Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
1November - 22 December 2000
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30 NOVEMBER 2000

Photo by Charles Rivière

30 November 2000 - new lava flow at SE Crater

Charles Rivière is seen in this photo sampling a new lava flow issuing from the fissure on the NNE side of the SE Crater cone on 30 November 2000 - the first evidence of renewed eruptive activity at this site after three months. This world premiere is due to the kindness of Charles Rivière, who e-mailed the photo (a video capture) on the evening of the same day.

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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 again VERY DANGEROUS. Explosive activity at the Bocca Nuova is frequently ejecting bombs far beyond the crater rims, most notably on its N, NW, W and SW sides. It is still officially forbidden to go beyond 2700 m elevation on the S flank. Tourists should make excursions only with the mountain guides, even though this will not satisfy the wish to see what's going on at close range. 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 (phone: 095-914141), or (during the summer) at the hotel "Le Betulle" at Piano Provenzana, on the northern side (phone: 095-643430).

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22 December 2000 update. The show at the SE Crater has not come. The small lava flow that had appeared in late November on the NNE flank of the SE Crater cone persisted through at least 2 December, and increased gas emission was noted on 5 December. On this last occasion it seemed as though a new paroxysm was imminent - but then things calmed down surprisingly. Since the first week of December, also the Strombolian activity at the Bocca Nuova subsided, and has been absent since, with a few isolated bursts in mid December. Visitors to the craters in the past two weeks found a state of absolute quiet.
On 17 December, a tourist from northern Italy attempted to reach the summit area on his own, climbing up the NE flank from the Rifugio Citelli during the afternoon. Weather conditions that day were unstable, with clouds hovering over the mountain, and gale-force winds blowing. The man lost track and had to seek shelter in a fracture of the 1928 eruption overnight, passing a traumatic night in freezing conditions, while rescue teams were sent out in a first effort to find the man. After an unsuccessful search on 17 December, a more massive effort was made the following morning, and the man was finally found in a slightly undercooled state, but in "generally stable conditions". This was his first visit to Etna, and he had no knowledge of the mountain and its peculiar microclimate. Once more it has been proved that no one should try to climb Etna on his own, especially in the winter season, and once more such an adventure has ended nearly fatally. One year ago a skier lost his life on the W slope of the Valle del Bove when he fell into an abyss.
On 21 December, fresh snow fell on Etna for the first time in a month, but heat emitted from the main summit cone and the SE Crater cone led to the rapid melting of much of the snow. It is likely that the curent period of repose at Etna will not last long...

30 November 2000 update. During the past three months, the SE Crater has been one of the quietest places on Etna. Some believed that the grand show - the dramatic series of 66 (sixty-six) paroxysmal eruptive episodes - was definitely over. On the other hand it was always clear that the crater would not remain silent forever. Now it seems that the show will really go on: the crater is reawakening from its three month-long slumber, and if it maintains the style of activity shown earlier this year, it will finally produce another paroxysm with lava fountains, lava flows and tephra falls.
For many weeks, the only signs of activity at the SE Crater were a few incandescent fumaroles in various locations on its cone and along the eruptive fissure that extends from its summit down the NNE flank. A particularly notable fumarole lay high on the SE flank of the cone, another one in the central part of the NNE fissure. At dark these fumaroles were distinctly glowing, probably because they discharged very hot gas at temperatures of 800-900°C.
After a few days of bad weather, a clear increase in the intensity of incancescence of fumaroles on the NNE fissure was noted on the evening of 27 November by Giuseppe Scarpinati, who observed the volcano from his home in Acireale, about 18 km SE of the summit. Using a special light enhancing viewer, he was able to see a much larger incandescent area along the fissure than previously; however, the glow was not visible with the naked eye. The evening after, the glow had intensified and was visible with a normal telescope. It was concentrated in the central part of the NNE fissure, while another, smaller glowing spot was discovered about 150 m further down the fissure, which displayed an intermittent incandescence. Scarpinati was reluctant to speak of a lava flow; he had seen many other lava flows at the same location during their initial stages and remarked that each time the glow was clearly visible with the naked eye.
On 30 November, Charles Rivière and others were able to reach the area of the reported incandescence and received the clear confirmation that extrusion of lava had started, forming a very small flow, which was issuing from near a hornito formed during one of the latest eruptive episodes in late August. Lava extrusion was accompanied by strong degassing, but there was no explosive activity. Rivière photographed and filmed the flow, and took samples of the fresh lava.
Eruptive activity was also observed at both vents in the Bocca Nuova. During the past ten days these vents had been more or less continuously active, but the activity had been very irregular and on 29 November it had been particularly weak. On 30 November it was again much more intense, but possibly not as vigorous as during October, when the crater was frequently visited by Boris Behncke and others.

21 November 2000 update. Italian press sources report that a new burst of seismic activity has occurred in the Etnean area on 19-21 November, this time affecting the NNW flank of the volcano. As during the 5-6 November seismicity, the causes of the earthquakes are probably related to tectonic movements along faults lying below the volcanic edifice, not to the uprise of magma. Some of the latest seismicity was felt in Randazzo, but no damage was reported.
At the Bocca Nuova, mild eruptive activity has continued without significant changes; sometime during the past week a weak incandescence was noted at the NE Crater by Giuseppe Scarpinati (the incandescence could be seen only with the aid of a night viewing device). There has been a slight increase in the intensity of incandescence in a few spots high on the SE side of the SE Crater cone. The current situation is fairly normal, quite different from the highly elevated levels of activity during the past 2.5 years.

12 November 2000 update. Mild Strombolian activity has continued during the past week at the Bocca Nuova; the levels of activity appeared generally lower than during the week before. There is no evidence of any effusive activity, and it seems that the two active pits in the Bocca Nuova have not yet been filled to their rims. Occasional episodes of stronger activity have thrown incandescent pyroclastics over the SW rim of the Bocca Nuova, and the area has to be considered highly dangerous to visitors.
Aftershocks of the 5 November tectonic earthquake on the S flank (see previous update below) continued until shortly after 0900 h on the next day, with a total of 119 shocks (quoted from the 7 October issue of "La Sicilia"). No other significant events have been noted throughout the week.

6 November 2000 update. The following information is based on local press reports (mainly "La Sicilia", 6 November 2000 issue), which cite scientists of the Poseidon monitoring network. A fairly high level of accuracy should therefore be granted.
A large area of eastern Sicily was shaken by a moderate earthquake on the late afternoon of 5 November (1826 h local time). The magnitude of the shock was 3.6, and it was felt in the provinces of Catania, Siracusa, Ragusa and Messina. Interestingly the epicenter was located near Monte Vetore, a prehistoric pyroclastic cone at about 1820 m elevation on the S flank of Etna. The focal depth was given as 10 km, and Poseidon scientists cited in the press reports interpreted it as a purely tectonic earthquake, not related to the movement of magma. This interpretation is supported by the fact that the earthquake was felt over such a large area.
The first and strongest shock was followed, within the next two hours, by sixty minor tremors. Damage was limited to "a few broken plates", and numerous anxious residents called the police or other emergency centers.
At the same time eruptive activity is going on at the Bocca Nuova, and as before there are strong fluctuations in the level of activity. Late on 3 November, Marco Fulle, Tom Pfeiffer and others were able to reach the rim of the Bocca Nuova and observe eruptive activity, which was at that time confined to the E vent, whereas the NW vent was fairly quiet.
On 5 November, visitors at Rifugio Citelli and elsewhere on the mountain heard loud detonations from the summit area, but low clouds prevented them from viewing the upper part of the volcano. The press report in "La Sicilia" states that on 5 November there was some effusive activity at the Bocca Nuova, but "the lava flow remains confined to the summit area".
It can be expected that the forthcoming weekly report of the Poseidon monitoring network will give more precise details of the events in the past few days.

Activity at the Bocca Nuova,
25 October 2000

Photos by Thorsten Boeckel

25 October 2000

Explosion at the E vent of the Bocca Nuova, photographed at nightfall from the S rim of the crater. Explosions like the one shown here ejected bombs beyond the crater rim, and Boeckel, the author of this photo, left that observation place just in time before stronger explosions sent bombs far beyond that place.

25 October 2000
25 October 2000

Explosive activity at the NW vent (top left) and at the E vent (photos at right), photographed from the S rim of the Bocca Nuova at around sunset on 25 October

25 October 2000

2 November 2000 update. The eruptive activity at the Bocca Nuova has continued with fluctuations, as during the previous weeks. On the evening of 30 October, Giuseppe Scarpinati observed intense, continuous explosive activity at both vents (NW and E vents) that was visible with the naked eye from his home in Acireale. Incandescence was also visible on the upper SE flank of the SE Crater cone, and a dull, fluctuating glow could be observed at the NE Crater.
On the morning of 31 October, strong explosive activity continued at the Bocca Nuova, forming a dense plume of gas mixed with some ash. On 2 November, Marco Fulle (Stromboli On-line), Tom Pfeiffer (University of Arhus, Denmark) and others attempted a climb to the Bocca Nuova but had to return about 100 m from the SW rim of the crater, because almost incessant explosions threw bombs over the crater rim. The explosions almost certainly came from a source in the E part of the crater, not the NW vent, which was only strongly degassing.

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)

Etna in 2000 - various pages at Stromboli On-line with photos and movie clips of SE Crater paroxysms and Bocca Nuova gas rings: most photos are of Marco Fulle, the artist photographer among us

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) - scroll to bottom of page

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

Thorsten Boeckel's web site (Germany) with photos and movie clips of several paroxysm of the SE Crater in February, April and June 2000

A small web page reporting on Etna's current activity - and check what happens to your cursor on that page...

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)

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

Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 22 December 2000

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