Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
30 March-9 April 2000
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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.

Photos of the 29 March 2000 paroxysm:
The view from the harbor of Catania

These photos are captures from video taken by David Bryant

29 March 2000 1 29 March 2000 2
29 March 2000 3 29 March 2000 4
29 March 2000 5 29 March 2000 6
29 March 2000 7 29 March 2000 8

These stills were captured from video footage recorded by British cameraman and film maker David Bryant between 2130 h (frame # 1) and about 2250 h (frame # 8) on 29 March 2000. This is how the eruptive episode at the Southeast Crater that evening looked from the harbor of Catania. While most frames are zooms on the crater, frames 3 and 7 show part of the city in the foreground. The first few frames show the initial stages of the activity, with gradually increasing Strombolian activity at the summit vent of the crater, and lava emission from a vent on the NE flank of the SE Crater cone. This vent became inactive as the Strombolian activity at the summit vent graded into a continuous fountain (frame 4), but in frame 5 a new vent is visible high on the S flank, emitting a lava flow shaped like an inverse heart. The main fountain decreased in vigor soon after the opening of the S flank vent, but continued to produce occasional powerful explosions until the end of the paroxysmal activity (frame 8).

WARNING: Access to the summit area is HIGHLY DANGEROUS. Violent eruptive episodes are occurring frequently at the Southeast Crater, and heavy showers of tephra (including clasts tens of centimeters in diameter) may occur up to several kilometers away. Lava may also arrive rapidly at up to 1.5 km of distance from the crater. Besides this, weather conditions are often unstable. Strong wind, snow or rain and clouds are occuring frequently in the summit area, and one can get easily lost. 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 (during the summer) at the hotel "Le Betulle" at Piano Provenzana, on the northern side.

9 April 2000 update. No confirmed eruptive activity has occurred at the SE Crater since 6 April. Bad weather has prevented any visual observations on 9 April, and it is thus not known whether there has been another eruptive episode at the crater.
In the meantime you may get an overview of the unusual sequence of eruptive episodes at the SE Crater since 26 January on a new page, which also contains numerous photos not available before on this site. Photos of the 6 April paroxysmal eruptive episode are shown below.

Photos of the 6 April 2000 paroxysm:
The view from the southern flank of Etna

These photos were taken by Boris Behncke

6 April 2000 1 6 April 2000 2
6 April 2000 3

Initial phase of the eruptive episode at between about 1200 and 1205 h on 6 April, seen from an area north of Nicolosi (southern flank of Etna; about 8 km from the SE Crater). The activity consists of discrete Strombolian bursts, which rapidly increase in strength and frequency

6 April 2000 4 6 April 2000 5

The photos above were taken from near Monte Manfrè, higher up on the southern flank of Etna, about 10 minutes after the first three photos. The SE Crater now ejects a continuous lava fountain, and a dark, tephra-laden plume is rising from the crater. A light-colored plume can be seen on eastern (right) side of the cone, caused by heavy showering with pyroclastics. Lying on the windward side, the western flank of the cone is still covered with snow

At about 1225 h, the activity reaches its culminating phase. A lava fountain rises hundreds of meters above the SE Crater, which is hidden from view in this photo, taken from near Rifugio Sapienza, from a rapidly driving car

6 April 2000 6
6 April 2000 7 6 April 2000 8

Declining phase of the eruptive episode, seen from the area of the upper station of the cable car, near Montagnola, 4 km S of the SE Crater. At this stage the activity continues of discontinuous explosions, which mainly emit ash. These photos were taken between 1255 and 1310 h

Aftermath of the 6 April 2000 paroxysm
All photos were taken by Boris Behncke

6 April 2000 9 6 April 2000 10

The SE Crater cone is seen in these photos, taken during the early afternoon of 6 April, together with its offspring, the "Sudestino", which is visible as a dark hill in the left photo (# 9) and as a ridge emitting a steaming small lava flow at left in the right photo. The left photo also shows the fracture in the S flank of the SE Crater cone, where eruptive vents had opened during many of the recent eruptive episodes (except those on 3 and 6 April). The photos were taken near the SE base of the SE Crater cone, in the area of the long-lived effusive activity in 1999

6 April 2000 11 6 April 2000 12

Small active lava flow moving down the E side of the "Sudestino", a kind of residual activity following the paroxysm at about noon on 6 April. These photos were taken about 2 hours after the paroxysm. Left photo shows the full extent of the lava flow and its source area, a craggy hill, which is actually the vent area of the "Sudestino". The length of the flow is at most 100 m. In the right photo, the flow front is seen advancing across older lava, with the SE Crater cone in the background

6 April 2000 13 6 April 2000 14

Eastern base of the SE Crater cone, covered with scoriae and littered with huge bombs and blocks. The largest bomb seen in the left photo is shown close-up in the right photo; Hungarian student Judit Zachar gives scale. Note glowing hole at the base of the bomb

A look back to the fractured SE Crater cone and its black child, the "Sudestino", during the late afternoon of 6 April. The state shown in this photograph will certainly not last long; more paroxysmal eruptive episodes will likely occur in the near future

6 April 2000 15

6 April 2000 update. Two further eruptive episodes - the 47th and 48th since 26 January - have occurred at the SE Crater on 3 and 6 April. The 3 April episode occurred between about 1600 h and 1645 h, and most of the activity was not visible due to dense cloud cover. However, at the height of the paroxysm, a group of Germans (including Thorsten Boeckel, who had also witnessed the violent 15 February paroxysm of the SE Crater) who stayed at the Torre del Filosofo building at that time observed during a brief period when the clouds opened that vigorous lava fountaining occurred from the summit vent of the SE Crater, but no other vents were active on the S flank of its cone. They could also see later that there had been no fracturing on the S flank during the paroxysm, but probably there had been some significant activity on the NE flank, with emission of lava flows towards the Valle del Bove.
The 6 April paroxysm was one of the strongest of the series initiated in late January. It began probably sometime began 1130 and 1200 with ash emissions from the summit vent of the SE Crater, followed by Strombolian bursts that rapidly increased in vigor and frequency. At around 1220, a vigorous pulsating fountain rose from the crater, and a dense brownish-gray ash plume drifted towards E under a strong wind. The fountaining reached a climax at around 1230-1240 when the upper part of the fountain was clearly visible from the area of the Rifugio Sapienza (at 1910 m elevation on the S flank), attracting hundreds of tourists who had arrived in buses at the tourist complex around the Rifugio Sapienza. The summit craters can not be seen from there, and fountains have to rise at least 200 m to become visible; the visible part of the fountain was probably 300 m high or even higher. Loud rumbling sounds were audible in that location as well.
The activity began to diminish sometime before 1300, and by 1305 the fountain had become discontinuous and much lower. However, some isolated strong blasts sprayed large bombs obliquely over the cone, mostly towards W. As during the previous paroxysm, no eruptive vents opened on the S flank fracture, but intense eruptive activity was going on on the N or NE side of the cone, feeding lava flows into the Valle del Bove. Most eruptive activity was over before 1330. However, at this time increased gas emission from the "Sudestino" cone at the S base of the SE Crater cone indicated that effusive activity was occurring there. Visitors (including Boris Behncke, of the Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche at the University of Catania, and Judit Zachar, a geology student from Hungary, and once more Thorsten Boeckel) reached the "Sudestino" area during the early afternoon and found a small lava flow that was issuing from the vent to advance slowly for about 100 m towards E. Slow effusive activity was also observed near the vents on the NE flank of the SE Crater cone. The area to the E of the cone was covered by fresh pyroclastics, which had obliterated lava flows still visible on 3 April (information from Boeckel and his companions). There were numerous very large bombs up to 100 m away from the base of the cone, some up to 3 or more in diameter.
Since Behncke's last visit to the summit area when viewing conditions were favorable, on 25 March, the cone of the SE Crater had grown further, mostly in its upper E part, which has become oversteepened due to the rapid accumulation of agglutinated pyroclastics hurled out during the latest eruptive episodes. Most of the recent paroxysms have occurred with the wind blowing towards E, leading to heavy falls of pyroclastics on that side. The lower E flank of the cone shows numerous traces of avalanches triggered by the copious fall of bombs and scoriae during the paroxysms, and does not appear very stable. The rapid growth of the cone on its E side has increased the risk of a collapse of that section of the cone, which stands close to the W rim of the Valle del Bove, an area that is considered structurally unstable by some geologists.
The Bocca Nuova has continued its degassing activity, often punctuated by loud explosions, which only emit hot gas, but no pyroclastic material. A notable feature of this activity is the frequent generation of "smoke rings" (actually volcanoes do not emit smoke - which is a product of combustion - but gas), many of which remain stable for several minutes. On 6 April, these rings were emitted at intervals of a few minutes.

1 April 2000 update. After two and a half days of relative quiet, the SE Crater erupted again on the morning of 1 April to produce its 46th eruptive episode in 66 days.
Slow lava effusion began sometime after the previous episode (which had taken place on the evening of 29 March) at the "Sudestino" vent at the southern base of the SE Crater cone, which had not been active during any of the three eruptive episodes on 22, 24 and 29 March. Lava apparently flowed for a little distance to the SE. Sometime after 0900 on 1 April eruptive activity began at the summit vent of the SE Crater, and possibly also became more vigorous at the "Sudestino". Lava fountains rose from the summit vent, and lava flowed from a fracture on the S flank of the SE Crater cone. It is not known if there was any eruptive activity at the vents at the N and NE base of the cone. A large lava flow advanced on top of earlier flows to the SW, and eventually reached the steep slope to the NE of Monte Frumento Supino. This flow may have come close to the Torre del Filosofo building, but does not seem to have reached it. Most eruptive activity ended before 1100, but vigorous gas emission and possibly some minor effusive activity continued at the "Sudestino". A dense gas plume continues to be emitted from this vent as of the afternoon of 1 April.
Field investigations made on 27 April by Behncke and a team of the National Geophysical Institute of Italy during very bad weather revealed that during the 24 March eruptive episode lava had issued at the NE base of the SE Crater cone, feeding two lava flows which went SE and NE, both reaching a length of more than 1 km.

30 March 2000 update. The 45th eruptive episode from the Southeast Crater since 26 January occurred on the evening of 29 March, presenting a marvellous spectacle to hundreds of thousands of people all over eastern Sicily. This episode occurred after exactly five days of repose, at about the same time of the day as the previous two episodes, on 22 and 24 March.
The activity
began sometime before 1900 h and consisted of lava emission from a vent on the lower NE side of the SE Crater cone - the same vent had emitted lava at the beginning of the 24 March episode.
Giuseppe Scarpinati, who lives in Acireale on the lower SE flank of Etna, reported that lava emission from the NE flank vent gradually increased, and that there was probably some spattering at the vent. Soon after 2000 h, mild Strombolian activity began at the summit vent of the SE Crater cone. For the next hour or so, this activity slowly increased, while lava continued to flow from the NE flank vent, forming a flow several hundred meters long to the E.
By 2115 h, Boris Behncke, David Bryant and Judit Zachar were at the main mole of the harbor of Catania, watching, filming and photographing the activity, which at that time still consisted of discrete, though vigorous, Strombolian explosions, and continued lava emission from the NE flank vent. By 2130 h, a continuous, though pulsating, fire-fountain was jetting from the summit vent, while lava emission from the NE flank vent rapidly diminished. For the next 20 minutes or so, the fountain from the summit vent jetted 250-300 m above the crater. Then, a brightly luminous spot appeared just below the summit vent on the upper S flank of the cone, and soon a small fountain began to play from this vent, while lava began to flow down the steep slope below. This flow soon attained the shape of a downward inverse heart (see photos above), before it continued to extend further down the slope, following the path of earlier lavas emplaced on 22 and 24 March.
Very shortly after the appearance of the S flank vent, the main vent at the summit of the SE Crater cone showed a remarkable decrease in its activity; however, the activity remained vigorous for about another hour, with some jets inclined to the S and N, and some powerful explosions that showered the entire SE Crater cone with large incandescent bombs. At this stage, much ash was emitted from the erupting vents; at times another fountain jetting from yet another vent high on the N flank was seen rising above the ash plume that was driven to the NE by a strong wind. At around 2200 h, a bright glow reappeared behind the cone on its lower N side, and a lava flow began to spill to the NE.
At around 2300 h, all lava fountaining at the SE Crater had ended, but lava continued to flow from the S and N flanks. The southern flow extended across the plain to the SW of the SE Crater, probably covering the 22 and 24 March lavas, and then began to spill down the steeper slope towards Monte Frumento Supino, reaching a length of more than 1 km. The northern lava flow turned NE at the base of the SE Crater cone to flow in numerous branches towards the Valle del Leone (which is essentially the NW part of the Valle del Bove), reaching a length of more than 2 km. Lava continued to flow, though at diminishing rate, until the morning of 30 March, and incandescence was visible at the S base of the SE Crater cone at nightfall on 30 March.
This latest eruptive episode came exactly after five days of quiet at the SE Crater and was very similar to the previous two episodes (on 22 and 24 March). No activity occurred at the "Sudestino", a lava shield that build earlier this month at the S base of the SE Crater cone. Lava flows from that vent had seriously threatened the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut (1 km S of the SE Crater) on 14 March. Now it appears that the same "Sudestino" is helping to save the building for at least some time, since it has deflected the lava flows from the vents on the upper S flank of the SE Crater cone towards SW during the latest eruptive episodes, away from the building. However, this may not always be so if the crater continues to erupt, and it is very likely that it will continue to do so.

15 February 2000 15 February 2000
15 February 2000 15 February 2000
15 February 2000 15 February 2000
See the spectacular video clips (taken by David Bryant) of the Southeast Crater in eruption on 15 February 2000

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.

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)

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

Photos of the 15 February 2000 paroxysm of the SE Crater, by Thorsten Boeckel, Germany

Photos by Marco Fulle, 15-20 February 2000, at Stromboli On-line - very high quality, as usual

Charles Rivière's Etna home page, with many photos (the most recent of March 2000), updates, and other, highly interesting items (in French and English)

visitors counted since 12 February 1999
This page received 4362 hits during the week of 24-30 October 1999. 4430 hits were counted the week after.
Visitor statistics in February-March 2000:
01-05 February: 2189 (438 per day)
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13-19 February: 6498 (928 per day)
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27 February-04 March: 5327 (767 per day)
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26 March-1 April: 8205 (1172 per day!)
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