Is Mount Kilimanjaro an Active Volcano?

In case you didn’t know, Mount Kilimanjaro is a volcano. Kilimanjaro’s cone, Kibo, is a dormant volcano. According to science, a dormant volcano does have the potential to erupt in the future. On the other hand, this shouldn’t deter you from climbing to its summit. It has been a long time since Mount Kilimanjaro erupted.

kilimanjaro erupting

When is the last time Kilimanjaro erupted? In order to answer that question, we need to look at the mountain itself. Kilimanjaro is actually three volcanic cones. They are Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. Mawenzi and Shira are extinct whereas Kibo is categorized as a dormant volcano.

According to research, Shira was the first of the cones to erupt. Once it stopped, Mawenzi formed and continued to erupt. Finally, when Mawenzi ceased to spew forth ash, gases, and lava, Kibo took its place.

Extinct vs. Dormant

What is the difference between volcanos listed as extinct versus dormant? An extinct volcano means that scientists believe that most likely will not erupt. It also means that it has been more than 10,000 years since its last eruption. When a volcano hasn’t erupted in historical times it is classified as dormant (inactive).

Conversely, if it is erupting then it is listed as active. An example of an extremely active volcano is Kilauea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Pavlof near the end of the Alaskan Peninsula is also a very active volcano. It has erupted more than 24 times in the last 100 years.

Active Volcanos Map

Will Kibo erupt again?

It is hard to tell. But the fact that it is dormant means there is a possibility of it erupting in the future. An example of a dormant volcano erupting is Mount Vesuvius which destroyed Pompeii. It is actually a very active volcano. That has had eight major eruptions in the last 17,000 years. Kibo is considered dormant since it hasn’t erupted since 1944.

A theory is that once the glaciers on top of Kilimanjaro melt, which scientists believe will happen in the next 30 years, the cone will no longer be cooled by the ice. They speculate that Kibo may roar back to life.

It is also theorized that Ol Doinyo Lengai, a Stratovolcano, similar to Kilimanjaro is the volcanic vent for Kibo.

Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano

Ol Doinyo Lengai
Ol Doinyo Lengai sits at 2,890 meters or 9,481 feet. Its approximately 100 miles Northwest of Kilimanjaro.

Current status: minor activity or eruption warning (3 out of 5)

Last update: 27 Aug 2021

Activity Description: Effusion of natrocarbonatite lava inside the pit crater in the northern main crater

Typical eruption style: Explosive activity. In addition, at least during the past 30 years near-continuous effusion and mildly explosive eruption of natrocarbonatite lava from vents inside the crater, sometimes overflowing over the rim, is taking place.

Ol Doinyo Lengai, an asymmetrical, steep classical stratovolcano rises majestically about 6,500 feet from the East Africa Rift Valley depression to a summit elevation of 9,481 ft.

natrocarbonatites
Natrocarbonatites

Tanzania Volcanos

Burko (Stratovolcano 2136 m / 7008 ft)

Embagai  (Caldera 3220 m / 10564 ft)

Gelai  (Shield 2942 m / 9652 ft)

Hanang  (Stratovolcano 3418 m / 11214 ft)

Igwisi Hills  (Tuff cones unknown summit elevation)

Izumbwe-Mpoli  (Pyroclastic cones 1568 m / 5,144 ft)

Katete  (Stratovolcano 2481 m / 8140 ft)

Kerimasi  (Stratovolcano 2600 m / 8530 ft)

Ketumbeine  (Shield 2942 m / 9652 ft)

Kilimanjaro  (Stratovolcano 5895 m (19,340 ft))

Kwaraha  (Stratovolcano 2415 m / 7923 ft)

Kyejo  (Stratovolcano 2175 m / 7,136 ft)

Loolmalasin  (Unknown 3627 m / 11900 ft)

Meru  (Stratovolcano 4565 m / 14,977 ft)

Ngorongoro  (Caldera 2376 m / 7795 ft)

Ngozi  (Caldera 2622 m / 8,602 ft)

Ol Doinyo Lengai  (Stratovolcano 2890 m )

Olmoti  (Caldera 3099 m / 10167 ft)

Rungwe  (Stratovolcano 2956 m / 9,698 ft)

Sadiman  (Stratovolcano 2865 m / 9400 ft)

SW Usangu Basin (Lava domes 2179 m / 7,149 ft)

Tukuyu (Shield 1541 m / 5056 ft)

Usangu Scarp Basalt (Pyroclastic cone 1690 m / 5545 ft)

Ol Doinyo Lengai Eruptions

Estimated

Recorded

  • 1550 BC
  • 50 AD
  • 700 AD
  • 1350 AD
  • 1880
  • 1882
  • 1904
  • 1907
  • 1914
  • 1916
  • 1921
  • 1926
  • 1940
  • 1954
  • 1955
  • 1958
  • 1960
  • 1967
  • 1983
  • 1994
  • 2006
  • 2007-Ongoing

In addition, The Maasai people believe Ol Doinyo Lengai is the home of God, which is also the meaning of the name.

Ol Doinyo Lengai is the only active volcano that erupts carbonatite lava. Scientists made this discovery as recently as the 1960s. They concluded that the lavas are not melting silica, but rather natroncarbonate.

That is to say, the temperatures of Ol Doinyo Lengai lava are much lower at 1,100° Fahrenheit versus other volcanoes which produce lava around 2,000° F.

Furthermore, Lengai’s lava does not emit enough light to glow during the day—only at night—the dull reddish glow has only a faint illumination.

Also because of its peculiar chemical composition, the lava is extremely fluid and behaves very much like water, with the exception that it is as black as oil. After it cools, it becomes a whitish powder.

Geologically, the present-day cone was formed approximately 15,000 years ago. Historical eruptions have been moderate to small explosive events. Also, its intermittent explosive activity occurs at intervals of typically years or decades. Numerous natrocarbonitite lava flows have erupted from vents on the floor of the active summit crater.

Is it safe to Climb Kilimanjaro?

Getting back to Kilimanjaro, it is safe to climb.? Are you worried that it may erupt? Then book your trek sooner than later before the glaciers melt and the scientific conjecture is put to the test.

Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius

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