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Report on Etna (Italy) — January 1992

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 1 (January 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Lava production continues from SE-flank fissure but explosive activity declines

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Etna (Italy). In: McClelland, L (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199201-211060.

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37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3295 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The following is from R. Romano. The SE-flank fissure eruption that began on 14 December was continuing as of early February. No notable decrease in the rate of lava effusion has been observed. Explosive activity along the eruptive fissure, which has been highly variable in intensity and duration, has mainly declined to sporadic ejections of lava fragments, limited expulsion of dark ash, and rare phreatomagmatic explosions. Strong gas emission was generally evident. Seismic activity has declined to isolated weak events.

The lava field in the SE flank's Valle del Bove has grown considerably, reaching a maximum width of 1.5 km in a few places, as flows from the N (dominantly) and S merged. Most of the lava was carried through a complex system of tubes originating at the main effusive vent, and emerged onto the lava field surface through numerous ephemeral secondary vents. These varied daily in number and position, and were concentrated in the middle of the lava field (around 1,550 m asl), but some have recently appeared at ~ 1,450 m altitude (at the base of Monte Zoccolaro, just before the break in slope at the Salto della Giumenta). Lava flows from the secondary vents generally advanced along the Salto della Giumenta, and were sometimes relatively continuous. In early February one of these reached, but did not surpass, the front of the eruption's longest flow, at 1,000 m elevation (in Val Calanna, ~6 km from the active fissure). Preliminary estimates indicate that > 6 km2 has been covered by ~55-60 x 106 m3 of new lava, an average volume for Etna's "slow eruption" type (Romano and Sturiale, 1982).

The summit craters remained open, emitting gases from small vents. High-temperature gas release was sometimes observed (as at the central crater's E vent, La Voragine, on 11 February). A little dark ash was recently emitted from the central crater's W vent (Bocca Nuova).

Geologic Background. Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily's second largest city, has one of the world's longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 BCE. Historical lava flows of basaltic composition cover much of the surface of this massive volcano, whose edifice is the highest and most voluminous in Italy. The Mongibello stratovolcano, truncated by several small calderas, was constructed during the late Pleistocene and Holocene over an older shield volcano. The most prominent morphological feature of Etna is the Valle del Bove, a 5 x 10 km horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the east. Two styles of eruptive activity typically occur, sometimes simultaneously. Persistent explosive eruptions, sometimes with minor lava emissions, take place from one or more summit craters. Flank vents, typically with higher effusion rates, are less frequently active and originate from fissures that open progressively downward from near the summit (usually accompanied by Strombolian eruptions at the upper end). Cinder cones are commonly constructed over the vents of lower-flank lava flows. Lava flows extend to the foot of the volcano on all sides and have reached the sea over a broad area on the SE flank.

Information Contacts: R. Romano and T. Caltabiano, IIV; P. Carveni and M. Grasso, Univ di Catania.