Report on Etna (Italy) — 24 August-30 August 2011
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 August-30 August 2011
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2011. Report on Etna (Italy). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 24 August-30 August 2011. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3295 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
Sezione di Catania - Osservatorio Etneo reported that nine days after the previous episode, the New SE Crater produced its twelfth paroxysmal eruptive episode of 2011 during the early morning of 29 August. The event was preceded by an explosion at 2252 on 27 August, and a series of ash emissions from the New SE Crater almost 15 hours later. Weak Strombolian activity visible during the evening on 28 August intensified during the night.
At 0115 on 29 August lava overflowed the rim through a breach in the E crater rim and traveled towards the Valle del Bove. Strombolian activity progressively intensified and two vents within the crater emitted pulsating lava fountains up to 100 m high. The lava fountains again increased in height and a dense plume rose a few kilometers above the summit before drifting toward the SSE. At the same time, a small lava flow issued from the area affected by the collapse of a portion of the cone's ESE flank during the 20 August paroxysm. At 0220 the SE flank of the cone fractured and exposed a line of new eruptive vents down to the base of the cone that produced lava fountains. A broad lava flow fed by the vents descended into the Valle del Bove, somewhat to the S of the lava flow emitted earlier during the episode. The lava fountaining from the vents within the crater turned into ash emission just after 0220, whereas the lowest vent on the new eruptive fracture continued to produce incandescent jets until 0250. Ash emission continued at a diminishing rate until about 0315.
Geologic Background. 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.