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Report on Etna (Italy) — June 1983


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 8, no. 6 (June 1983)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Lava production continues but at lower rate; central crater explosions; lava temperatures

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1983. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 8:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198306-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Romolo Romano reported that the velocity of the lava flow from the main vent, at about 2,280 m altitude on the S flank, continued to decrease in early July, from somewhat less than 0.5 m/s in early June, to an estimated 0.1 m/s on 7 July. The rate of outflow, ~3 m3/s in early June, had dropped to ~0.5 m3/s by 7 July. Lava flowed SE, S, and SW onto the S flank lava field that has accumulated since the eruption began, but the flows were smaller than in previous months and reached a maximum length of 1 km. Between 1,800 and 1,950 m altitude, some flows approached the E edge of the lava field and effusive pseudo-vents remained numerous. Moving lava was visible through many small windows. Between the main vent and the lava field, numerous overflows occurred from the E and W sides of the main lava channel from 2,270 to 2,100 m altitude. As of 8 July, the volume of lava erupted since 28 March was estimated at 100-110 x 106 m3.

J.C. Tanguy reported that on 14 June, the temperature of a slow (~0.15 m/s) lava outflow at 2,280 m altitude was determined to be 1,071-1,073°C using both Cr-Al and Pt-Rh thermocouples inserted at 40 cm depth. This temperature was identical to that measured in the main lava flow 12 May by P. Mousnier-Lompre. Lava velocity at the vent began to increase 14 June and reached almost 4 m/s 18-21 June. Gas pressure increased during the same period and new hornitos were built just below the main vent between 2,280 and 2,260 m altitude. Lava overflows occurred in this zone 18 and 20 June. On 21 June, gas pressure decreased and the lava velocity at the vent decreased to <1 m/s. The level of lava in the main channel dropped again, leaving impressive grottoes where gas combustion produced temperatures as high as 1,137°C (thermocouple) - 1,165°C (infrared measurements) on 21 June.

Moderate to violent explosions have continued to occur from Bocca Nuova. Explosions on 20, 24, and 26 June, and 8 July were especially strong. On 24 June, emission of white vapor had been increasing since at least 0700, culminating in an explosion at 1015 that ejected old material, including reddish cinders and large blocks, that fell as much as 250 m from the vent, primarily to the W. A polar orbiting satellite image 26 June at 0606 showed a low-altitude plume that extended ~100 km ESE, and a similar plume, ~150 km long, trended SSE on 4 July at 0640. Larger plumes were seen on satellite images 8 July at 1427 and 1609 (more than 500 km long, to the ESE), 10 July at 0615 (500 km, to the SSE) and 2036 (150 km, to the SE), and 11 July at 0554 (300-500 km, to the SSE). On 12 July at 1415, the U.S. Navy reported a cloud extending 250 km to the SE with a base at 1 km altitude and a top at ~5 km altitude. Only weak vapor emission has been observed from the Chasm, and from vents at 2,700 m on the S flank active earlier in the eruption.

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: R. Romano, IIV; J. Tanguy, PIRPSEV; R. Clocchiatti, CEN, Saclay, France; F. De Larouziere, CNRS; R. Cristofolini, M. Cosentino, G. Patane, A. Viglianisi, and P. Villari, Ist. di Scienze della Terra, Catania; M. Matson, NOAA.