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Report on Etna (Italy) — January 1990


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 15, no. 1 (January 1990)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Renewed Southeast Crater Strombolian activity; flank tephra fall and small lava flows; increased seismicity and SO2

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1990. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 15:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199001-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Summit activity. (S. Calvari, M. Coltelli, O. Consoli, M. Pompilio and V. Scribano.) Eruptive activity that resumed in December at Southeast Crater continued in January, with explosive episodes of Strombolian activity and lava fountaining 4-5, 12, and 14-15 January. The first episode of Strombolian activity deposited 1 to a few cm of ash on the NW flank. Lava poured from the S crater rim, reaching the 1971 eruptive craters (at least 200 m from the vent). A smaller amount of tephra ejected by similar activity on 12 January was carried a few hundred meters WNW by the wind. Lava spilled over the N crater rim, producing a flow 1.5 km long and 20-30 m wide that traveled NE along the September-October fracture system to ~ 2,700 m altitude. When activity ceased, Southeast Crater was completely obstructed by a solidified crust of lava.

The next day, Strombolian activity gradually increased, reaching maximum intensity on the morning of the 15th. Observations from a helicopter on 16 January revealed a new lava flow 50-100 m wide (apparently erupted 15 January) that had flowed over the E crater rim and traveled about 2.5 km SE down the Valle del Bove, stopping at ~2,000 m altitude (S of Sierra Gianicola Piccola).

Sporadic Strombolian explosions with variable intensities resumed 19 January and continued throughout the month. Bad weather prevented field surveys at the other active summit craters, but observations by helicopter showed degassing at the two central vents (Bocca Nuova and La Voragine) and Northeast Crater.

Seismic activity. (E. Privitera, C. Cardaci, O. Cocina, V. Longo, A. Montalto, D. Patane, A. Pellegrino, and S. Spampinato.) January seismicity increased from previous months. Tremor amplitude fluctuated, with increases on 5, 11-12 and 14-15 January, associated with strong explosive activity and lava emission at Southeast Crater. The number of low-frequency events of M<=1 increased from the single shock recorded in December, often becoming more numerous before and after variations in tremor amplitude. A large increase in the number of low-frequency shocks was recorded 19-20 January, but was not accompanied by variation in the tremor amplitude or an increase in energy release. A sequence of 18 events on the NNW side of the volcano at 10-15 km depth had a large energy release. At least nine events reached or exceeded M 2, with 2 main shocks (at 1200 and 1336 on the 28th) reaching M 2.7.

Ground deformation. (A. Bonaccorso, O. Campisi, G. Falzone, B. Puglisi, and R. Velardita.) January tilt recorded at the SPC and CDV borehole tilt stations on the volcano's S flank showed no significant variation from the previous month. EDM surveys across the fracture on the S side (along SP92) and on the N part of the Etna Sud trilateration network showed variations within instrumental error limits.

Summit crater SO2 flux. (T. Caltabiano and R. Romano.) Samples collected from the summit craters on 8, 12, 16-18, 24, and 31 January showed increased SO2 emission preceding eruptive activity. Emissions rose from ~4,000 t/d on 29 December to ~ 26,000 t/d measured 16 January following Southeast Crater explosive and effusive activity on the 14-15th. Emissions returned to moderate values on 17 January (~5,000 t/d) and remained near that level during measurments on 18, 24, and 31 January.

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. Santacroce, IIV.