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Report on Etna (Italy) — January 1987


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 12, no. 1 (January 1987)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Lava flows in tubes; Strombolian activity and seismicity decline

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1987. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 12:1. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198701-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

"The eruption ... continues. Gas emission and rarely (12, 13, and 18 January) strong expulsions of ash occurred from the pit crater at ~ 2,850 m altitude. Only gas emission was observed from the spatter cone at ~ 2,600 m altitude, and it appears that lava effusion from its base ceased at the end of January.

"The Strombolian activity from Conetto Rittmann (2,350-2,300 m altitude) has decreased gradually, almost completely replaced since mid-January by more or less violent expulsions of gray ash, and irregular intervals in which only gas emission was observed.

"The effusive activity that originates from the base of Conetto Rittmann continued with alternating phases of greater or lesser intensity. Between 9 and 23 January several lava flows (four at times) were noted. These were fed at a moderate rate and descended to 1,500 m altitude, after passing Rocca Musarra to the N and S. As of mid-February, a lava tube extended from the base of Conetto Rittmann down to 2,000 m altitude. From there, small lava flows originated from many ephemeral vents, variable in location and duration. These flows moved mainly SE and E, covering lava from previous days, but remained inside the Valle del Bove, and never descended below 1,700 m altitude.

"Expulsions of reddish ash were observed at irregular intervals from both vents of the central crater (mainly from the E vent), while from Southeast Crater only gas emission of variable intensity was recorded. Weak fumarolic activity occurred from Northeast Crater.

"During the first two weeks of January no earthquakes were recorded. Tremor remained at high levels until the morning of 16 January, when tremor energy was reduced to 1/4 that of the preceding days. Seismicity resumed 27 January and continued for 5 days with weak, sporadic shocks on the N flank, at ~ 10 km depth. At the same time, tremor energy descended to levels typical of quiet periods at the volcano.

"Two strong earthquakes (M 4.2, depth 20 km) were recorded on 2 February at 1648 and 1659. Epicenters were ~ 40 km NW of the volcano and the events were felt in much of eastern Sicily. No additional significant earthquakes had occurred as of mid-February, and tremor remained at low levels."

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, T. Caltabiano, and D. Condarelli, IIV; S. Gresta and C. Sturiale, Univ di Catania.