Dallol, in the Danakil Depression

Dallol, in the Danakil Depression

Dallol is a cinder cone volcano in the Danakil Depression, although its unique geology means it lacks any of the archetypal volcanic looks. Instead, Dallol is a canvas of bright green, reds, and yellows distributed across hundreds of hot acidic springs and mounds of salt deposits.

The hydrothermal activity below the Dallol crater is responsible for this kaleidoscopic landscape. As groundwater diffuses across from the highlands, it is heated by the magma below Dallol and pushed through the crater, dissolving salts and other minerals in the process. These minerals oxidize to create colourful, supersaturated hot springs. The intense heat of the Danakil then evaporates the water, leaving behind colourful salt formations that demarcate the springs.

The wild Dallol landscape is the result of ongoing geological processes, which means Dallol is an extremely dynamic landscape, with new springs and salt formations arising continuously. Although similar in appearance to colourful springs of America’s Yellowstone National Park, Dallol’s colours arise from inorganic, geological processes, rather than biological ones.

The intense heat of the Danakil Depression, combined with the extreme concentrations of salts, potash, and other minerals in the hot springs makes Dallol prime research ground for polyextremophile microbes, which may hold clues as to how life began on Earth, and how life might exist on other planets like Mars.

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