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Report on Etna (Italy) — June 1989


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 6 (June 1989)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Etna (Italy) Summit explosive activity

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1989. Report on Etna (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 14:6. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198906-211060



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

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

The following, from IIV, describes activity May-June 1989.

Summit activity. (S. Calvari, M. Coltelli, and M. Pompilio.) Vigorous activity at the two central crater vents (Bocca Nuova and La Voragine) continued in May. On the 4th, La Voragine ejected bombs and lapilli that fell as far as the rim of Cratere del Piano (roughly 300 m away), choking the crater bottom with tephra. In late May, explosive activity diminished and continued at a normal level throughout June. Discontinuous effusive activity was observed in May within Bocca Nuova, and bombs accumulated in the crater to ~ 100 m from the rim. From late May through most of June, many bombs, some of considerable size, fell outside the crater. This activity suddenly stopped in late June, when the small cone inside the crater collapsed, and was succeeded by sporadic scoria ejection from two vents. Mild Strombolian activity at Southeast Crater in May slightly eroded the scoria cone that had formed in April (14:05). Strombolian activity continued at a medium-low level in June, with occasional pulses ejecting small numbers of bombs over wide areas. The vent on Northeast Crater's floor continued to degas through May and June.

Seismicity. (V. Longo, A. Montaldo, M. Patané, E. Privitera, and S. Spampinato.) The frequency of tectonic seismicity in May and June was generally similar to that of the past year, with occasional seismic swarms. During the last two days in May, low-energy events were detected ~ 10 km below the volcano's central area. A seismic swarm, recorded 19-24 June on the W flank, was 13-15 km deep and included the largest events (M 3.1-3.2) of the month. One of the earthquakes (on the 24th at 0230) was felt by area residents. On 28 June, a small mainshock-aftershock sequence (11 events) was recorded, with the largest earthquake located near the S portion of the Valle del Bove at <5 km depth. From late June to 1 July, events with M 2.5-3.0 occurred 10-15 km beneath the summit. No significant variations in the volcanic tremor pattern were observed during May or June.

Ground deformation. (O. Campisi, G. Falzone, B. Puglisi, G. Puglisi, and R. Velardita.) Ground deformation measured at the Serra Pizzuta Calvarina borehole tilt station showed no significant variation in May or June. Measurements in May using the S trilateration network showed little deformation since l June 1988.

SO2 emissions. (T. Caltabiano and R. Romano.) The average value of SO2 flux in May 1989 was the lowest of the past year, but moderately high values returned in June. SO2 flux was measured 3, ll, 17, and 24 May and 1, 7, 15, 22, and 29 June. Emissions fluctuated in May, with high values on the 3rd and 17th and low values on the 11th and 24th, reaching only 2,500 t/d on the latter date.

Tephra composition. (S. Calvari, M. Coltelli, and M. Pompilio.) January 1989 activity produced hawaiite tephra, with petrography and chemical composition similar to tephra from the previous year. Tephra emitted from Southeast Crater during 1988 had relatively more evolved compositions, but early 1989 tephra was less differentiated than material emitted by the other summit craters.

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: R. Santacroce, IIV.