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Report on Etna (Italy) — May 1982


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 7, no. 5 (May 1982)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Small central crater explosions follow earthquakes and higher ground temperatures

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1982. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 7:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198205-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

[Some elements of this report were excised at the authors' request.] Since the fissure eruption of 17-23 March 1981, explosions associated with collapse activity deep within Bocca Nuova have produced small to moderate ash plumes. Magma was observed in the bottom of Bocca Nuova in mid-May, mid-July, and early September 1981, and incandescence was seen there in February 1982. All activity from Bocca Nuova stopped 8 May, but resumed about a week later at around a time of unusual seismic and thermal activity on the NE flank. Incandescent scoria rose above the crater rim 20-22 May.

Seismicity increased during the third week of May and culminated with an explosion, possibly at 1515 on 27 May, when the summit seismometer operated by the Univ of Catania detected a M 3.5 earthquake that was felt by local residents. The next day, geologists found blocks of old lava that had been ejected more than 300 m from the Chasm. Blocks up to 1.5 m across were found in small impact craters at the rim. Many blocks larger than 10 cm occupied elongated depressions, implying relatively oblique impact, oriented radially to the crater. The greatest concentration of blocks was immediately N of the crater, although the pattern of smaller blocks suggested a NW orientation. The depth of the Chasm had increased from ~50 m in March to ~100 m after the explosion, by removal of material that had filled it since 26 May 1980 [explosive activity had begun in mid April], and vents in its walls were steaming. However, activity 28 May was concentrated in Bocca Nuova, where occasional detonations could be heard and the crater floor was obscured by sulfurous steam. On 29 May, Bocca Nuova ejected black ash, containing fresh magma, every 2-3 minutes. Ash clouds rose 200-300 m above the crater rim and were blown a few hundred m to the south. Only fumarolic activity was observed in the Northeast and Southeast craters.

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: R. Romano, IIV; M. Malin and M. Sheridan, Arizona State Univ.; J. Sheridan, Tempe, AZ; C. Archambault and J. Stoschek, CNET, France; J. Tanguy, Univ. de Paris VI; R. Basile, S. Scalia, and G. Scarpinati, Gruppo Ricerca Speleologica; M. Cosentino, S. Gresta, G. Lombardo, and G. Patane, Ist. di Scienze della Terra, Catania.