Logo link to homepage

Report on Etna (Italy) — February 1993


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 18, no. 2 (February 1993)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Etna (Italy) Lava flows continue; volume estimates reported

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1993. Report on Etna (Italy) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 18:2. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199302-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The following information, based on the report of the IIV, covers the period December 1992 through February 1993.

The eruption ... continued as lava gently flowed from the vent on the W wall of Valle del Bove, significantly expanding the flow field formed after the flow diversion of May 1992 (17:05). Lava moved to Piano del Trifoglietto through a forked lava tube, emptying through several ephemeral vents located mainly on the N and S sides of the flow field (figure 58). In the first half of December, lava escaped mainly through the S vents. Many small flows gradually covered Poggio Canfareddi Hill, previously isolated by flows moving E toward Mt. Zoccolaro. In the second half of December, activity shifted to the N vents, expanding the flow field over a flat area that had not been covered by lava from the current eruption. Using data from a GPS survey done in January, the total volume of lava erupted through 1992 was estimated to be 198 ± 40 x 106 m3. The lava covers an estimated 6.7 x 106 m2 and the mean rate of lava production is 6m3/s.

Figure (see Caption) Figure 58. Topographic sketch map of the active portion of the 1991-93 lava flow field; 1. Flow field formed from 27 May 1992 through February 1993; 2. Flow field before 27 May 1992; 3. Limit of active lava flows by November 1991; 4. Directions of the main active flows December 1992-February 1993; 5. Lava tubes. Courtesy of IIV.

By January 1993, lava flows from the S vents advanced to the Poggio Canfareddi area and a complex network of minor flows reached the foot of Mt. Zoccolaro at 1,530-m elevation. Lava continued to flow from the N vents, expanding the field 400 m to the N. On 27-29 January, a fast-moving lobe of lava flowed to the NE, reaching 1,500 m elevation, 4 km distant from the eruptive fissure.

Effusive activity declined in February, ceased at the S vents by 8 February. Flow from the N vents was less than in previous months and shifted to vents on the northern-most side of the flow field. The new flows did not expand the flow field.

The seismic network recorded five swarms of long-period events. Fourteen events with M >1 occurred on 1 December, 14 events on 23 December, five events on 25 December, 51 events on 30 December-2 January, and 26 events on 3 February. No event exceeded M 3. The swarms were located in a small focal volume between the summit craters and Pizzi Deneri (~2 km NE) at depths asl. Volcano-tectonic seismicity during the period remained low (only three events) comparable to that observed throughout 1992.

The 9-station bore-hole tiltmeter network recorded no significant deformation except for a sharp event 18-19 December. Steady degassing from the Etna summit craters was observed and a weak ash emission occurred on the morning of 3 December from the Bocca Nuovo vent. Minor landslides repeatedly affected the E inner wall of the NE crater until January. The crater floor had sunk by early morning on 3 February.

The following report from geologists at the IIV and the Univ di Catania with seismic information from G. Luongo, updates and complements the official IIV report above.

A lava flow, at least a few hundred meters wide, has formed on the NE side of the lava field that has been building since 27 May 1992 (figure 58). The flow, in the vicinity of Monti Centenari (2 km NE of the active fissure), is completely independent from the old field and is moving E in the middle of Valle del Bove. The lava of this flow is visible from between 2,205 and 1,700 m through a series of skylights on the main tube. Lava is surfacing through 4-5 ephemeral vents at ~1,500 m elevation; the vents active in the past on the N, S, and central parts of the old lava field have closed. On the morning of 12 March, the most advanced flows had reached 1,425 m elevation and were moving over lava of previous eruptions. By 1300 on 14 March, the lava front was at 1,400 m elevation, ~ 5 m wide, 1 m high, and moving at an estimated 1 m/h.

The estimated volume of lava produced after 458 days of activity is 295 x 106 m3. This estimate was calculated using the same method as previous estimates reported in the Bulletin, but is ~ 50% higher than the GPS value reported above. No significant changes in degassing of the summit craters were noticed. Northeast crater is still obstructed, with very active fumaroles along the inside walls. COSPEC measurements of SO2 flux remained normal (5-6 x 103 t/d), except in early March when measured values were 12.5 x 103 t/d.

Between 12 February and 15 March, 169 events of M 1.2-2.9 were recorded, mainly in the summit crater area. The majority of events appeared to be related to active degassing at the surface, with characteristic frequencies of 1-6 Hz. Volcanic tremor was completely 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: IIV. The last three paragraphs are fromR. Romano, T. Caltabiano, M. Grasso, and M. Porto, IIV; P. Carveni and C. Monaco, Univ di Catania; G. Luongo, OV.