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Report on Vulcano (Italy) — October 1989


Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, vol. 14, no. 10 (October 1989)
Managing Editor: Lindsay McClelland.

Vulcano (Italy) Fumaroles deposit sulfur

Please cite this report as:

Global Volcanism Program, 1989. Report on Vulcano (Italy) (McClelland, L., ed.). Scientific Event Alert Network Bulletin, 14:10. Smithsonian Institution. https://doi.org/10.5479/si.GVP.SEAN198910-211050



38.404°N, 14.962°E; summit elev. 500 m

All times are local (unless otherwise noted)

Geologists from Ruhr Univ visited Vulcano on 20 September and observed it from nearby Lipari Island on 19 and 21 September. During the afternoon of 19 September, strong gas emission occurred from the N part of Fossa Grande Crater, site of Vulcano's last eruption in 1888-1890. Gases were generally driven W by strong winds, but a white plume occasionally rose 300 m above the crater. Strong fumarolic activity occurred from numerous vents and fissures during the 20 September visit. Most of the activity was concentrated in the crater's N sector, but some occurred from the outer N flank and the inner S crater rim. Activity was most intense from a fissure that cut the crater rim along a roughly N-S trend. Just inside the crater, the fissure was up to 0.5 m wide and 1 m deep, with sharp edges coated with sulfur sublimates. Gases escaped with a hissing noise at the most active points. The volume of visible steam seemed to decrease during the afternoon, probably because of a decrease in humidity. Steam emission was still somewhat reduced when viewed from Lipari Island the next day.

During field studies 27-28 September and 3-4 October, Open Univ geologists noted that fumaroles seemed little changed from their previous visit in October-November 1988 (13:11). The fumarole fissure, ~ 40 m long, that crossed the N rim of the crater, was substantially deeper in places, perhaps from the loss of rock particles ejected by the pressurized gas flow. Gas temperatures along the fissure were generally about 275°C, with the highest value, 407°, at a vent on the crater's NE rim. Solid sulfur was abundant near fumaroles, as loose masses of yellow crystals, thin-walled tubules and cups containing drops of acid solution, and sulfur stalactites a few centimeters long within recessed vents. Liquid sulfur was also present, commonly as yellow, orange, or red droplets and dribbles, although one vent had produced a molten sulfur flow ~2 m long, and another contained a pool of liquid sulfur ~ 10 cm in diameter, with a temperature of 115.2°C.

Geological Summary. The word volcano is derived from Vulcano stratovolcano in Italy's Aeolian Islands. Vulcano was constructed during six stages over the past 136,000 years. Two overlapping calderas, the 2.5-km-wide Caldera del Piano on the SE and the 4-km-wide Caldera della Fossa on the NW, were formed at about 100,000 and 24,000-15,000 years ago, respectively, and volcanism has migrated north over time. La Fossa cone, active throughout the Holocene and the location of most historical eruptions, occupies the 3-km-wide Caldera della Fossa at the NW end of the elongated 3 x 7 km island. The Vulcanello lava platform is a low, roughly circular peninsula on the northern tip of Vulcano that was formed as an island beginning more than 2,000 years ago and was connected to the main island in about 1550 CE. Vulcanello is capped by three pyroclastic cones and was active intermittently until the 16th century. Explosive activity took place at the Fossa cone from 1898 to 1900.

Information Contacts: B. Behncke, Ruhr Univ, Germany; C. Oppenheimer, Open Univ.