Volcanicity in the Eifel
If you mention the word “Eifel”, volcanoes usually come to mind.
Volcanic activity in the Eifel began around 45 million years ago. During this period, there were two major volcanic phases.
The first occurred during the tertiary geological era between 45 and 35 million years ago, and in geographical terms, focussed on the area between Ulmen and Adenau, also known as the Hocheifel volcanic field.
The second phase is still very recent. It began around one million years ago and lasted until around 10,000 years ago. During this period, three volcanic fields were created in the Eifel in different places and at different times: the tertiary Hocheifel volcanic field and the quaternary volcanic fields in the East and West Eifel.
Around 45 million years ago, the first volcanoes in the Eifel erupted as a result of the major expansion of the Earth’s crust during the formation of the Alps. Over 400 tertiary volcanoes have been recorded in the Hocheifel volcanic field between Ulmen and Adenau. The Arensberg volcano near Hillesheim is a witness to this phase.
The volcanic fields in the East and West Eifel are clearly separated from each other by this volcanic field in the Hocheifel.
During the quaternary period (from about 2.6 million years ago), the landscape of the Eifel we know today was created. The Rhenish slate mountains rose at an increasing rate, and rivers cut deep into the landscape. The cause of the vulcanism in this phase was the formation of a “(mantle) plume”. This is a zone of heated stone in the earth’s mantle, below the earth’s crust of the Eifel. It has been shown that this is where the magma of the Eifel volcanoes originates.
Around 700,000 years ago, volcanic activity began, first in the West Eifel. Between Bad Bertrich in the south-east and Ormont in the north-west, there is a row of quaternary volcanoes about 50 kilometres long. Today, this region is a part of the UNESCO volcanic Eifel geopark.
The most well-known volcano forms in the West Eifel are the Eifel maars, which are occasionally filled with water and contain a maar lake.
In the East Eifel, vulcanism began around 500,000 years ago in the area of what is now the Laacher See lake, and extends through to the Neuwieder Becken. The quantity of basalt lava, pumice and ash tuff was far higher here than in the West Eifel. The vulcanism in the East Eifel culminated in a violent volcanic eruption. Below the earth’s surface, a huge magma chamber formed. The chamber below the Laacher See lake had a volume of over 6 cubic kilometres.
The entire magma chamber emptied, and a 40-kilometre ash cloud stood over the volcano, glowing ash clouds scudded over the land and almost 15 cubic kilometres of pumice and ash were distributed over the area. The remainder of the existing earth’s crust collapsed, and a huge hole was created, which filled up with water, and which is now the Laacher See lake. An animated display in the Lava Dome gives visitors the chance to experience this volcanic eruption.
The volcanic field in the East Eifel is today protected as part of the Laacher See national geopark. The many volcano park info points demonstrate “Living and working with volcanic stones”. Historic mines, tunnels and quarries document life with this volcanic heritage.