Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
3-5 July 2001
All times are local (GMT+2 h)

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28 June 2001

PAROXYSM AT THE SE CRATER ON 27-28 JUNE 2001: Press photo taken from southeast (Monte Zoccolaro?) early on the 28th showing Strombolian activity at the summit vent of the SE Crater and lava flows issuing from the "Levantino" (at right) and from one or more vents along the eruptive fissure on the NNE flank of the SE Crater cone. Photograph by Tony Gentile (Reuters)
Other recent photos of Etna's eruptive activity are available on the previous archived News page

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NEW: Excursions to the Etna area,
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The Etna telecamera is maintained by the "Sistema Poseidon" (now part of the newly constituted Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia) 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 and ACCESS TO THE SUMMIT CRATERS IS FORBIDDEN. The regime of eruptive activity at the Southeast Crater has changed once more, and episodes of vigorous explosive and effusive activity might occur with relatively little warning. Guided excursions on the south flank that end at the Torre del Filosofo, at about 2900 m elevation, have resumed in mid-March, and on the north flank excursions arrive at 3100 m elevation, on the E side of the main summit cone. Tourists should make excursions only with the mountain guides and NEVER GO ALONE, 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). There is now a new web site giving more information about guided excursions on Etna.

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The latest update is near the bottom of this page

3 July 2001 update. Increased degassing from the Northeast Crater is occurring as of 3 July, early afternoon; this phenomenon has been visible throughout the morning of this day. Some of the recent paroxysmal eruptive episodes from the Southeast Crater have been preceded by increased emissions (gas, at times with ash) from the Northeast Crater, and the current degassing might be a forerunner of the expected 12th Southeast Crater paroxysm, which seems to be coming after a longer repose interval than any of its predecessors. Weather cloud is rendering visual observations difficult at times, but it is hoped that toward the evening the summit area will clear and any eruptive activity will be plainly visible.
More detail about the timing of the 30 June eruptive episode at the Southeast Crater has become available. The event occurred during bad weather which rendered visual observations impossible, and the following is based on observations of volcanic tremor. Information was kindly supplied by Marco Neri (Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, Sezione di Catania) by oral communication and is preliminary. Supplementary information comes from Dominique Lauper, Switzerland who was near the summit at the time of the event.
Lava outflow was first observed during the evening of 29 June, when the cloud cover over the summit of Etna had lifted temporarily. Lauper noted the flowing lava at about 2300 h (local time=GMT+2). Mild Strombolian activity presumably began at around 0400 h on 30 June and progressively increased over the next 4 hours. The phase of most vigorous (explosive and effusive) activity occurred between 0800 and 1105 h, but showed a slightly decreasing trend starting at 0930 h. Lauper, who stayed near the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut, did not see anything due to dense cloud cover, but the noise level increased significantly at 0705 h, when bombs were heard impacting on the flanks of the SE Crater cone. After 1105 eruption-related seismicity decreased notably, although the noise level audible at Torre del Filosofo reached the highest levels between 1230 and 1300 h, possibly related to strong degassing at the end of the paroxysmal phase. The eruptive episode was essentially over shortly after 1600 h. Lauper observed continued lava effusion between 1600and 1800 h, at a fairly high effusion rate. By 2100 h, however, all lava effusion had stopped. When the clouds dissipated on the evening of 30 June, no incandescence was visible anywhere on the volcano, as observed at about 2130 h by Behncke from Catania.
Although it is not known to what proportion the activity was shared by the various eruptive vents at the SE Crater, it is assumed that the character of this latest paroxysm was similar to that of its predecessors.
On the evening of 1 July, Behncke noted the continued absence of incandescence when observing the volcano from the "Ulysses harbor" in the NE part of Catania. The situation was identical on the evening of 2 July.
Some general conclusions can be drawn at this point about the current series of eruptive episodes at the SE Crater. None of the 11 paroxysms that have occurred so far has reached the dimensions of those observed one year ago at the same crater. According to Neri, the "magnitude" of the current eruptive phenomena is only half or one-third of that of the 2000 events, which regards especially the explosivity of the paroxysms. In 2000, most eruptive episodes produced sustained lava fountains from the summit vent and in many cases also from vents along fissures on the S and NNE flanks of the SE Crater cone. Fountain heights were, except in a few cases, impressive: 200-500 m were common, and some paroxysms produced fountains up to 1000 m high. In 2001, true lava fountains have been observed mostly at the "Levantino" vent, on the NNE flank of the SE Crater cone, and they have reached only "modest" heights of 50-300 m. The summit vent did produce lava fountains during some of the recent paroxysms, but in most cases they did not last long, and often that vent produced discrete (though violent) Strombolian bursts in rapid succession rather than sustained fountains. The height of ejections from this vent rarely exceeded 500 m. Flow lengths are more or less similar in both series of paroxysms (maximum 2-3 km from the source vents), but in 2001 all effusive activity is limited to the NNE side of the SE Crater cone, whereas in 2000 most paroxysms produced lava from both the NNE and S sides of the cone.
Tephra production during the current series of eruptive episodes has been very minor in comparison with the paroxysms of last year. The most significant tephra emission occurred during the paroxysm on the morning of 11 June (see the spectacular photos on the web site of Thorsten Boeckel). Only very light ash falls have occurred so far in inhabited areas on the flanks of the volcano. In 2000, towns and villages, especially in the E sector of Etna received repeated heavy showers of scoriaceous lapilli which caused considerable logistical and economic problems to the affected population.
So Etna is once more providing a haunting though essentially harmless show at its SE Crater, but the magma involved seems to be less voluminous and/or gas-rich than last year. This show is occurring almost six years after the beginning of near-continuous eruptive activity at the summit craters, and nearly ten years after the beginning of the last flank eruption. More summit activity might be expected for years to come, but sooner or later there will be new flank eruptions, and then the show will become dangerous.

5 July 2001 update. The 12th eruptive episode in 30 days at the Southeast Crater finally occurred on the evening of 4 July, after 4.5 days of quiet. Observations were made by Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian delegate of the Paris-based Association Volcanologique Européenne, or "L.A.V.E."), whose report is summarized below.
According to local mountain guides, lava effusion from the "Levantino" started at about 1100 h (local time=GMT+2), forming two lava flows oriented toward NE (in the direction of the Pizzi Deneri) and SSE.
Scarpinati arrived at the Pizzi Deneri at 2115 h, by then modest Strombolian activity occurred at the summit vent of the SE Crater and the two lava flows extending from the "Levantino" were gradually advancing. The NE flow by then was about 150 m long, the ESE flow appeared somewhat longer.
At 2200 the Strombolian activity at the summit vent stopped temporarily, then at 2230 resumed in a much more vigorous manner, but lava emission and spattering at "Levantino" ceased at about the same time, and the two lava flows stopped advancing.
Very powerful, "cannon shot"-like explosions occurred now at the summit vent, producing jets inclined in all directions and up to 400-500 m high. They occurred in rapid succession, several per second, and for a period large magma bubbles burst into huge fragments that fell down to as far as the base of the SEC cone.
At 2345 h explosions at summit vent declined in strength, but at the same time activity at "Levantino" increased instantaneously with vigorous spattering, producing a minor new flow to NE and leading to the resumption of the ESE which rapidly extended to 1500 m. A dense tephra column rose from summit vent, obscuring the full moon, and leading to ash falls on the SE flank of Etna. Fine ash fell as far as Acireale including fine threads of "Pele's hair" 3-5 mm long.
At 0045 h there was a notable diminution of the activity and at 0100 Strombolian activity at summit ended; weak spattering continued for a while at the "Levantino" and slow lava effusion was ongoing at 0200 h when Scarpinati left his observation post.
This eruptive episode came after a repose period that was much longer than those separating the preceding 11 paroxysms. Further eruptive episoded might be expected in the near future, but the repose intervals between them are expected to be highly irregular, so that it is impossible to make any considerations about when they might occur.
NOTE: No updates will be posted on this page until late July, since I have to return to Tuscany for a few weeks. In the meantime, you will find information about Etna's activity on the following web sites: Stromboli On-line and the site of Charles Rivière which is in French, but usually very up-to-date. The Poseidon (INGV) web site is currently offline (no web live-cam, unfortunately) but maybe the indicated web sites will give information once it is back on-line.

The recent eruptive activity at Etna's summit craters is featured on several web pages that contain additional information and highly spectacular images. Some of them (Poseidon/INGV, Charles Rivière and Stromboli On-line) have regular updates.

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

Alain Catté (Association Volcanologique Européenne) has photos of Etna
from many years

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 5 July 2001

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