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Abstract

Erta ‘Ale volcano lies at the centre of the Erta ‘Ale rift segment in northern Afar, Ethiopia and hosts one of the few persistent lava lakes found on Earth in its summit caldera. Previous studies have reported anecdotal evidence of a correlation between lake activity and magmatic and tectonic events in the broader region. We investigated this hypothesis for the period 2000–15 by comparing a catalogue of regional events with changes in lake activity reconstructed from Earth Observation data. The lava lake underwent dramatic changes during the study period, exhibiting an overall rise in height with concomitant changes in geometry consistent with a change in heat energy balance. Numerous paroxysms occurred in the lake and in the north pit; a significant dyke intrusion with subsequent re-intrusions indicated a role for dykes in maintaining the lake. However, despite some coincidences between the paroxysms and regional events, we did not find any statistically significant relationship between the two on a timescale of days to weeks. Nevertheless, changes in lake activity have preceded the broad increase in regional activity since 2005 and we cannot rule out a relationship on a decadal scale.

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