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Report on Etna (Italy) — March 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 3 (March 1994)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Etna (Italy) Summary of activity since the end of the 1991-1993 eruption

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Etna (Italy) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:3. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199403-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Only steady degassing has been observed at Bocca Nuova, Voragine, and Southeast summit craters following the December 1991-30 March 1993 eruption. Northeast Crater, obstructed by debris that fell from the inner wall, has not shown appreciable degassing.

On 3 August 1993 the Bocca Nuova bottom sank ~30 m during one hour of strong degassing and ash emission that produced an ash column hundreds of meters high; small blocks and a few fresh bombs fell close to the vent. Unusually strong noise was heard and ground vibration was felt at the summit area during this explosive activity. These phenomena also enlarged the unstable crater rim, causing rockfalls for several weeks. Activity did not change significantly through the end of 1993; continuous degassing activity was observed at all craters except Northeast Crater, where reddish ash emissions in early October were probably related to release of overpressurized gas.

A slight renewal of seismicity was observed after the end of the eruption. Fracturing was the probable cause of 83 events (M >1); 14 of them were M 2.5. The cumulative strain-release trend was almost flat throughout the entire period, the only significant episode was a seismic swarm on 24 May 1993 (twenty-one M 1 shocks; Mmax = 3.2). The seismic activity was mainly located on the N and SE sides of the volcano; the N events had hypocentral depths of 12-26 km, whereas the SE events were <10 km. Volcanic tremor amplitude remained low during 1993; a moderate increase was recorded in July. Also, 27 long-period earthquake swarms were recorded in 1993. The best constrained hypocentral locations revealed a source volume below the summit area at a depth of <=3 km.

Tilt recorded at most of Etna's bore-hole stations showed a continuous small deflation of the radial component that started during the 1991-93 eruption. This tilt was confirmed by general contraction measured by the three EDM networks.

The following report is from S. Saunders and W.l McGuire. An EDM network high on the S and E flanks has been reoccupied 13 times between 1981 and 1993. Measurements have revealed >5 m of lateral displacement associated with four rifting events. The network was at least partly re-occupied in April, July, and November 1993. All three surveys came after the cessation of effusive activity in March 1993 (18:03). Compared to the immediately preceding measurements, 1993 data showed that N-S trending lines, broadly parallel to the eruptive fracture and the W rim of the Valle del Bove, lengthened by small amounts (30-60 ppm). Lines trending E-W, perpendicular to the fracture zone, showed no significant length changes between November 1992 and November 1993. These data confirm that the rifting process is contemporaneous with the initial propagation of the feeder dike for the 1991-93 eruption, with little additional dilation-related lateral displacement during the later stages of activity or following the end of lava effusion.

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: IIV; S. Saunders, West London Institute; W. McGuire, Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education.