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Report on Etna (Italy) — December 1981


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 12 (December 1981)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Collapse continues in central crater; ash plumes

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1981. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 6:12. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198112-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

As of mid-January, collapse on Bocca Nuova's inner walls was almost continuous, producing plumes that contained fine ash but no fresh magma. At times of little or no wind, the plumes rose 3-4 km above the crater. There was no evidence of collapse beyond the crater rim. No changes have occurred in seismicity or tilt.

Images from the NOAA 7 satellite showed plumes emerging from the summit area on 4 and 6 January. A plume observed on 4 January at 1431 extended ~80 km to the SE, beyond the coast. Infrared data showed that the plume's apparent temperature was comparable to that of the sea water beneath it, and thus it probably remained at a relatively low altitude. The next image of the area, at 1408 on 6 January, showed a fairly diffuse linear plume ~55 km long, drifting SE. A plume from Etna had last been observed on satellite imagery (available most days for the Etna area) on 1 November.

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: L. Villari, IIV; M. Matson, NOAA.