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Report on Etna (Italy) — August 1992


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 8 (August 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Increased lava emission from break in main tube

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199208-211060



37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3357 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The eruption ... appears to have become more vigorous in early September. Until 2 September, activity was similar to previous months, with lava flowing through a complex system of tubes and resurfacing from ephemeral vents of varying number (recently about 4) and location. Lava flows from the ephemeral vents were generally of modest size, advancing only a few hundred meters and remaining within the pre-existing 1991-92 lava field. Gas emission from the upper part of the fissure has remained similar to past months, with modest variations linked to weather conditions.

The roof of the main lava tube broke open late in the evening of 2 September, near a former skylight at ~2,150 m altitude and above the site of artificial lava diversion in May (at ~2,000 m elevation; 17:07). The flow from the broken tube first moved ENE above the lava field, then along its S side over terrain not previously covered by lava from this eruption. Lava advanced ~ 1 km to 1,700 m altitude by the next morning, then slowed to a stop during the succeeding days, reaching ~1,650 m elevation. The main lava tube, with two fuming skylights, remained active on 4 September below 2,000 m altitude. The only large ephemeral vent was at around 1,700 m asl, in the central part of the lava field. Another overflow occurred during the morning of 9 September at around 1,980 m altitude, below the lava diversion area. The flow advanced across the central part of the lava field, quickly reaching 1,650 m elevation. The total volume of lava produced by 272 days of activity was estimated at 190 x 106 m3.

Activity from the central crater's two vents remained similar to previous months, with continuing gas emission, strongest from the W vent (Bocca Nuova). Gas, sometimes voluminous, also continued to emerge from two small vents in Southeast Crater. Northeast Crater remained obstructed by debris. Landsliding persisted from the walls, particularly in the N and S parts of the crater. Very weak fumarolic activity occurred from Northeast Crater's inner walls. SO2 flux from the summit craters, measured by COSPEC, remained at relatively low levels (~ 2,000 t/d) during August, but measurements in early September yielded higher values, ~ 5,000 t/d.

From 15 August through 11 September, 176 seismic events were recorded, characterized by low energy release. The most significant activity was a sequence of 43 summit-area events 6-7 September, with a maximum magnitude of 3.2. Harmonic tremor has been nearly absent.

Geological Summary. Mount Etna, towering above Catania on the island of Sicily, has one of the world's longest documented records of 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 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, M. Grasso, and C. Monaco, Univ di Catania; G. Luongo, OV.