1955-1971 summit eruptions of Etna

Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

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The 1955-1971 summit eruptions

Between the summer of 1995 and the early morning of 17 July 2001, the summit area of Etna was the site of near continuous intense activity which involved all four summit craters (Voragine, Bocca Nuova, NE Crater and SE Crater) and several fissures at the base of the SE Crater cone. This activity was notable not only for its intensity but also for the number of eruptive vents involved. It was the longest period without flank activity since Etna began to produce frequent flank eruptions in 1971; only after 6 years a new flank eruption occurred in July-August 2001.

Between 1955 and 1971 there was a similar period of near continuous intense summit eruptions without any major flank activity, and it is interesting to review that period in the light of the recent summit activity. Furthermore, the published record of Etna's activity in the 1950's and 1960's is far from complete and many sources are hard to locate. It is intended here to fill this gap by providing a fairly detailed record of the events during those years, including photos and maps. While some information is based on the publications (mainly by Cucuzza-Silvestri) dealing with the activity of Etna in some of those years, much information has been derived from local newspapers and the Monthly Bulletin of the "Pennisi" Meteorological and Seismic Observatory, Acireale. Giuseppe Scarpinati of Acireale is acknowledged for sharing material from his collection of Etna items (newspaper articles, photos, the "Pennisi" bulletin, and other sources).

The period of summit activity of 1955-1971 can be subdivided roughly into three main phases: 1) April 1955-July 1960, when activity was concentrated essentially at the NE Crater, but there were also three brief episodes of activity in the Central Crater, and a minor lava flow from a fissure on the W slope of the Valle del Bove; 2) July 1960-July 1964, with numerous episodes of vigorous activity in the Central Crater alternating with activity at the NE Crater, and a lava flow from a fissure on the E side of the main summit cone; 3) January 1966-March 1971, when activity took place almost exclusively at the NE Crater, although some lava effusion occurred again high on the W wall of the Valle del Bove, and the Bocca Nuova was born. While the long-standing Strombolian and effusive activity at the NE Crater was a classical example of what was defined as "persistent" activity, some of the eruptive episodes of the Central Crater in 1955-1956, 1960, 1961 and 1964 were exceptionally violent.

The following links lead to three pages dealing with the main phases of the 1955-1971 activity, and to a fourth page with summarizing remarks. The text is an excerpt from a manuscript submitted to the Bulletin of the French "Association Volcanologique Européenne" (L.A.V.E.).

1955-1960: Activity concentrated at NE Crater

1960-1964: Central Crater and NE Crater eruptions

1966-1971: NE Crater continuously active, formation of Bocca Nuova

Summarizing remarks

Furthermore, an overview of the activity between 1960 and 1964 is presented in the form of a chronological table.

Continue with Eruptions since 1971


Copyright © Boris Behncke, "Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology"

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