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Report on Stromboli (Italy) — September 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 9 (September 1994)
Managing Editor: Edward Venzke.

Stromboli (Italy) Intense activity from ten vent locations

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Stromboli (Italy) (Venzke, E., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:9. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199409-211040



38.789°N, 15.213°E; summit elev. 924 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Extraordinarily intense activity was observed 21-22 August during an ascent and 8 hours on the summit (Pizzo sopra la Fossa). Significant morphologic changes had taken place in the crater area since March 1994 (19:03). Due to the vigorous activity, the craters could not be approached; however, the position and shape of eruptive vents were visible due to the filling of the craters. During the observation period, 10 boccas produced eruptions (compared with 4 in March), most of which were generally clustered and showed sympathetic to simultaneous activity. There were rarely any 10-minute intervals without eruptions, and for periods of up to several hours there was continuous lava fountaining from up to 3 vents at the same time. There was no regularity in the succession, size, or timing of the eruptions. Crater 2 was inactive.

Crater 1, the NE-most active crater, had 6 active boccas, most of which had formed spatter cones. None of these cones had been present during the crater visits in March; during the present visit, however, Crater 1 was filled almost to its rim with cones and erupted pyroclastics. Growth of these spatter cones since March had been much more vigorous than the formation of the earlier cones (1986-93), which were destroyed by explosions in October 1993. Only 5 months before this visit, Crater 1 had been a deep (>60 m) chasm, with no indication of incipient cones. The new cones were, after only 5 months of growth, larger than the pre-October 1993 cones.

The northernmost two vents, 1A and 1B, formed a broad, flat cone ~5 m high that displayed continuous incandescence. Vent 1A formed a crater 5-10 m wide on top of the cone and was the site of frequent brief lava fountains, but also had periods of quasi-continuous lava jetting and spraying. The focus of the explosions was apparently very close to the surface judging from the broad angle of the jets that sprayed large clumps of lava over a wide area, thus contributing to the broad, flat shape of the cone. The largest fountains from 1A rose higher than Pizzo sopra la Fossa, maybe to heights of 250 m. Vent 1B on the NE flank only became active towards the closing stages of the largest eruptions of 1A, ejecting a narrow fountain obliquely NE.

A cluster of vents was present in the central part of Crater 1, the most active among them (2A) was located on top of a tall, steep, spatter cone about 20-25 m high. Vent 2A (diameter <=3 m) was the site of activity ranging from continuous spattering to vigorous, long-lasting fountains that reached heights >250 m. There were at least four periods of continuous and vigorous fountaining, at 1930-2000, 2300-2400 (21 August), 0100-0200, and 0700-0800 (22 August), spraying rapid successions of lava 100 m above the vent and producing a continuous loud roaring sound. All fountains from 2A were vertical and relatively narrow. Frequently the entire cone was covered by cascading spatter forming small, rootless flows. Towards the morning of 22 August, the upper ~3 m of the cone was destroyed by vigorous gas emissions and explosive fountaining. Vent 2B, on the SE flank of cone 2A, was somewhat wider (<=5 m) and had formed a low, flat conelet. Its activity was restricted to minor oblique ejections of spatter towards the E that always preceded major activity from cone 2A. A very small incandescent vent (2C) was present on the S flank of 2A; it did not eject any solid material.

In the SW sector of Crater 1, two similarly shaped spatter cones (3A & 3B) were each ~10 m high. They were at the site of the twin boccas of March (labeled ##4 at that time). The activity of these boccas was stupendously symmetrical, producing a pair of equally shaped narrow, tall (> 100 m) vertical fountains of equal height, initially of bluish burning gas followed by the ejection of lava fragments. Magmatic eruptions lasted up to 15 seconds and were accompanied by very loud crashing noises.

Crater 3, largely filled with new pyroclastic material, had two principal eruptive sites that had not developed into cones due to the wide dispersal of ejecta beyond the crater. Vent 1 lay in the NE part of Crater 3, at the site of the pit containing the active lava pond 5 months earlier. The vent was very small (<=3 m diameter) and had built a low mound of very large agglutinated bombs to above the almost level surface of pyroclastics filling the crater. Activity from this bocca was highly irregular, with repose periods of >30 minutes, and continuous fountaining episodes up to 60 minutes long. Larger fountains every 10-45 minutes sprayed incandescent tephra up to 150 m high. During periods of continuous fountaining, the focus of the explosions migrated towards the surface, as evidenced by the increasingly wide angle of the fountains. The vent area was covered by a continuous sheet of incandescent spatter, but no lava outflow took place.

The most impressive eruptions took place from a cluster of three closely spaced, continuously incandescent vents (2) at the SW end of Crater 3, probably corresponding to vents 3 and 4 in March (19:03). Eruptions began instantaneously and sent very broad jets to heights of up to 300 m, covering an area far beyond the crater rim. During daylight, some of these eruptions produced spectacular plumes that rose up to 500 m above the vents (350 m above the summit). The eruptions made little noise, but sometimes produced heat waves that could be intensely felt on Pizzo sopra la Fossa. At times, two eruptions occurred within a 5-minute period, whereas others were separated by up to 60 minutes.

During the week preceding and 10 days after the visit, occasional large ash puffs (up to 350-400 m above the summit) were seen from neighboring islands, and frequent lava fountains were seen at night from N Lipari Island (26 August) and Alicudi Island (30-31 August), indicating that Stromboli was in a state of increased activity at least from mid-August until the end of the month.

Geological Summary. Spectacular incandescent nighttime explosions at Stromboli have long attracted visitors to the "Lighthouse of the Mediterranean" in the NE Aeolian Islands. This volcano has lent its name to the frequent mild explosive activity that has characterized its eruptions throughout much of historical time. The small island is the emergent summit of a volcano that grew in two main eruptive cycles, the last of which formed the western portion of the island. The Neostromboli eruptive period took place between about 13,000 and 5,000 years ago. The active summit vents are located at the head of the Sciara del Fuoco, a prominent scarp that formed about 5,000 years ago due to a series of slope failures which extends to below sea level. The modern volcano has been constructed within this scarp, which funnels pyroclastic ejecta and lava flows to the NW. Essentially continuous mild Strombolian explosions, sometimes accompanied by lava flows, have been recorded for more than a millennium.

Information Contacts: G. Giuntoli and B. Behncke, GEOMAR, Kiel, Germany.