Erta Ale is an isolated basaltic shield volcano that is the most active volcano in Ethiopia. The broad, 50-km-wide volcano rises more than 600 m from below sea level in the barren Danakil depression. Erta Ale is the namesake and most prominent feature of the Erta Ale Range. The 613-m-high volcano contains a 0.7 x 1.6 km, elliptical summit crater housing steep-sided pit craters. Another larger 1.8 x 3.1 km wide depression elongated parallel to the trend of the Erta Ale range is located to the SE of the summit and is bounded by curvilinear fault scarps on the SE side.
Fresh-looking basaltic lava flows from these fissures have poured into the caldera and locally overflowed its rim. The summit caldera is renowned for one, or sometimes two long-term lava lakes that have been active since at least 1967, or possibly since 1906. Recent fissure eruptions have occurred on the northern flank of Erta Ale.
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