Behncke, Neri and Carniel (2003) Endogenous lava dome and pyroclastic flows during the 1999 Bocca Nuova eruption of Mt. Etna (Italy)

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Boris Behncke, Marco Neri and Roberto Carniel (2003)
An exceptional case of endogenous lava dome growth spawning
pyroclastic avalanches: the 1999 Bocca Nuova eruption of Mt. Etna (Italy)
Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, volume 124, pages 115-128


Abstract During an eruption at the Bocca Nuova, one of the summit craters of Mt. Etna, in October–November 1999 a part of the crater floor near its WNW rim was uplifted to form a dome-shaped feature that consisted of older lava and pyroclastics filling the crater. This endogenous dome grew rapidly over the crater rim, thus being perched precariously over the steep outer slope of the Bocca Nuova, and near-continuous collapse of its steep flanks generated swiftly moving pyroclastic avalanches over a period of several hours. These avalanches advanced at speeds of 10–20 m/s and extended up to 0.7 km from their source on top of lavas emplaced immediately before. Their deposits were subsequently covered by lava flows that issued from vents below the front of the dome and from the Bocca Nuova itself. Growth of the dome was caused by the vertical intrusion of magma in the marginal western part of the crater, which deformed and uplifted previously emplaced, still hot and plastically deformable eruptive products filling the crater. The resulting avalanches had all the characteristics of pyroclastic flows spawned by collapse of unstable flanks of lava domes, but in this case the magma involved was of mafic (hawaiitic) composition and would, under normal circumstances, have produced fluid lava flows. The formation of the dome and the generation of the pyroclastic avalanches owe their occurrence to the rheological properties of the eruptive products filling the crater, which were transformed into the dome, and to the morphological configuration of the Bocca Nuova and its surroundings. The density contrast between successive erupted products may also have played a role. Although events of this type are to be considered exceptional at Etna, their recurrence might represent a serious hazard to visitors to the summit area.

Keywords: Mt. Etna; Bocca Nuova; endogenous lava dome; pyroclastic avalanches; magma ascent

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