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Report on Etna (Italy) — October 1994


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 19, no. 10 (October 1994)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Etna (Italy) Minor explosive degassing and higher fumarole temperatures

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1994. Report on Etna (Italy) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 19:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199410-211060



37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3320 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The following describes [fieldwork] between 23 September and 14 October 1994.

"There are continuing signs that activity is increasing. At the Chasm (La Voragine), 1-4 very low rumbles/min were heard, but on 14 October six explosions much louder than those heard in June/July (19:07) were heard in 10 minutes. The Bocca Nuova was also producing around one distinct long explosive blast per minute, as opposed to the faint gas puffs heard in the summer. However, no audible explosions were heard when the Chasm was active on 14 October. Northeast and Southeast craters were quiet as in June/July, but temperatures more than 100°C higher were measured at the fumaroles on their outer slopes. Another sign of increasing activity was that during the five days of levelling (25-30 September), 22 earth tremors were detected by the shaking of the instrument. This is > 10 times higher than 1993, and the largest total of tremors noted in this way since September 1991, before the 1991-93 eruption.

"The levelling traverse showed a slight subsidence of the summit since June 1994, the maximum value being just under 3 cm compared to the Piano Provenzana, 6.5 km NNE of the summit. The subsidence is more or less concentric around the summit, with the exception of some stations on the upper E flank and over the 1991-93 dyke, which have subsided nearly a centimetre more than those nearby.

"On 14 October the areas of active fumaroles measured during June were visited. These were measured again using a Minolta/Land 330 hand-held radiometer (8.5-14.5 mm). Temperatures were not corrected for spectral emissivity, so all radiant temperatures are given as brightness temperatures (table 5). At the N, W, and S rim of Northeast Crater, maximum fumarole and rift temperatures were 105-135°C higher than those measured in June. H2S was also smelled in the vicinity of these high-temperature fumaroles. Higher maximum temperatures were also measured from rifts at the N rim of Southeast Crater, these being up to 170°C higher than those measured in June. It is stressed that these rises in temperature may be the result of different fumaroles being measured on the two dates, though in view of the thorough coverage in June this seems unlikely. Elsewhere, fumarole temperatures were similar to those measured in June. Fumarolic activity only was observed on the floor of Northeast Crater, which was measured from the rim at 40.1°C. The bocca on the floor of the Chasm was measured from the crater rim at 339°C. At the Bocca Nuova, a temperature of 173°C was measured for the SE bocca and of 40.7°C for the NW floor; these were measured from the crater rim. At Southeast Crater, fumaroles decreased in temperature and number around the W and E rims, such that fumaroles were few and cool on the S rim."

Geological Summary. Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily's second largest city, has one of the world's longest documented records of historical 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 horseshoe-shaped 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: J. Murray and A. Harris, Open Univ.