxide accumulating on the ground. CO2 is heavier than air so it can sit on the ground. This might even explain deaths of the first born during the Passover.

The volcano poses local risks in various areas as carbon dioxide sometimes accumulates on the ground near fissures, which natives, especially children, don’t see.

The film documents the technical aspects of the climb by Italian and French volcanologists, but also shows residents rebuilding in the path of likely lava flows.  Up to 2 million people could be displaced by another eruption.

But a major eruption could be one of the largest on Earth, comparable to Krakatoa or even Yellowstone.  Of course, better known cities at risk from massive volcanic eruptions are Seattle (Rainier, as in History Channel’s “American Volcano”, June 24, 2008) or Naples (Vesuvius).  
Wikipedia attribution link for aerial picture of Nyriagongo by Neil Wetmore, under Creative Commons Share-Alike Generic 2.0 license.