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Report on Etna (Italy) — July 1980


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 5, no. 7 (July 1980)
Managing Editor: David Squires.

Etna (Italy) Incandescent tephra ejection; decreased gravity readings

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1980. Report on Etna (Italy) (Squires, D., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 5:7. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198007-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Activity increased gradually between 13 and 20 July in the Southeast Crater, site of lava fountaining in late April, intermittent eruptions in May, and stronger explosions in early June. No information was available on activity between 4 June and 12 July [but explosive activity was persistent from the SE Crater and Bocca Nuova]. In mid-July, many small explosions were observed on some days, while other days were characterized by fewer but larger explosions. After a period of poor weather, renewed observations of the Southeast Crater on 31 July revealed four active vents, located 25 m below the lowest portion of the crater rim. The two larger vents steamed continuously, and exploded about every 2 seconds, ejecting incandescent tephra to heights of 25 m. At approximately 2-minute intervals, stronger explosions sent tephra upward 100 m. A small spatter cone surrounded the vents. The two smaller vents ejected juvenile material only occasionally.

Explosions from deep within Bocca Nuova were heard about every 2 seconds on 31 July. No tephra reached the rim. Since last September, Bocca Nuova's diameter [corrected from radius] has increased by as much as 80 m, bisecting a small crater formed in 1964. Most of the increase occurred during the winter, but further crater growth took place in June.

The Chasm, E of Bocca Nuova, was filled with solidified lava to within 25 m of its rim on 31 July. Large amounts of spatter and many bombs surrounded the crater as a result of activity in April (05:04).

Gravimeter readings made in late July by Tim Sanderson on the S flank yielded values that were significantly lower than in September 1979, indicating a loss of mass on that flank. July 1980 N flank gravity values were very similar to those of the previous September.

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. Guest, J. Murray, C. Kilburn, and R. Lopes, Univ. of London; T. Sanderson, Imperial College.