Report on Etna (Italy) — 31 March-6 April 2021
Smithsonian / US Geological Survey Weekly Volcanic Activity Report,
31 March-6 April 2021
Managing Editor: Sally Kuhn Sennert
Please cite this report as:
Global Volcanism Program, 2021. Report on Etna (Italy). In: Sennert, S K (ed.), Weekly Volcanic Activity Report, 31 March-6 April 2021. Smithsonian Institution and US Geological Survey.
37.748°N, 14.999°E; summit elev. 3320 m
All times are local (unless otherwise noted)
INGV reported continuing episodes of lava fountaining, intra-crater explosive activity, and discontinuous ash emissions at Etna’s Southeast Crater (SEC) during the week of 29 March-4 April, though weather conditions often prevented visual observations. Gas emissions rose from the other summit craters and occasional explosive activity was visible; puffs of ash sometimes rose from Voragine Crater during 31 March-2 April.
At 0707 on 31 March a loud explosion was followed by several ash puffs, marking the beginning of the 17th lava-fountaining episode since they began on 16 February. At around 1100 a thermal anomaly at the S base of SEC was visible during an overflight and in thermal camera images. Explosive activity increased by late afternoon and several lava flows effused from the S-base vent. The main part of the flow traveled towards the Valle del Bove with other smaller flows traveled S and SW. Two other vents at the S base had opened by evening and one ejected spatter a few tens of meters high. Periods of lava fountaining began through the night, and the main lava flow descended the W wall of the Valle del Bove. Strombolian activity intensified at 1950, with an eruption plume that rose to 1.2 km (4,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SSW. Lava fountaining began at around 0100 on 1 April. At 0218 lava overflowed the E rim of SEC and headed towards the Valle del Bove, running parallel to the flows from the S base.
Lava fountains continued to be visible during the morning of 1 April and intense Strombolian activity produced dense ash plumes that drifted S. By 0940 the eruption plume had risen to 9 km (29,500 ft) a.s.l. and drifted SSW. Lava fountaining ceased around 1000 and the eruption plume rose to 5.5 km (18,000 ft) a.s.l. and drifted S. Ash fell in Milia, Nicolosi, and Catania and lapilli (1 cm in diameter) fell in Rifugio Sapienza. Lava effusion and flow advancement continued; lava from the S base of SEC spread out like a fan. A series of loud bangs were audible in the late morning and ash emissions continued until the afternoon. Lava overflowed the E rim of SEC at 1040, and a SSE flow entered the Valle del Bove at the SW wall. Explosive activity began to decline at 1320, and effusive activity waned overnight during 1-2 April.
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.