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Report on Etna (Italy) — November 1992


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 11 (November 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Lava emerges from tubes onto 1991-92 lava field; small summit ash ejections

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:11. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199211-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Lava production became more vigorous during the first half of November, but seemed to be decreasing in early December, a year after the SE-flank eruption began. After emerging from the vent, lava initially flows through a single tube, with a surface trace (from ~2,210 to 1,980 m altitude) marked by at least five skylights. Lava then continues into a complex of tubes, emerging from numerous ephemeral vents (which varied daily in number and location) onto the extensive lava field that has developed in past months. On 9 December, the ephemeral vents formed a linear zone between 1,700 and 1,600 m altitude, feeding small flows that did not advance below 1,580 m. The larger flows advanced NNE on the N side of the lava field, while other flows moved mainly toward the E. After 361 days of activity, the eruption's total lava output was estimated at 255 x 106 m3.

Gas emission from the upper part of the eruptive fissure was less vigorous than in early November, with fluctuations linked to weather conditions. Small ash ejections from the central crater's W vent were observed, particularly during the first few days of December. Degassing from the summit craters was otherwise unchanged, and Northeast Crater remained obstructed. SO2 flux, measured by COSPEC, remained at high levels, ranging from 6,000 to 10,000 t/d and averaging ~8,000 t/d.

Between 13 November and 8 December, 140 microshocks were recorded at Etna, mainly in the summit area. Energy levels remained low and magnitudes did not exceed 2.9. Several small seismic swarms occurred. The most vigorous, on 28 November between 0624 and 0858, included 10 events of M 1.7-2.9 centered in the summit area. The number of shocks increased briefly 28-30 November, when 62 were recorded. No harmonic tremor was detected.

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 M. Porto, Univ di Catania; G. Luongo, OV.