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Report on Etna (Italy) — May 1985


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 10, no. 5 (May 1985)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Lava flows toward SW and SE; strong gas and vapor emissions

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1985. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 10:5. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198505-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"The eruption continued through May without significant changes from last month. The main lava channel has been transformed into a lava tube, between 2,510 and 2,320 m elevation, that has at least four windows through which it was possible to see the lava flow. The lava has maintained a constant velocity during the last few weeks. On 23 May another lava overflow occurred as a result of roof collapse along the upper portions of the lava tube (2,485 m elevation), generating small lava flows of brief duration.

"The numerous short-lived vents inside the lava field (from 2,320 to 2,150 m elevation) were variable, as usual, in number and position. The lava flows that originated from these short-lived vents have increased the size of the lava field on both the W and E sides to a maximum width of ~1.5 km.

"Beginning 10 May the lava moved mainly toward the SW (Monte Rinatura and Monte Nero). Around the beginning of June there were numerous lava flows toward the SE (1910 craters area). Lava continued to flow toward the south (Monte Castellazzi area), but these flows were not strongly fed. None of the lava flows descended below 2,000 m elevation.

"The more or less intense emission of gas and vapor from both vents of the central crater and from the Northeast Crater continue. Emissions of ash are rare and inconsistent. Gas under pressure emerged from a small opening at the southern base of the 1984 cone inside the Southeast Crater (P. Briole, personal communication). R. Clocchiatti conducted temperature measurements with a thermocouple; the temperature ranged between 1053°C and 1,088°C (CEN-SACLAY).

"M. Cosentino and G. Lombardo reported that no particular seismic activity was recorded. Instead, an increase in the average amplitude of harmonic tremor was noticed, probably connected to the degassing of the central and Northeast craters.

"The Etna guides and rescue volunteers from the Italian Alpine Club (A. Cristaudo and A. Nicotra) helped with information on the activity."

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, IIV.