Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
10 September -11 October 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.

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. 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).



11 October 2000 update. Vigorous eruptive activity is continuing at the Bocca Nuova, with strong Strombolian explosions that frequently eject bombs far beyond the crater rims. Observations of the activity were made during a summit visit by Behncke (his 99th visit to the summit craters) on 10 October.
Eruptive activity is presently occurring within the "bottomless pit" in the NW part of the Bocca Nuova, which has shown little activity since the end of the October-November 1999 eruption from the Bocca Nuova. During Behncke's last visit, on 27 September, mild Strombolian activity had occurred at the second vent in the Bocca Nuova, in the E part of the crater, informally named "1964 vent" (a small cone had built in the same spot during a vigorous 1964 summit eruption, but subsequent collapse of the Bocca Nuova had destroyed this cone). This vent was found to be only strongly degassing on 10 October.
Mild Strombolian activity within the NW vent was continuous and punctuated by frequent stronger explosions. The mild, "background" activity, which produced a persistent "whooshing", surf-like sound, only rarely ejected bombs to the lip of the vent. Stronger explosions, however, were followed by sprays of bombs - some of them up to 1 m across - which rose tens, at times hundreds of meters above the rim of the vent. While most ejections were vertical, and the bombs dropped back into the active pit, quite a few ejections had remarkably low angles, and bombs were scattered over the surroundings of the pit up to 300 m away. Most of the floor of the Bocca Nuova around the active pit was littered with bombs, none smaller than 15 cm, and some larger than 1 m. Bombs were furthermore found on the W slope of the main summit cone, near a small footpath which has developed in recent months across the October-November 1999 lava field, and to the N of the crater. Many of these bombs were still hot to the touch; one had incandescent cracks. One fresh bomb about 20 cm in diameter was found E of the Bocca Nuova, on the platform of the former Central Crater, which overlooks the SE Crater cone. This indicates that access to the Bocca Nuova, which was relatively easy for much of the past 11 months, has again become highly dangerous, but the danger zone also extends several hundred meters beyond the crater rims.
After nightfall the activity was spectacular to observe. There was a continuous fluctuating glow at the vent, which was reflected from the gas plume coming from it. Incandescent ejections came by no means regularly, but were clustered at intervals of about 5-10 minutes. Each series of ejections would culminate with one or more particularly strong bursts, some of which were almost noiseless while others were preceded or accompanied by very loud, ground-shaking detonations. In some cases such detonations were preceded by a rapidly increasing glow within the vent - this is evidence that the detonations were caused by bursting bubbles of lava, similar to those observed in June 1998 at the Voragine (see July 1998 link in "archived updates" at left).
Of the three other summit craters, two were observed directly during the 10 October visit. The Voragine was emitting gas from its two vents (the central one and the smaller one to the SW of it); observation after nightfall revealed no incandescence at either vent. The SE Crater was seen from the platform to the SE of the Bocca Nuova and showed no signs of activity. The NE Crater was not visited, but mountain guides reported that deep-seated explosive activity was continuing deep within its active pit.
The activity observed at the Bocca Nuova is very similar to that of one year ago, which preceded the spectacular outflow of lava from that crater onto the W flank. During the period 5-16 October, explosive (Strombolian) activity was followed by (or alternating with) Hawaiian-style lava fountaining. Explosive activity observed by Behncke on 6 October 1999 was almost identical in style and intensity to that observed one year and four days later. If the present activity continues, the active pit may be rapidly filled and overflow, probably to the W like one year ago. The rim of the active pit is lowest on its S side, and lava would first cover the flat ground in the S part of the Bocca Nuova before overflowing on the low W side. The activity may also be expected to shift from the NW pit to the E (1964) vent and back or to occur at both simultaneously. For those who liked last year's spectacular Bocca Nuova lava overflows, this new activity looks quite promising.

5 October 2000 update. Eruptive activity at the Bocca Nuova has increased notably in the past few days.
On the morning of 3 October, dense emissions of black ash began at the E vent of the Bocca Nuova shortly after 0800 h and continued intermittently for the next two hours, before clouds veiled the summit. At the same time gas emissions were noted at the SE Crater summit vent. For the next 24 hours cloud cover prevented visual observations for most of the time. During the early morning hours of 5 October (before sunrise), forest guard personnel being on fire watch on the W flank of the volcano (near Monte Intraleo) noted incandescent ejections at the Bocca Nuova, and at around 0730 h numerous observers in towns on the S and SE flanks of Etna observed vigorous emissions of dark ash from the same crater. Clouds then covered the summit area again, but between 0930 and 1030 a dense brownish ash plume could be seen trailing toward NW, and a dense, white gas plume was rising above the weather clouds, when Boris Behncke (Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, University of Catania) drove towards the town of Nicolosi on the S flank. When Behncke and a group of students and researchers from Geomar research institute (Kiel, Germany) made an excursion to the W flank of the volcano, occasional breaks in the cloud cover permitted a spectacular view of a dense yellowish-gray plume rising vigorously from the summit area to a height of about 500-800 m; the summit itself was hidden behind cloud. Bad weather prevented visual observations at nightfall on 5 October, but it is assumed that some eruptive activity is continuing.
Mild Strombolian activity began early last week and was observed directly by Behncke and Dutch geologists on 27 September. The source of this activity was at the E vent of the Bocca Nuova, which lies almost exactly in the same position as a small crater that erupted in 1964 in what was then the Central Crater of Etna. The local mountain guides refer to this vent as the "1964 crater", and in future updates on this site this vent will be named "1964 vent" to better distinguish it from the large pit that lies in the NW part of the Bocca Nuova (corresponding exactly to the position of the Bocca Nuova during the 1970s and early 1980s).
Little is known about activity elsewhere at the summit craters, but Charles Rivière reports on his web site that during a 29 September visit, deep seated Strombolian activity occurred both at the 1964 Bocca Nuova vent and at the NE Crater.

29 September 2000 update. True magmatic activity has resumed earlier this week at the E vent of the Bocca Nuova. During a summit visit by Boris Behncke and a group of geologists from The Netherlands on 27 September, mild Strombolian explosions occurred every few minutes at that vent, ejecting bombs and scoriae up to 50 m above the vent rim. It seems that most if not all ejecta fell back into the vent. Many of these explosions were followed by billowing clouds of grayish ash.
Local mountain guides reported that until about 24 September, all activity in the Bocca Nuova had consisted of ash emissions, similar to those described in the previous update below, and no bomb ejections were noted. However, degassing at the two open vents in the Voragine was said to have been stronger during the week ending on 24 September than during the days after that date.
Very deep seated activity is also occurring in the NE Crater, and the noise caused by this activity has increased notably during the past week. During the 27 September summit visit, loud roaring sounds, often lasting up to 15 seconds, were well audible at the Voragine and in quiet moments they could be heard even at the hut of the mountain guides of Piano Provenzana, located about 1 km W of the NE Crater. Visual observations, however, did not reveal any ejections of solid material, and no incandescence could be seen at the floor of the active pit of the NE Crater.
The SE Crater, when seen from the E rim of the Voragine on 27 September, was completely quiet. There were no gas emissions, neither at the summit vent of the crater, nor at the fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater cone.

20 September 2000 update. Activity at Etna's summit craters has consisted, in the past two weeks, of near continuous emissions of ash from the Bocca Nuova (mostly from its eastern vent area), and strong degassing at the Voragine and the NE Crater. During calm weather the ash rose as an impressive dark column to several hundred meters above the summit. On some occasions, light ash falls occurred in downwind areas, mostly on the E and SE flanks of the volcano. Little fresh magma appears to be involved in this activity, since most of the ash is altered, and probably derives from the conduit walls where collapse is occurring frequently.
However, some explosive activity seems to take place at the summit craters. People living on the E flank of the volcano reported frequent "detonations" during the past few days, and there are unconfirmed reports about an increase of the activity at the NE Crater.

10 September 2000 update. For the first time in nearly two weeks it seems that some kind of eruptive activity is taking place at the summit craters of Etna. This activity has become evident as the cloud cover, which had hovered over the mountain for two days (and brought the first fresh snow fall of the forthcoming winter on the summit of the volcano), lifted shortly before sunset on 10 September.
As of 1900 h this evening, a dense column of dark gray to black ash rose from the eastern vent of the Bocca Nuova. This is clearly different from the minor, brief emissions from the same vent during the past few weeks, which produced small plumes of reddish or brown color. The present ash emission is much more forceful and continuous, and the color of the column indicates the possible presence of fresh magmatic material, rather than altered material from the conduit walls. However, as darkness fell, no glow could be observed. It can thus be concluded that no true eruption is occurring at the Bocca Nuova, but the level of activity is much elevated with respect to the preceding period.
The summit craters were relatively quiet when visited by Boris Behncke on Monday 4 September (exactly one year after the great paroxysm at the Voragine, which dropped large amounts of lapilli on towns and villages on the E flank of Etna). However, observations were seriously hampered by a very strong wind, weather clouds and dense gas plumes emitted mostly from the Voragine. Mountain guides remarked that during the previous days the pressure of the gas emissions from the Voragine and the E vent of the Bocca Nuova had shown a distinct increase, and there was possibly some deep-seated explosive activity in the latter vent.
The SE Crater has remained perfectly quiet since its last eruptive episode on the morning of 29 August, even the fumaroles that had been very active during the days prior to its reactivation on 26 August, have only emitted small quantities of vapor.

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)

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 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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