Geologists find cause of Limpopo mystery ‘volcano’

Geologists find cause of Limpopo mystery ‘volcano’

19 October 2016

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South Africa —  The villagers’ fears began earlier this year when a wetland in the centre of their village dried up.

But within weeks the ground began to smoke and then glow red, and flames appeared in places where water once was.

The fire brigade would extinguish the flames only for the fire to reappear days later.

Now, after intervention of two SA Geoscience Council geologists, the flames are gone and an explanation for the mystery has been provided.

According to Pieter Bosch and Neo Moabi, the drought and a veld fire were responsible for the mystery blaze.

In a report, Bosch and Moabi say the drought dried out the peat wetland and a veld fire set it alight.

Although the flames above the ground would be doused, the peat underneath would continue to smoulder, with the fire flaring once the drought had dried up the ground again.

The geologists dug trenches, filled them with water for a firebreak and the fire petered out.

Moabi and Bosch said in their council report that the drying of the peat was exacerbated by cattle overgrazing the area and the diversion of water from the wetland for farming.

“The above-normal temperatures and prolonged drought caused the ignition of the peat by a veld fire,” they said on the council’s website.

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