Access to the summit area is DANGEROUS.
Eruptive activity at the summit craters is again increasing,
and sudden explosions that may drop pyroclastics (blocks and
bombs) are possible, especially at the SE Crater which has resumed
its episodic eruptive behavior. Besides this, weather conditions
are often unstable. The onset of the winter brings frequent
snow storms and clouds, and one gets easily lost due to the
lack of points of reference once there is a thick snow cover.
One man was killed in December 1999 when he fell into a chasm
and dozens of people have since then been reported lost and
searched for, fortunately without further tragic accidents.
Excursions should be made only with the mountain guides who
can be contacted at the cable car (near the Rifugio Sapienza)
on the southern side of Etna, or at the hotel "Le Betulle"
at Piano Provenzana, on the northern side.
January 2000 update.
On Etna's summit, the SE Crater has erupted again this morning (29
January), producing its second eruptive episode in three days. The
activity was apparently very violent and short-lived: at about 0845
h (local time=GMT+1) Giuseppe Scarpinati, Italian correspondent of
the French "L'Association Volcanologique Européenne"
(L.A.V.E.), saw a spectacular eruption column rising to a height of
several kilometers above the summit; after 0900 h the activity was
already declining. Scarpinati lives in Acireale and has a panoramic
view of the southeastern side of the volcano; at his home loud rumblings
were audible during the activity. Tephra fell over the eastern flank
of the volcano, and therefore the skiing areas on the southern and
northern flanks of Etna luckily were spared: this weekend, with favorable
weather conditions persisting, a massive rush of skiers to the mountain
Scarpinati was unable to state whether the SE Crater had emitted any
lava flows during the new eruptive episode, because its eastern base
and the upper eastern flank of the mountain were hidden by a pall
of ash and gas drifting eastwards. A significant quantity of lava
had been produced during the preceding paroxysmal episode on 26 January,
forming a flow 1.5 km long that reached the floor of the Valle del
Bove, longer than any flow produced by the SE Crater during the series
of similar eruptive episodes of late-1998 to early-1999.
Minor activity apparently continued throughout the day after the cessation
of the paroxysmal activity. At nightfall lava continued to flow from
a vent on the southern flank of the SE Crater cone, in the same location
where lava effusion continued for about 15 hours after the paroxysmal
episode of 26 January.
January 2000 update.
The SE Crater has apparently calmed after yesterday's spectacular
eruptive episode. Lava effusion continued after nightfall yesterday,
but diminished gradually during the night, and this morning (27 January)
very little incandescence was visible on the new lava flow that has
spilled about 1.5-2 km into the Valle del Bove. When observed before
daybreak from Acireale by Giuseppe Scarpinati, Italian correspondent
of "L'Association Volcanologique Européenne" (L.A.V.E.),
no incandescence was visible at the summit craters of Etna. The new
lava flow has advanced downslope along the southern margin of the
lava flow-field formed during the long-lived effusive activity of
February-November 1999 and reached the floor of the Valle del Bove.
At the SE Crater, the activity of 26 January has caused some changes.
The summit of its cone appears to have collapsed partly, enlarging
the diameter of the crater. The eruptive activity from the lower flank
of the cone does not appear to have occurred at the 4 February 1999
fracture, but at a new fracture which trends in a more southerly direction.
The eruptive activity on 26 January was accompanied by loud detonations
audible as far as Acireale, and caused light ash falls over the E
and NE flanks. Lapilli several millimeters in diameter reportedly
fell in Zafferana.
The cessation of the activity at the SE Crater may indicate that the
crater will behave in an episodic manner in the near future, rather
than producing continuous mild activity. Eruptive episodes usually
are characterized by a higher eruption rate with abundant tephra and
lava emission. Tephra falls might cause problems to the skiing areas
on the southern and northern flanks of the volcano, as happened frequently
during the winter of 1998-1999. The resumption of the activity is
therefore viewed with concern by the owners of the skiing facilities
who lost almost the entire skiing season last year (but recovered
due to the massive tourist flux during the summer).
January 2000 update.
During the past week (until shortly after midnight on 26 January)
the activity at Etna's summit craters has continued at similar levels
to the previous weeks, with mild Strombolian activity in one of the
eruptive vents of the Bocca Nuova. This activity was accompanied by
frequent ash emissions that were well visible from towns around the
volcano during the few moments of clear weather.
On the early morning of 26 January, vigorous eruptive activity began
at the SE Crater which had been inactive since a brief eruptive episode
on 4 September 1999 (lava emission from vents at the ESE base of the
SE Crater cone had ceased in early November 1999). It appears that
the summit vent of the crater became active sometime after midnight,
and lava fountaining continued through daybreak. At the same time
lava flowed down the southern and southeastern flanks of the cone,
and it seems that activity also occurred from the fracture that had
cut across the SE slope of the cone on 4 February 1999. As of noon
on 26 January the activity continued, mainly from the summit vent
of the SE Crater, and some subsidence or collapse was evident at the
summit of its cone (this seems to have occurred sometime after 10:00
h local time=GMT+1).
After nightfall on 26 January, bright incandescence from a spot on
the SE flank of the SE Crater cone indicated continued lava effusion,
possibly in the direction of the Valle del Bove.
The resumption of eruption from the SE Crater is not surprising, since
this has been the most continuously active of the four summit craters
of Etna in the past 3 years (including the effusive activity from
vents at its SE and ESE base between February and November 1999).
Etna is thus continuing its long series of summit eruptions initiated
in the summer of 1995, and the reactivation of the SE Crater could
be interpreted as the uprise of fresh magma in the central conduit
system. Between September 1998 and February 1999 the SE Crater produced
more than 20 powerful but short-lived eruptive episodes, and it is
well possible that similar episodes will occur for the next weeks
January 2000 update.
Weather conditions have again worsened today, Etna is again in clouds,
and there are probably more snow falls. However, last night the sky
was clear, and mild, intermittent Strombolian activity could be seen
at the Bocca Nuova. This activity was similar to that observed in
early January, but weaker.
January 2000 update.
After nine days of very bad weather (which has caused heavy snow falls
on Etna down to about 1000 m elevation), the volcano has become visible
again from Catania this morning. The visible activity consists mostly
of dense gas emission from the Bocca Nuova, accompanied by sporadic
puffs of brownish-gray ash. Most snow on the S flank of the main summit
cone and on the SE Crater cone has melted, indicating heat emission
from the ground.
series of other web pages covering the October-November eruptions
of the Bocca Nuova have recently posted; these contain photos and
movie clips of some of the most spectacular moments of that period.
photo gallery covering the period September-November 1999 (with photos
by Boris Behncke and Giuseppe Scarpinati)
of the eruptive activity, 26-31 October 1999, by Tom Pfeiffer (University
of Arhus, Denmark)
by Marco Fulle, 17-23 October 1999, at Stromboli On-line - Marco at
impressive video clips, taken by Roberto Carniel on 17-23 October
1999, at Stromboli On-line
by Juerg Alean, of 1 November 1999, at Stromboli On-line
clips, taken by Juerg Alean on 1 November 1999, at Stromboli On-line
page by Charles Rivière, France, with many photos of the summer
and autumn of 1999 (in French)
visitors counted since 12 February 1999
(This page has received an incredible 4362
hits during the week of 24-30 October! - And, amazingly
enough, 4430 hits were counted
the week after.)
Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified
on 29 January 2000