Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
27 December 1999-12 January 2000

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Lava flows, Oct-Nov 1999

Revised map of the lava flows emitted from the Bocca Nuova during October-November 1999, based on photos taken from various locations. Main vents of the Bocca Nova (BN) are shown as orange colored dots. The other summit craters are the Northeast Crater (NE), Voragine (V) and Southeast Crater (SE). The inset at upper left shows the entire Etna area with the location of the new lavas and the towns of Bronte and Catania. VDB in the inset is Valle del Bove.

For previously unpublished photos of the summit activity of September-November 1999, visit this page.

For those of you who missed the Etna telecamera (please note that I am not the right person to ask about technical details of the telecamera), visit this site: "Sistema Poseidon" (in Italian) and go to "Etna live-cam "

WARNING: 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. 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. Tragically, this warning has been confirmed by the death, on 19 or 20 December 1999, of a young resident of Catania who went on the mountain for skiing and lost his way in bad weather; his lifeless body was recovered only two days after he was reported missing by his family. 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.

12 January 2000 update. The following information is summarized from reports in the local newspapers "La Sicilia" and "Giornale di Sicilia". A swarm of 22 small earthquakes (including two of a magnitude of 3 or more on the Richter scale) has occurred on 11 January on the E flank of Etna. Some of the events were distinctly felt by the population of various towns and villages, such as Fornazzo, Sant'Alfio, Trecastagni, Zafferana, Giarre and Riposto. Very minor damage to buildings was noted in Riposto and Sant'Alfio, but no injuries were reported. The earthquakes occurred between 0734 and 1946 h (local time=GMT+1), and the epicentral area was located about 3 km north of Fornazzo with hypocenters located at a depth of about 7 km. This is the second significant earthquake swarm in the Etna area in less than one month; however, it is probably related to tectonic movements in the "Timpe" fault system on the E flank of Etna, an area of very frequent seismic activity whose relationship with magma movement within the volcano remains largely mysterious to the present day.
Summaries of the seismicity of E Sicily and of the eruptive activity of the Sicilian volcanoes are now regularly posted (in Italian language) on the web site of the "Poseidon" monitoring network which has taken over the geophysical surveillance of the area from the Istituto Internazionale di Vulcanologia.

8 January 2000 update. Eruptive activity has continued at the Bocca Nuova during the past two weeks. It seems that magma has returned to relatively high levels in both the NW and SE vents in the former crater which was filled to overflow in October-November 1999, and Strombolian explosions frequently have ejected incandescent lava fragments high above the vents. Etna greeted the new millennium with a display of Strombolian bursts from the Bocca Nuova at about 02:00 h on the morning of 1 January, which was well visible in towns around the volcano. Bombs were observed to fall outside the crater on 2 January during a visit by Claude Grandpey of the "Association Volcanologique Européenne" (L.A.V.E). On the morning of 7 January the Strombolian activity was accompanied by frequent emissions of ash, and similar emissions occurred on 8 January; at night a fluctuating glow was visible at both vents in the Bocca Nuova. All this suggests that the activity is at significanly higher levels than in the past two months; yet it is not clear whether it will culminate in a manner as spectacular as it did last autumn, and when it will do so.

27 December 1999 update. During the past two weeks ash emissions from the Bocca Nuova (probably from the vent in its southeastern part) have become more and more frequent, and on the evening of 23 December Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian correspondent of the Paris-based "Association Volcanologique Européenne", L.A.V.E.) observed continuous incandescence in the summit area which was visible with the naked eye. Scarpinati lives in Acireale, about 20 km SE of Etna. The next morning, near continuous puffs of ash-laden gas rose from the SE vent of the Bocca Nuova, forming a plume that was driven southwards by the wind. Local press sources report that due to the ash falls on the S flank skiing has become impossible, although much snow had fallen on the volcano recenty.
Sunday, 26 December, brought a swarm of about 14 small earthquakes (some of them felt by local residents) to the area of Zafferana, on the ESE flank of the volcano. The strongest shock, measuring 3.1 on the Richter scale, caused anxiety among the population of that village, and many left their homes fearing stronger and possibly destructive earthquakes. Only very slight damage was reported, and no one was injured. The seismicity was almost certainly related to the system of faults cutting through the lower E flank of Etna, which are known as the "Timpe", and therefore the kind of relationship with the eruptive activity of the volcano is difficult to establish. In the past, earthquakes in the area were at times observed to follow eruptions, such as in 1984 when a series of destructive earthquakes followed the end of a months-long eruption at the Southeast Crater. In those cases the seismicity was seen as a response to the movement of magma at depth. However, there have been other cases when seismicity occurred at the "Timpe" before or during (e.g., 1971) a major eruptive event, yet others have occurred when the volcano was relatively quiet.

A 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.

Photos of the eruptive activity, 26-31 October 1999, by Tom Pfeiffer (University of Arhus, Denmark)

Photos by Marco Fulle, 17-23 October 1999, at Stromboli On-line - Marco at his best

Very impressive video clips, taken by Roberto Carniel on 17-23 October 1999, at Stromboli On-line

Photos by Juerg Alean, of 1 November 1999, at Stromboli On-line

Video clips, taken by Juerg Alean on 1 November 1999, at Stromboli On-line

A 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.)
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Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 12 January 2000

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