Logo link to homepage

Report on Etna (Italy) — August 1980


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 8 (August 1980)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Etna (Italy) Two one-day eruptions

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1980. Report on Etna (Italy) (Squires, D., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 5:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198008-211060



37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3320 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Relatively weak activity similar to that of late July continued through August at Etna. A 1-day eruption on 1 September deposited ash on the E flank and extruded two lava flows.

John Guest climbed the volcano on 18 August. As on 31 July, explosions occurred deep within Bocca Nuova. The Chasm remained quiet. Mild strombolian activity continued from the Southeast Crater, but reportedly weakened the following week. Romolo Romano reported that a swarm of local seismic events began on 21 August.

At 0957 on 1 September, a pale brown plume was seen rising from the Northeast Crater, which last erupted in March 1978 (03:05). By 1130, explosions were ejecting large bombs or blocks every 10-15 minutes. An increase in seismicity at about 1700 was followed at 1730 by stronger explosions that were audible in Fornazzo, 10 km E of the crater. A large black eruption column rose to 6 km above the crater. By 1800, ash was falling on Fornazzo and the entire E flank. Geologists reached the eruption area by about 2000 and saw nearly continuous strombolian explosions from two vents in the Northeast Crater ejecting tephra to 500-600 m above the rim. Lava from the Northeast Crater flowed to the N and NW. By the next morning, the eruption had stopped. Heavy fog made mapping of the two lava flows difficult, but the NW flow had moved past Punta Lucia, about 3/4 km from the Northeast Crater.

A second brief eruption from the Northeast Crater began early 6 September, ending at about 1500 the same day, after an estimated 10 hours of activity. A small lava flow was extruded. No further information was available at press time.

Geological Summary. 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: J. Guest and C. Kilburn, Univ. of London; T. Sanderson, Imperial College; R. Romano, IIV; G. Kieffer, Univ. de Clermont-Ferrand.