SIGNS OF UNREST AT ETNA
The latest update is below this line
28 April 2003 update. Eruptive activity at Mount Etna has been at low levels in recent weeks but sporadic ash emissions have occurred from the Bocca Nuova and the Northeast Crater; these emissions were presumably phreatomagmatic and ejected mainly old rock fragments. Somewhat more sustained ash emissions started during the afternoon of 28 April at the Northeast Crater; a dense grayish-brown plume was blown down the upper eastern slope of the volcano by a strong wind. Seismic activity is low and indicates no imminent major eruptive activity. However, it is likely that the summit craters will gradually return active over the next weeks to months; it is an open question whether this will continue for some time or whether it will be soon followed by a new flank eruption.
April 2003 update.
of a gradual reawakening of Mount Etna are becoming more abundant.
Over the past few weeks, fumarolic emissions from the summit crater
have apparently become denser and sometimes they were mixed with
small amounts of ash. Fumaroles near the summit of the Southeast
Crater have become more conspicuous, and during the first days of
April, profuse steaming was also visible at the "Levantino",
a small satellite cone on the north-northeastern flank of the Southeast
Crater cone, which formed in the spring of 2001. On the forenoon
of 7 April, dark ash was emitted from the summit area (see photo
at top of this page), but inclement weather rendered observations
difficult (Sicily, like all of Italy, is suffering from extremely
bad and cold weather since late March, and Etna has been rarely
visible since then). In a report of the local newspaper "La
Sicilia", Sandro Bonaccorso, director of the Catania section
of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, is cited
as saying that the activity is "absolutely normal and the situation
is stable. There is no unusual seismicity and the tremor level is
low. The ash emissions are probably caused by collapse within the
summit craters. At present, there are no signs of an impending new
March 2003 update.
post-eruptive quiet of Mount Etna continues, with practically nothing
indicating an imminent resumption of eruptive activity. Yet the
current slumber of the volcano is somewhat unquiet. From time to
time the flanks of the volcano are shaken by small earthquakes,
as on 9 March, when the southeastern flank was affected by several
minor tremors. Another detail that might be significant is that
over the past week, the snow which had abundantly fallen on the
mountain a few weeks ago rapidly melted on the Southeast Crater.
In addition, several fumaroles have appeared high on the cone of
the Southeast Crater, which were not evident a few days ago. Visitors
to the summit area heard explosions sounds coming from the Bocca
Nuova around 9 March. A few isolated emissions of ash occurred during
the past week from the Bocca Nuova and/or the Northeast Crater.
February 2003 update.
news is good news, and there's virtually no news to report from
Mount Etna, generally known to be one of the most active volcanoes
on Earth. Since the seismicity and related ground rupturing at the
Pernicana Fault in mid-February (see previous update), the volcano
has been quiet volcanically and seismically, except for a few minor
earthquakes in various sectors of the mountain. The latest of these
occurred on 26 February 2003 (see
the web site of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia,
INGV) After the times of heat it's now the time of cold and
wet: in January and February 2003 the Catania area received the
heaviest rainfalls in more than 80 years (which is good news for
Sicily) and temperatures have remained consistently below the monthly
averages. This means that an enormous amount of snow has fallen
on Etna. This is bad news to those who have lost the two skiing
areas on the southern and northeastern flanks of the volcano during
the eruptions of 2001 and 2002-2003. This would have been a marvellous
13 February 2003 update. Sixteen days after the end of its latest eruption Mount Etna is again showing signs of unrest, although it is unlikely that these are indicative of renewed eruptive activity. Starting early on 12 February, a series of ten earthquakes occurred on the northeastern flank of the volcano, in the same area that had been affected by vigorous seismicity and ground deformation before and during the initial phase of the latest eruption. The strongest of the new earthquakes occurred at 0632 on 13 February (see the report of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Sezione di Catania); it had a Md of 3.8 and the focal depth was 1.65 km. This means that this was a fairly shallow earthquake, and it was strongly felt by the owners of the "Ragabo" mountain hut, where light structural damage occurred. Near to this building (which narrowly escaped destruction by the lava flow from the Northeast Rift eruption in late October-early November 2002) ground fracturing was observed, which testify to a renewed displacement along the well-known Pernicana Fault. This east-west trending fault is believed to constitute the northern boundary of the unstable sector on the eastern flank of Mount Etna, which undergoes periodic slip toward the Ionian Sea to the east (similar movements are observed on the southern flank of Kilauea volcano, Hawaii). A major slip occurred at the beginning of the 2002-2003 eruption, which was accompanied by vigorous seismicity along the Pernicana Fault and at other faults on the eastern side of Etna. Witnesses of the latest earthquakes described the event as "the same thing that has occurred in last autumn". It is not very likely that the new unrest is related to magma movement, simply because the 2002-2003 eruption has drained much of the shallow plumbing system and no recharging of the central conduits has so far been observed (see the latest weekly report of the INGV, in PDF format).
February 2003 update (corrected 6 February 2003).
reigns again at Mount Etna, a little more than three (not four)
months after one of its most significant eruptions in recent time
began simultaneously on its northeastern and southern flanks. The
volcano has fallen dormant, to the great relief of all those who
live around it but also those who work on it (eruptions are not
only spectacular to watch but also mean a lot of stress). According
to the 29
January 2003 bulletin of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica
e Vulcanologia (Sezione di Catania), volcanic tremor, which is a
good indicator of eruptive activity, declined markedly on the evening
of 28 January, and on the next morning no eruptive activity nor
flowing lava were observed at the large pyroclastic cone on the
upper southern flank. The final extent of the multilobate lava field
formed below this cone since mid-November is shown on a composite
map provided by the INGV-Catania.
10 January 2003 update. What began as the 2002 eruption of Mount Etna is now the 2002-2003 eruption of this volcano, because as of 10 January, mild eruptive activity is still continuing at the huge pyroclastic cone on the upper southern flank of the volcano. This cone, whose growth began at an elevation of around 2750 m, has undergone slight growth during the past few weeks and is now much more than 150 m high. Lava continues to issue from a vent on its southern base to feed relatively minor flows to the southwest.
The 2002 eruption of Mount Etna is now featured on more and more web sites. The two principal sources of information (updates, photographs, and other graphic material) are:
Like in 2001, Lisetta Giacomelli and Roberto Scandone of the University of Roma 3 have created an incredibly informative and well-illustrated web page, which unfortunately is only available in Italian:
Furthermore there are two web cams pointed on the southern flank of Etna, which can be accessed at the web site of:
Two further web cams, located at Riposto (east-northeast of Etna) show a wide-angle view and a close-up of the volcano; these are provided by:
Alain Melchior presents interesting digital models of the lava flows of the 2002 eruption and has numerous captures from Italian television news of the eruption
One could expect some high-quality photography of the eruption at "Stromboli On-Line", and Marco Fulle's photos do fulfill all expectations...
The same is true for Tom Pfeiffer's photos, which are among the most spectacular of the 2002 eruption so far available - Tom was lucky to be at Etna on the evening of 27 October and photograph the most spectacular phases of activity on the Northeast Rift:
This is a relatively poorly known site, created in 2000, which has photos and spectacular video clips of the 2002 eruption (and of the activity in 2000 and 2001 as well):
Another web site that has escaped attention thus far, but deserves to be visited (good photos and movie clips, including one of the spectacular explosive eruption at the Voragine on 22 July 1998):
Very spectacular photos of the still-erupting crater at 2750 m elevation on the southern flank (seen from the Torre del Filosofo area) plus a nice map of the upper southern flank of Etna are available on
No less spectacular, the view of the eruption from the International Space Station (NASA):
...and, of course, there are photos, updates and video clips at
Much information (in Italian) is offered by the Catania-based newspaper
Copyright © Boris Behncke, "Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of
Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 28 April 2003