Logo link to homepage

Report on Etna (Italy) — August 1995


Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, vol. 20, no. 8 (August 1995)
Managing Editor: Richard Wunderman.

Etna (Italy) Magmatic activity resumes in Bocca Nuova and Northeast craters

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1995. Report on Etna (Italy) (Wunderman, R., ed.). Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network, 20:8. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.BGVN199508-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Strombolian activity resumed at Bocca Nuova vent on 30 July and in Northeast Crater on 2 August. Etna's last magmatic activity within its summit craters stopped 3 years and 7 months earlier, two days after the beginning of the 1991-93 flank lava flow eruption (BGVN 16:12). During that 15-month-long eruption and the following 28 months, the four summit craters exhibited continuous steam emission with frequent non-juvenile ash puffs, several collapses, and some strong phreatic explosions from Northeast Crater and Bocca Nuova. No morphological changes were observed in August at either Voragine or Southeast craters, where gas and steam emissions continued as in previous months.

On 30 July the first red spatters were observed inside Bocca Nuova, but bad weather prevented an evaluation of the intensity of this new magmatic activity. Observations the next day revealed that the vent was located in a new pit crater (20-30 m wide and ~50 m deep) on the N part of the crater floor. That part of the crater floor collapsed in June 1994, and probably dropped again in June 1995 when some phreatic explosions occurred (BGVN 20:06). The vent was a few meters across, and magma was sometimes visible during pulsed degassing episodes frequently interrupted by mild Strombolian explosions. The most energetic events were lava jets lasting 15-20 seconds that threw large spatters 120-130 m above the vent to the crater rim. The activity climaxed on 2 and 3 August when lava jets frequently rose up to a few tens of meters above the crater rim. Strombolian activity stopped abruptly on the night of 4 August, leaving a thick tongue of lava on the pit floor. During the Strombolian phase no spatter fell beyond the crater rim; most fell close to the vent inside the inner pit. In the days following 4 August, several ash emissions were observed at Bocca Nuova, which gradually resumed its quiet degassing. No further activity at Bocca Nuova was observed through the end of August.

Until 2 August, no lava emissions had been observed from Northeast Crater since September 1986 (SEAN 11:09); only scoria was ejected on 13 May 1991 (BGVN 16:07). Strombolian explosions during 2-3 August issued from a small vent in the lowest part of the crater, ~150 m below the crater rim. Almost continuous spatter ejections never reached the crater rim. During 3 August the activity gradually changed to puffs of black ash that continued in the following days. After ash emissions decreased, three incandescent degassing points on the crater floor were seen for several days. On 18 August, Strombolian activity resumed and during the night some incandescent bombs rose above the crater rim. Ash emission the following days prevented observations inside the crater, but no blasts were heard. On 29 August, another 1-day phase of Strombolian activity was followed the next day by ash emissions that marked the end of this eruptive episode.

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: Mauro Coltelli, CNR Istituto Internazionale di Vulcanologia, Piazza Roma 2, 95123 Catania, Italy.