Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
31 May - 4 June 2000
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23 May 2000

An impressive photograph taken by Giuseppe Scarpinati at the height of the 23 May paroxysm at the SE Crater. The paroxysm occurred just before sunrise, so that there was already some light, and the images turned out quite different from those taken at night when there is only yellow, red and black. Scarpinati observed the event from Monte Zoccolaro, a peak on the S rim of the Valle del Bove, located about 6 km SE of the crater. In this image the entire SE Crater cone is covered with incandescence, a vigorous lava fountain is jetting about 500 m from the summit vent, while a smaller fountain is visible on the lower N flank of the cone (right). Note curtain of falling tephra to the right of the main eruption column

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The Etna telecamera is maintained by the "Sistema Poseidon" and there is no relationship of any kind with this site and its author. The Poseidon web site is in Italian, and the link to the telecamera is changed frequently, so that it is not indicated here (click on "Etna live cam" on the Poseidon home page). Please note also that all information provided on the present page (and the archived Etna news pages) is informal, based on personal observations, and is not intended to substitute, or compete with, the news bulletins now issued regularly at the Poseidon web site.

WARNING: Access to the summit area is VERY DANGEROUS. Violent eruptive episodes are occurring every few days at the Southeast Crater, and heavy showers of tephra (including clasts tens of centimeters in diameter) may occur up to several kilometers away. Lava may also arrive rapidly at up to 1.5 km of distance from the crater on the plain between Torre del Filosofo, Monte Frumento Supino, and the summit crater cones. The Torre del Filosofo area, which is familiar to many excursionists, is presently not a safe place at all. Tourists are presently not allowed to go beyond 2700 m elevation, and they should make excursions only with the mountain guides. Besides this, weather conditions are often unstable. Strong wind, snow or rain and clouds are occuring frequently in the summit area, even during the summer, and one can get easily lost. The mountain guides can be contacted at the cable car (near the Rifugio Sapienza) on the southern side of Etna, or (during the summer) at the hotel "Le Betulle" at Piano Provenzana, on the northern side.

4 June 2000 update. The SE Crater has remained quiet after its extremely powerful 60th eruptive episode on the evening of 1 June, and the only activity currently going on in the summit area is the normal degassing at the Bocca Nuova (which at times is accompanied by deep-seated explosions in its W vent) and at the NE Crater.
The two eruptive episodes of 1 June (one at 1000-1030 h and the other at 2200-2230 h) were among the most violent in the series of paroxysmal eruptive episodes initiated on 26 January this year. Several eyewitnesses at Torre del Filosofo were impressed by the intensity of the morning paroxysm which showered bombs and large scoria clasts around the building and beyond. Even at Monte Zoccolaro, on the S rim of the Valle del Bove and about 5 km distant from the SE Crater, a group of observers including David Bryant, the faithful British cameraman who is documenting much of Etna's activity since November 1999, was scared by the magnitude of the eruption and by the very loud roaring noise it produced. Yet the eruptive episode during the evening of 1 June was still more violent, and luckily those who had observed that morning's paroxysm were sleeping at the Hotel Corsaro (near the Rifugio Sapienza), being exhausted after a long wait for the morning paroxysm, and no one would have expected another paroxysm so soon after that one. Staying at Torre del Filosofo would not have been a good idea during that latest paroxysm since the area was heavily showered with pyroclastics. Those who saw the event said that it was among the most awesome sights ever seen at Etna. Numerous people who had seen many of the previous paroxysms - including Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian delegate of the Association Volcaonologique Europèenne, seated in Paris, France), a resident of Acireale - remarked that this was surely the most vigorous of the whole series. Even from Catania, where Behncke and Bryant were observing the activity, the sight was impressive. The height of the lava fountain jetting from the summit vent of the SE Crater was estimated by various observers at 1000-1200 m, which would be the highest fountain ever observed at the SE Crater. Only the lava fountain produced during the Voragine eruption of 4 September 1999 was taller, jetting 1500-2000 m above the vent.
Etna thus remains one of the most explosively active volcanoes on Earth in this period. More eruptive episodes with the same characteristics are to be expected in the near future, and there will be more showers of tephra on towns and villages on the flanks of the volcano. Presently the wind at the summit of Etna is blowing to the SW, so that in the case of a paroxysm the area most likely to be stricken by tephra falls is around the town of Adrano, which had already received a heavy shower of lapilli during the 27 May paroxysm. On 1 June, tephra fell on the S and SE flanks, most heavily in a sector including the towns of Nicolosi, Mascalucia, Pedara, Trecastagni and Monterosso. Scoria fragments 1-4 mm in diameter fell abundantly in Catania, the first significant tephra fall in the city since 19 March.

Photos of the 23 May 2000 paroxysm:
The view from Monte Zoccolaro

Photos by Giuseppe Scarpinati

23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000
23 May 2000

These images show the evolution of the paroxysmal eruptive episode at the SE Crater on the morning of 23 May, between 0510 and 0525 h. Images 5-9 are zooms on the erupting cone. Note halo created by the immense luminosity of the lava fountains in the first four images

2 June 2000 (0200 h) update. After only 12 hours of relative quiet, the SE Crater erupted once more on the late evening of 1 June to celebrate its 60th eruptive episode since 26 January. The activity started after nightfall with lava effusion from the fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater cone, and soon Strombolian activity was observed at that fissure. Sometime before 2200 h, lava fountaining began from the summit vent of the SE Crater cone. During the following 30 minutes or so, the incandescent column rose up to 1000 m above the vent, and glowing bombs and scoriae covered the cone all over. A voluminous lava flow advanced in the direction of the Valle del Bove, reaching a length of 2.5-3 km, longer than most flows produced by the preceding eruptive episodes. This awesome spectacle could be observed from all of E Sicily and attracted many tourists. However, there were probably no people in the risk zone around the summit craters of Etna.
After several paroxysms which occurred only from the summit vent and from vents on the fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater cone, eruptive activity occurred also from the upper S flank this time, generating a small lava flow to the SSW. On the N flank, lava fountains played along the entire length of the fissure, and the lowest fountain, located about two-thirds down the N flank of the cone, was jetting obliquely to the N.
A densely tephra-laden eruption column rose several kilometers above the summit of the volcano and was driven by high winds to the SSW. Catania, which had received a shower of ash and fine lapilli during the eruptive episode on the forenoon of 1 June, was spared this time, and it is possible that tephra falls occurred to the W of the city.
This new eruptive episode came after quite a short repose interval. Since 15 May (when there were two episodes as well), the repose interval had gradually lengthened from 2 to 4.5 days. No forecast can be made for the next paroxysm which may occur any time between 2 June and 11 June.

1 June 2000 (1130 h) update. The expected paroxysmal eruptive episode at the SE Crater finally occurred between 1000 h and 1030 h on 1 June. Before that, the volcano played a twisted game with those who were on "eruption watch", like British cameraman David Bryant, who stood at Monte Zoccolaro on the S rim of the Valle del Bove. From about 0400 h on, the vents on the lower N flank of the SE Crater cone went through several phases of lava spattering, fountaining, and mild Strombolian activity, without, however, culminating in a paroxysmal phase of lava fountaining at the summit vent of the cone. Extensive lava flows were erupted from the N flank fissure, and at times there were vigorous emissions of ash from the summit vent of the cone. Towards 0930, the activity declined to very low levels.
Shortly before 1000 h, a lava fountain suddenly began to jet from the summit vent, and very rapidly a tall tephra and gas column rose into the clear sky. David Bryant reported that the onset of fountaining was instantaneous, starting with the uprush of a tephra-laden jet which rose at an awesome velocity, and at the same time a very loud roar was heard, which became stronger and stronger. Bryant, who had seen the violent eruptive episode of 15 February at a much closer range (from Torre del Filosofo) noted that the activity during this latest eruptive episode was much stronger. Bombs were seen rising up to 800-900 m above the summit of the SE Crater cone, and they came crashing down at quite some distance. Many bombs fell on the W wall of the Valle del Bove, up to 2 km from the erupting vent. Heavy fallout also occurred in the area of Torre del Filosofo, where several persons (including Marco Fulle of Stromboli On-line) were observing the activity.
Interestingly the wind at several kilometers above the summit was blowing to the S (in contrast, the wind direction at the elevation of the summit was towards SE), so that the plume was driven over the W part of Catania and areas adjacent to the W. Intense activity continued until about 1030 after which the plume detached from the volcano. Tephra falls occurred to the SE and S of the volcano, as the fallout veil was carried by shearing winds to the E under the main eruption plume. A heavy shower of lapilli which lasted about 10 minutes occurred at Monte Zoccolaro, including clasts several centimeters across, and the road between Rifugio Sapienza and Zafferana was covered by a continuous layer of tephra several centimeters thick. The towns stricken mostly by the tephra fall lie in a sector that extends from Fleri to the area south of Acireale, including the city of Catania where fragments with diameters of several millimeters fell.
The 1 June paroxysm came after nearly 4.5 days of quiet at the SE Crater, an interval almost identical to the repose interval between the preceding two paroxysms (on 23 and 27 May). However, the buildup phase lasted unusually long (at least 14 hours), and the observed onset of spattering and later of fountaining from the N flank of the SE Crater cone did not as rapidly evolve into the culminating phase as it had done during many of the previous eruptive episodes. The course of events was instead very similar to that of the eruptive episode of 15-16 April, the only exception being that at that time the premonitory activity came from the Sudestino vent at the S base of the SE Crater cone, while it was concentrated on the N flank in this latest paroxysm.

1 June 2000 (0200 h) update. Lava output from the fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater has gradually increased since the late afternoon of 31 May, but the expected paroxysm has not yet started. The activity will probably continue to increase in the next few hours and culminate in an episode of violent lava fountaining and tephra emission, accompanied by lava flows which most likely will run towards the Valle del Bove. Ash and lapilli will probably fall on the NE or ENE flank of the volcano, in an area between Fornazzo-Giarre and Linguaglossa-Fiumefreddo.

31 May 2000 evening update. Once more lava is being slowly extruded from the fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater cone, a sign that the crater is building up for its 59th paroxysm since 26 January. A small lava flow extending about 150 m towards the Valle del Bove was sighted by Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian delegate of the Association Volcaonologique Europèenne, seated in Paris, France) at nightfall from his home in Acireale. Scarpinati noted an intense glow at the source of the lava flow, but the flow itself did not appear to be advancing vigorously. During the late afternoon of 31 May the white steam emissions from the NE Crater began to be mixed with some ash. Although both the lava emission from the N flank of the SE Crater cone and the ash emissions from the NE Crater are almost certain indicators that a new paroxysmal eruptive episode at the SE Crater is imminent, many hours may still pass before the crater enters into the paroxysmal phase of this activity. It is expected that the paroxysm will occur sometime before noon on 1 June, possibly before sunrise. If the wind direction remains the same as at 2145 h on 31 May, tephra falls will occur on the NE flank of the volcano.

31 May 2000 update. Strong degassing has occurred at the summit craters (except the SE Crater, which always shows very low levels of gas emission between paroxysmal eruptive episodes) on 29-31 May, leading to the formation of an impressive, dense plume that was driven by a strong wind to the SE. During a brief visit to the summit area by Boris Behncke (Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, University of Catania) and Luigi Tortorici (Director of the Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, University of Catania) on the evening of 30 May, the Valle del Bove was completely filled by the plume that was pushed down the flank of the volcano by the wind. Numerous gas rings were generated by deep-seated explosions within the E vent of the Bocca Nuova. Eyewitnesses who had stayed the whole day at Torre del Filosofo reported that more than 50 gas rings had been produced on 30 May alone. The amount of degassing appears somewhat increased as compared to the previous months; the dense plumes are not the effect of high relative humidity since 30 May was an exceptionally clear and dry day. However, no significant eruptive activity has occurred since the latest eruptive episode of the SE Crater on late 27 May. During that event, tephra was blown to the SW, causing heavy ash and lapilli falls in the town of Adrano; fine ash was transported as far as Gela, on the S coast of Sicily. A new paroxysm - the 59th since 26 January - will probably occur within the next few days.

Several other web pages covering the recent and ongoing eruptions of the Southeast Crater are now available; these contain photos and movie clips of some of the most spectacular moments of that period.

Etna in 2000 - a list of all paroxysms at the SE Crater since 26 January and photos (this site)

Extremely spectacular video clips, taken by British cameraman and film maker David Bryant on 15 February 2000
At "Italy's Volcanoes" -
At Stromboli On-line

An interview with Boris Behncke, made in late February 2000 by a BBC team and a video clip (RealPlayer)

Photos of the eruptive activity, 15-23 February 2000, by Tom Pfeiffer (University of Arhus, Denmark)

Photos of an eruptive episode on 13 February 2000, posted on the web site of the Association Volcanologique Européenne, Paris, France

Photos of the 15 February 2000 paroxysm of the SE Crater, by Thorsten Boeckel, Germany

Photos by Marco Fulle, 15-20 February 2000, at Stromboli On-line - very high quality, as usual

Charles Rivière's Etna home page, with many photos and video clips (the most recent of the paroxysm of 5 May 2000), frequent updates, and other, highly interesting items (in French and English)

visitors counted since 12 February 1999
This page received 4362 hits during the week of 24-30 October 1999. 4430 hits were counted the week after.

Visitor statistics in February-May 2000:
01-05 February: 2189 (438 per day)
26 March-1 April: 8205 (1172 per day!)
06-12 February: 4170 (596 per day)
3-9 April: 6046 (864 per day)
13-19 February: 6498 (928 per day)
10-16 April: 5363 (766 per day)
20-26 February: 4988 (712 per day)
17-23 April: 4827 (689 per day)
27 February-04 March: 5327 (767 per day)
24-30 April: 4916 (702 per day)
05-11 March: 4103 (586 per day)
1-7 May: 5679 (811 per day)
12-18 March: 3942 (563 per day)
8-14 May: 6436 (919 per day)
19-25 March: 6992 (999 per day)
15-21 May: 6573 (939 per day)

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Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 5 June 2000

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