Report on Etna (Italy) — 28 September-4 October 2011
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 28 September-4 October 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, 28 September-4 October 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 the fifteenth paroxysmal eruptive episode of 2011 took place at the New SE Crater of Etna during the evening of 28 September. That morning, noises originated from the New SE Crater. At 1600 volcanic tremor amplitude started to increase, and rhythmic ash emissions that rose from a vent located within the crater were occasionally accompanied by small Strombolian explosions. Starting at 1930 Strombolian activity progressively increased both in the intensity and frequency of explosions, and eventually became continuous. Bombs and scoria were ejected well beyond the crater rim. A small amount of lava flowed through the notch in the SE flank of the volcano at 2115 and was soon followed by explosions from a vent within the same area. The Strombolian activity waned for a few minutes then rapidly increased, forming a sustained lava fountain that rose as high as 800 m. At 2133 and 2134 two powerful explosions originating from a vent on the E rim of the crater created shock waves visible in the clouds above the crater and ejected large bombs hundreds of meters away. Lava fountains 100-150 m high commenced from a vent on the N base of the New SE Crater cone at 2136. The vent emitted a small lava flow soon after. At 2155 activity from all vents decreased, and between 2205 and 2210 all explosive activity ceased. Lava continued to flow until 2330.
The lava flow emitted from the SE flank of the cone reached the lower portion of the W slope of the Valle del Bove, somewhat SW of Monte Centenari. Ash plumes drifted SW and light ashfall occurred on the S flank of Etna, including in the towns of Nicolosi (14 km S) and Catania (27 km S).
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.