Report on Stromboli (Italy) — December 2002

Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 27, no. 12 (December 2002)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman

Stromboli (Italy) Landslides on 30 December cause two tsunamis; damage in nearby villages

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 2002. Report on Stromboli (Italy). In: Wunderman, R (ed.), Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 27:12. Smithsonian Institution.

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38.789°N, 15.213°E; summit elev. 924 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Following heightened seismicity during June-July 2002 that culminated in an explosion on 24 July (BGVN 27:07), major activity lessened until late December.

On 28 December, an effusive eruption started at the base of Crater 1 of the NE Crater in the summit area. This eruption ended on 29 December and a helicopter-borne thermal camera survey that day revealed three lava flows that had spread in the eastern Sciara del Fuoco and had reached the sea. Along the coast, the joined flows were ~300 m wide, but were no longer being fed.

Visibility improved on 30 December, when a new survey found an eruptive fissure running NE. The fissure started from the base of Crater 1 at ~700 m elevation and spread down to ~600 m elevation, along a length of ~200 m. On 30 December observers saw a ~200-m-long lava flow emitted from the base of the fissure, spreading in the upper Sciara del Fuoco into a small depression.

Landslides and tsunami. On 30 December at 1315 and 1322 two landslides formed along the Sciara del Fuoco. They reached the sea accompanied by fine (0.1 mm grain-size) wet dust falling on the SE flank of the island (from rock collisions during the landslides). The volume of the first landslide was estimated at ~6 x 106 m3 of rock while the second was smaller at ~5 x 106 m3 of rock. These landslides detached the lava from the 28 December eruption along the slope together with a large portion of the ground below.

The large volume of rock crashing into the sea caused two tsunamis, each with waves several meters high. The waves spread onto the villages of Stromboli and Ginostra damaging buildings and boats and injuring several people (according to news reports, six people were evacuated by helicopter and taken to two hospitals on Sicily). Large waves were reported on the northern coast of Sicily, 60 km S of Stromboli. The two separate landslides were formed from two distinct bodies of rock, and left a ridge on the Sciara del Fuoco wall between them. This ridge may collapse in the future; its volume is estimated to be similar to that of the first landslide.

As of 6 January 2003, the effusive eruption and thin lava flows continued along the Sciara del Fuoco. Two vents located at ~500 m and ~300 m elevation in the middle of the Sciara del Fuoco were feeding two narrow flows that merged and reached the sea. Occasional small landslides from the unstable walls of the Sciara covered the lava flows with a thin talus. Concern over another major landslide had diminished due to several small-volume rockfalls from the walls of the depression. The summit craters had not shown any explosive activity since the start of the eruption on 28 December, and no earthquakes were recorded by the indigenous seismic network. Two shocks recorded by INGV seismic stations were directly related to the spreading of the two landslides on the Sciara del Fuoco.

Previous tsunamis at Stromboli occurred in 1930, 1944, and 1954. These were related either to paroxysmal eruptive activity, to landslides along the Sciara del Fuoco, or to pyroclastic flows, but not associated with lava flow venting.

Geologic Background. Spectacular incandescent nighttime explosions at this volcano have long attracted visitors to the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean." Stromboli, the NE-most of the Aeolian Islands, has lent its name to the frequent mild explosive activity that has characterized its eruptions throughout much of historical time. The small, 924-m-high island is the emergent summit of a volcano that grew in two main eruptive cycles, the last of which formed the western portion of the island. The Neostromboli eruptive period from about 13,000 to 5000 years ago was followed by formation of the modern Stromboli edifice. The active summit vents are located at the head of the Sciara del Fuoco, a prominent horseshoe-shaped scarp formed about 5000 years ago as a result of the most recent of a series of slope failures that extend to below sea level. The modern volcano has been constructed within this scarp, which funnels pyroclastic ejecta and lava flows to the NW. Essentially continuous mild strombolian explosions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows, have been recorded for more than a millennium.

Information Contacts: Sonia Calvari, Instituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV); Sezione di Catania (URL:, Email:; Stromboli On-Line (URL: