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Report on Etna (Italy) — June 1996

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 21, no. 6 (June 1996)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Etna (Italy) Crater glow, gas emissions, and mild Strombolian eruptions

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1996. Report on Etna (Italy). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 21:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199606-211060.

Volcano Profile |  Complete Bulletin



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Visiting scientists made observations of eruptive activity during late May and June. The observations revealed continued activity similar to that previously described for this eruptive phase (BGVN 20:06-20:11/12 and 21:02-20:03).

Observations during 26 May-3 June. Activity at the summit craters was described by Marco Fulle following visits on 26 and 30-31 May and on 1 and 3 June.

Bocca Nuova was filled by thick steam on the afternoon of 26 May, but there were many strong explosions. A vent on the SE side of the crater was emitting steam jets. A vent with a lava pond on the crater floor was ejecting meter-sized lava clots 20 m high. When the pond level was close to the bottom, Strombolian explosions rose 50 m. Northeast Crater (NEC) erupted thin ash and black bombs, but later produced Strombolian explosions every 10-50 seconds that sent a few bombs 50 m above the rim directed towards the E. No bombs fell outside the crater.

Observations of NEC beginning in the late afternoon of 30 May were made for 18 hours from Pizzi Deneri and the W rim of NEC. Strombolian explosions ejected black bombs 100-200 m above the rim at 1-40 second intervals. On the morning of 31 May many meter-sized incandescent bombs were ejected well beyond the SW crater rim due to a strong wind. After 30 minutes, this activity changed to predominantly ash eruptions. Eruption intensity soon increased again, ejecting lava clots and dark bombs well above the rim.

For two hours on the evening o f 1 June observers watched from the W rim of Bocca Nuova and Voragine. Bocca Nuova contained two vents with active lava ponds aligned N-S. The N vent produced Strombolian explosions 50 m high every 10-30 minutes. The S vent produced Strombolian explosions 10-30 m high every 5-20 seconds. A third vent in the SE side of the crater produced steam eruptions every 2-10 minutes with red glow during the steam ejections. Voragine produced steam jets when NEC was inactive. During five hours of observations at NEC from the W rim on 3 June, Strombolian explosions every 2-50 seconds rose 100-200 m.

Observations during 1-20 June. While making GPS measurement of a deformation network on the volcano's upper S flanks on 1-20 June, J.L. Moss and co-workers observed summit activity.

During 1-5 June, no explosions or ash clouds were observed, but the summit vents were vigorously steaming. On 6 June, local guides reported explosive activity at NEC. On 9 June steam degassed strongly from the summit craters, and yellowish fumes escaped from Southeast Crater.

On the night of 10 June Bocca Nuova exhibited two strongly glowing vents on the crater floor, each producing mild Strombolian explosions every 5-10 seconds and ejecting material to heights of a few meters. Larger explosions took place about every minute, but no material was ejected above the crater rim. At La Voragine crater (the Chasm), a single glowing vent on the crater floor produced mild, audible, Strombolian explosions every 5-30 seconds that ejected material a few meters high.

At NEC Moss's group felt radiant heat and saw intense heat shimmering above radial fractures around the crater rim. Very strong gas emissions prompted them to wear gas masks. The crater was filled with dark (non-glowing) solidified lava; it formed a fractured dome from which a dense gas/water mixture escaped. No Strombolian activity was observed.

During 13-17 June, loud explosions were heard in the Valle del Bove, up to 3 km from the summit. Black ash clouds periodically rose 100 m above NEC.

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: Marco Fulle, Osservatorio Astronomico, Via Tiepolo 11, I-34131 Trieste, Italy; J.L. Moss, Centre for Volcanic Research, Cheltenham & Gloucester College, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Road, Cheltenham GL50 4AZ, United Kingdom; S.J. Saunders and V.A. Buck, Brunel University, Department of Geography & Earth Science, Borough Road, Isleworth, Middlesex TW7 5DU, United Kingdom.