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Report on Etna (Italy) — September 1992


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 17, no. 9 (September 1992)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Lava flows from tube system remain within 1991-92 lava field

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1992. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 17:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199209-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The SE-flank fissure eruption ... continued relatively unchanged in September and early October 1992. Gas emission from the upper part of the fissure was similar to previous months, varying with weather conditions. Lava continued to flow through a complex tube system, emerging from ephemeral vents at frequently changing locations. The resulting lava flows were generally modest-sized, advancing only a few hundred meters over the pre-existing lava field. This pattern of activity changed only when a substantial increase in the amount of lava moving through the main tube caused an overflow through a skylight. On 3 October at about 1830, lava began to emerge from a skylight at 2,150 m altitude, preceded by vigorous emission of white vapor. The overflow remained active on 8 October, and lava had advanced about 1 km. A similar episode occurred from the same location in early September. During 8 October fieldwork, numerous ephemeral vents were also active. Three were in the area of May's artificial lava diversion around 2,000 m altitude, three at ~ 1,800 m elevation (around Serra Pirciata), and 3-4 others near 1,700 m asl. Flows from the ephemeral vents remained modest in size, did not advance beyond 1,650 m altitude, and stayed within the Valle del Bove. Total lava volume from 300 days of activity was estimated at around 210 x 106 m3.

Gas continued to emerge from two small vents on the floor of the central craters, at ~ 100 m depth. Gas emission generally occurred under pressure from the W crater (Bocca Nuova). A small vent on the S edge of Southeast Crater continued to emit gas. Northeast Crater remained obstructed by debris, with landslides still occurring in its N and S parts.

SO2 emission, measured by COSPEC, continued to increase. During the first 10 days of October, values exceeded 10,000 t/d, twice Etna's average SO2 flux.

Seismicity remained at low energy between 11 September and 13 October. About 230 microearthquakes were recorded, centered mainly in the summit area. The largest (M 3.0) occurred on 16 September at 0650 and was felt in nearby towns. On 27 September, a brief sequence of 7 events occurred on the W flank. The strongest shock (M 3.7), at 1255, was felt to ~ 70 km away (in the Siracusa area). Tremor has been nearly absent.

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 and T. Caltabiano, IIV; P. Carveni, M. Grasso, and C. Monaco, Univ di Catania; G. Luongo, OV.