Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna index

Geology Geological history Cones and craters
Eruptive characteristics Eruptions before 1971 Eruptions since 1971
Etna and Man References Web sites
Weather forecasts FAQ Latest news


30 November 2002
Giuseppe "Pippo" Scarpinati's masterpiece of the 2002-2003 eruption: the fire fountain of the second of the new cones formed on the upper southern flank of Etna, seen on the evening of 30 November 2002. The first of the two cones, active until a few days before this photo was taken, lies to the right of the active crater; it resumed its activity about two weeks later. The snow-covered cone in the center of the image is the prehistoric crater of Monte Frumento Supino, which until 2001 was the only flank crater on Etna's southern flank above an elevation of 2600 m. At the extreme left rises the cone of the Southeast Crater, which until mid-2001 had been a busy producer of lava fountains

Etna photo gallery: 2002
Etna on the move - the 2002-2003 eruption


Following its eruption in July-August 2001, Etna took a rest of about ten months, then, in the summer of 2002, magma reappeared in two of its summit craters. This had been preceded since early March by ash emissions, first from the Bocca Nuova and then also from the Northeast Crater. For nearly three months, the latter of the two showed intermittent Strombolian activity, and the floor of its central pit rose to 50 m below its rim. At night, explosions were visible even from great distance. Etna was back on the stage, but no one would have expected it to erupt in the manner it did during the night of 26-27 October 2002. But this is not the place to repeat the chronology of those events, which are described in detail on the 2002-2003 eruption page. Here are the photograps of that eruption, which caused serious distress to the people living in a large area around the volcano, and three stressful months for all who were engaged in dealing with the emergency - the scientists, civil protection, and those whose property was lost or at risk

Distant view of the eruption, 27 October 2002

27 October 2002 - seen from Vulcano
First view of Etna's eruption on 27 October 2002, taken from a sailboat offshore the island of Vulcano, Aeolian Islands (seen in the foreground), about 100 km north of Etna. An enormous cloud of ash is rising thousands of meters into the sky, veiling the volcano. The clear weather on this day permits to see two volcanoes erupting at the same time - Stromboli (lower left photograph) and Etna (lower right photograph)
27 October 2002 - seen from Panarea

Close view of the eruption, 27 October 2002

Northeast Rift, 27 October 2002 The end of Piano Provenzana, 27 October 2002
This is the close-up view of the eruption, seen and photographed by Pippo Scarpinati on 27 October 2002. Left photograph shows lava fountaining from a vent on the Northeast Rift, which has split open along a length of about 2 km, and lava from this vent is rapidly spilling down the steep slope below the vent, heading directly toward Piano Provenzana and its touristic infrastructures. At noon on the same day, the fiery flood arrives on the plain, burning a ski school and then proceeding further across the flat terrain. Everybody who has remained there until then - mostly owners and employees of the tourist facilities, local residents, journalists, and geologists - is forced to leave the place instantly, because the only access route to Piano Provenzana is in the path of the lava flow. No one was there to see how Piano Provenzana vanished from the face of the planet
The last photographs taken of Piano Provenzana that day - along with the one above - are available on the web pages (in Italian) of the Etnean volcanological and mountain guides:, and of the Finocchiaro photo studios of Linguaglossa: - note that the latter site wrongly gives 24, not 27, October as the first day of the eruption

Earthquakes on Etna's eastern flank, 29 October 2002

Santa Venerina, 29 October 2002 Santa Venerina, 29 October 2002
Following the intense seismicity that accompanied the beginning of the eruption (mainly on the northeastern flank), earthquakes began to extend all over the eastern flank of the volcano, and several larger shocks shook the area between Milo and Santa Venerina on 29 October. Damage was greatest in the Bongiardo quarter of Santa Venerina, where several buildings collapsed, but structural damage occurred in nearly all population centers up to Milo. These two photographs, taken a few days later by Giuseppe Scarpinati, show destruction in Santa Venerina. As of August 2003, there is still much destruction visible in that village

Two eruptions-in-one, 31 October 2002

View from Acireale, 31 October 2002
This morning view, taken by Pippo Scarpinati, of the erupting volcano from Acireale (lying to the southwest of Etna) clearly shows the two eruption sites on the southern (left) and northeastern (right) flanks. And in fact, both are producing different types of magma with different eruptive styles, though the process that triggered the eruption was very likely the same - the sliding of a huge portion of the eastern flank of the volcano

Lipari to Catania, 30-31 October 2002

View from Lipari, 30 October 2002 View from Aeolian islands, 31 October 2002 View from Taormina, 31 October 2002
Left: a marvellous sunset over Lipari (Aeolian Islands) on 30 October. The gigantic ash plume of Etna is seen in the distance at left, trailing eastward (toward left)
Center: the next morning, a dense pall of ash hanging over Etna and northeastern Sicily is seen from a hydrofoil making its way from Lipari to Milazzo on the north coast of Sicily. That day, there has been a shift in the wind direction, and the ash plume is driven northeastward
Right: from a train passing near the tourist resort of Taormina, two ash plumes can be seen rising from the volcano. The denser one to the left is coming from the new eruptive vents on the southern flank, while the less conspicuous plume at right is rising from the Northeast Rift, where activity is already diminishing
View from Lipari, 30 October 2002 View from Catania, 31 October 2002 Catania covered with ash, 31 October 2002
Left: seen from due east, the ash columns rising above Etna are actually three - one, at left, fed by the strongly explosive south flank vents, a second, broader one comes from the summit craters (in certain moments during the first day of the 2002-2003 eruption, three of the four summit craters produced strong explosive activity), and the third one at right is produced by the remaining active Northeast Rift vents. 31 October 2002
Center: the square in front of the train station of Catania is covered with black ash, like everything around Etna. And the volcano continues to erupt in the background - this is only the sixth day of an eruption that will last for three months
Right: buildings in Catania covered with black ash, 31 October 2002. On that day, in the northern-central part of the city, the thickness of the ash was at least 2 cm when freshly fallen, significantly more than during the 2001 eruption

Northeast Flank, 1 November 2002

Northeast flank, 1 November 2002 Northeast flank, 1 November 2002 Northeast Rift, 1 November 2002
On the morning of 1 November 2002, the eruption, is continuing strongly on the southern flank, producing the dense ash column visible at left in both the left and center photographs (the second, more dilute plume visible in those images is rising from the summit craters). However, on the Northeast Rift, the show is largely over. The upper vents of the eruptive fissure on the northeastern flank are releasing only wisps of gas (visible at right in center image), and the lowermost vents, lying immediately above the devastated Piano Provenzana, show weak explosive activity (right photograph). Lava continues to advance slowly across the pine forest known as "Ragabo". The photographs were taken from the Monti Sartorius area, about 3 km from Piano Provenzana
Northeast flank, 1 November 2002 Northeast flank, 1 November 2002 Northeast flank, 1 November 2002
The traces of instantaneous devastation on Etna's northeastern flank, six days after the beginning of the eruption. Left photograph shows the "Mareneve" road interrupted by a lava flow on the side leading to Fornazzo and the Rifugio Citelli. A peculiar phenomenon is shown in center image: as fires spread across the "Ragabo" forest during the first days of the eruption, much of the fire propagation actually occurred below the soil surface, via the roots of long-dead pine trees, whose trunks were sometimes seen poking from holes that were formed as the soil (consisting largely of combustible organic matter) burned away around them. Right photograph is a northeastward view across the new lava flow that has eaten its way through the "Ragabo" forest to a distance of nearly 6 km, with the ash-laden plume from the active vents on the southern flank of Etna overhead. On 1-2 November, its the areas to the north that get their portion of ash, following heavy tephra falls to the south and east

'a muntagna scassau, 1 November 2002

Northeast flank, 1 November 2002 Northeast flank, 1 November 2002 Northeast flank, 1 November 2002
The meaning of the Sicilian saying "'a muntagna scassau" is something like "the mountain has broken asunder", and this time that's truly the case. Huge cracks have appeared in the "Mareneve" road, in the section that leads from Linguaglossa to the area of Piano Provenzana. The cracks mark the Pernicana Fault, which is nothing else than the northern boundary of the unstable, mobile eastern flank of the volcano, which has moved considerably at the beginning of the eruption. Movement actually started five weeks before the eruption, on 22 September 2002, but accelerated notably on 27 October, reaching total amounts of horizontal displacement of 2 m in the portion of the fault nearest to the Northeast Rift
Northeast flank, 1 November 2002 Northeast flank, 1 November 2002
The effects of the dramatic events of the first days of the eruption are seen here in an eerie atmosphere on the late afternoon of 1 November 2002. The air is filled with ash, there's ash everywhere, also on the "Mareneve" road, partially hiding the spectacular cracks related to the enormous flank slip along the Pernicana Fault. The larger of the cracks, however, are well evident (left photograph). And above all this, the volcano is venting more and more ash into the atmosphere, as a pale sun is setting behind its western crest (right)

Continue (next page)

Return to the Etna photo gallery


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

Page set up on 2 August 2003

Hosted by VolcanoDiscovery