The late Quaternary eruptive history of Meru volcano, northern Tanzania

Mary John Kisaka, Karen Fontijn, Ceven Shemsanga, Ines Tomasek, Sankaranna Gaduputi, Debaille Vinciane, Audray Delcamp, Matthieu Kervyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
33 Downloads (Pure)


Mt. Meru, in the northern Tanzania divergence zone within the East African Rift System, is a historically active volcano, with its last eruption in 1910 CE. The flank deposits of Meru are dominated by lava flows, debris avalanche deposits as well as major pyroclastic formations indicative of Plinian-style eruptions. The stratigraphy, spatial extent, and chronology of these pyroclastic deposits have, however, not been systematically studied. Here we report on the detailed reconstruction of the stratigraphy and eruptive dynamics of Late Quaternary Meru explosive eruptions, based on field investigations, geochronological and geochemical analyses. The findings indicate that Meru had at least three moderate-to-large-scale explosive eruptions over the past 40,000 years. The oldest Meru explosive event we recognize (MXP1) generated pyroclastic density currents (PDCs), while the second (MXP2) and the third, most intense explosive event (MXP3) generated both pyroclastic fallout and PDCs. Conventional radiocarbon dating of 6 palaeosols underlying MXP2 and MXP3, dated at ~34.1–38.5 ka cal BP and ~31.5–36.9 ka cal BP respectively, suggest these two eruptions may have followed each other relatively close in time. The compositional range of pumice lapilli of both MXP2 and MXP3 is limited to tephriphonolite-phonolite. Dispersal and thickness data of the better preserved and larger MXP3 deposits suggest a minimum bulk volume of 2.5 km3 of pumice fallout and 1.2 km3 of PDCs, respectively, which corresponds to a total erupted mass of at least 2.7 × 1012 kg and a magnitude of 5.4. Similar large-scale eruptions in the future would have a considerable impact on the nearby large urban population in Arusha city and its suburbs. This new information is, therefore, vital for the long-term volcanic hazard assessment in Northern Tanzania.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107314
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number107314
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'The late Quaternary eruptive history of Meru volcano, northern Tanzania'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this