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Report on Etna (Italy) — January 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 1 (January 1993)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Continued lava production extends lava field; summit degassing; low seismicity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199301-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The eruption ... is now Etna's longest flank eruption of the 20th century, surpassing the 372 days of E-flank activity in 1950-51. However, dominantly effusive eruptions from the summit area's Northeast Crater have persisted for many years (May 1957-February 1964; January 1966-April 1971; and September 1975-January 1977) and intermittent explosive activity from the central crater has continued since 1979.

The most active flows advanced NE and NNE, extending the upper part of the 1991-93 lava field toward the NE. On the morning of 4 February, lava flowing in the main tube was visible through two skylights, and emerged from small ephemeral vents on the N and S sides of the lava field. The approximately five northern ephemeral vents, between ~1,900 and 1,600 m elevation, were the most impressive, and fed the strongest flows, to the NNE. The small S vents, two of which were very close to the S wall of the Valle del Bove at 1,550 m asl, were the sources of very modest flows that moved E. Flows from both sets of vents advanced over the pre-existing lava field, and did not extend beyond elevations of 1,600 m (N vents) and 1,550 m (S vents). The volume of lava produced by 429 days of activity was estimated at 280 x 106 m3.

Gas emission from the upper part of the eruptive fissure has declined notably, and as of mid-February only the former explosive vent at the fissure's lower end (2,215 m elevation) remained active. Degassing from the summit craters was similar to previous months. Modest ash emissions, caused by internal rockfalls, occurred rarely from the central crater's W vent. During the early morning of 3 February, phreatic explosions from Northeast Crater ejected old lava fragments to tens of meters W of the rim. A modest ashfall occurred on the E side of the crater, and ash was still visible on the snow during the following days. Northeast Crater was obstructed again after this activity, and the next day only vigorous fumarolic activity was noted on the crater floor. SO2 flux, measured by COSPEC, declined from ~ 7,000 t/d in December to 5,000-6,000 t/d in January, about average at Etna.

Seismicity remained at low energy levels during the report period (12 January-15 February). All of the 125 seismic events (M 0.7-3.4) recorded during the period were centered in the summit-crater area. The seismicity included only one swarm (23 events, maximum M 3.4) on 3 February between 0527 and 0623. All were low-frequency events (1-5 Hz) and occurred as wave-trains that resembled spasmodic tremor. With that exception, volcanic tremor was 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.