Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
3 April - 13 May 2002
All times are local (GMT+2 h)

Etna Home

Archived Etna news

14 November 2001 - 29 March 2002

8 September - 16 October 2001

22 July - 15 August 2001

3-5 July 2001

30 June - 1 July 2001

13-15 June 2001

25 May - 12 June 2001

10-18 May 2001

26 March - 27 April 2001

3 February - 23 March 2001

9-23 January 2001

1 November to 22 December 2000

14-28 October 2000

10 September - 11 October 2000

20-29 August 2000

9-31 July 2000

21-26 June 2000

5-14 June 2000

31 May to 4 June 2000

23-29 May 2000

17-20 May 2000

5-16 May 2000

26-27 April 2000

14-22 April 2000

30 March to 9 April 2000

16-27 March 2000

28 February to 14 March 2000

18-26 February 2000

13-16 February 2000

7-12 February 2000

1-6 February 2000

18-29 January 2000

27 December 1999 to 12 January 2000

9-21 December 1999

2-12 November 1999

27-28 October 1999

20-21 October 1999

7-18 October 1999

27 September to 5 October 1999

10-21 September 1999

24-28 July 1999

1-12 July 1999

20-28 June 1999

11 June 1999

4 June 1999

20 May 1999

13 May 1999

April 1999

11-31 March 1999

1-10 March 1999

February 1999

January 1999

December 1998

November 1998

October 1998

September 1998

August 1998

1-15 July 1998

June 1998

May 1998

March-April 1998

February 1998

January 1998

December 1997

May-November 1997


Etna, late March 2002
Impressive photograph of ash emission from the Northeast Crater (left) and the Bocca Nuova (right), taken from the town of Randazzo on the NNW flank of Etna, probably on 28 or 29 March 2002. Height of the ash columns above the summit is about 800 m. A sight like this easily creates the impression that the volcano has returned to full activity; however, no magma has appeared at the surface so far. This photograph was taken by Antonio Parrinello and appeared in the 30 March 2002 issue of the Catania-based newspaper "La Sicilia"

The Etna Live-cam of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia is back!
The new web cam is located in the village of Milo, on the E flank of the volcano, and the view is quite different from that of the previous live-cam, which was destroyed during the July-August 2001 eruption

Click here to go there (leave this site)
The ash emissions from the Bocca Nuova in these days are perfectly visible. Since the ash plumes are often drifting behind the Southeast Crater (the prominent cone to the left), this might create the impression that this crater is resuming its activity, but this is not the case. The broad crater to the right, which is emitting a whitish gas plume, is the Northeast Crater

Do you plan to visit Etna in the near future?
Check the
weather forecasts for the Etnean area and learn about how to prepare for a visit to the mountain

WARNING: Etna is currently showing only weak eruptive activity at the summit craters, but as always visits to the summit area expose escursionists to high risks, especially those risks related to unstable weather conditions. Although the winter in Sicily seems essentially over, heavy snow falls might still occur until early May, and unstable weather in general is among the main risks that visitors to the summit area have to face. Generally access to the summit craters without guides is prohibited. Guided excursions in jeeps to about 2600 m elevation are offered since March 2002 on the southern flank, and the dirt road for excursions on the northern flank had been reopened in mid-April, but heavy snow falls on 20-22 April interrupted the excursion business for the time being.
The mountain guides and excursion services can be contacted at the cable car building (near the Rifugio Sapienza on the southern flank), telephone +39-095-914141; or at the Hotel Le Betulle (Piano Provenzana on the northern flank), telephone +39-095-643430. Further information (in Italian) is available on the Funivia dell'Etna web site.

The latest update is near the bottom of this page

3 April 2002 update. Over the Easter weekend and through 2 April ash emission continued without interruptions from the Bocca Nuova, while at the Northeast Crater it had apparently stopped. Light ash falls occurred in downwind areas, at times extending as far as Catania. The emissions formed billowing brown plumes which at times rose several hundred meters above the summit. No incandescence has been seen so far at night. Extremely bad weather has prevented observations since the afternoon of 2 April.
Ash emission began on 9 March at the Bocca Nuova and on 25 March at the Northeast Crater, marking the first significant visible activity at the summit craters since the end of the July-August 2001 eruption. However, it seems that no fresh magma has reached the surface so far, although the ash from the Northeast Crater was distinctly darker than that emitted from the Bocca Nuova, and might have been derived from degassing magma at depth within the conduit.

6 April 2002 update. The summit of Etna became visible again on 6 April after three days of bad weather. The Bocca continues to produce weak expulsions of brown-colored (probably lithic) ash, while the Northeast Crater is emitting only white vapor. This impression of relative quiet is belied by two small (around magnitude 3) earthquakes that occurred under the southeastern flank of the volcano on 4 April, which indicate that some movement is occurring within the mountain. However, the nature of these processes remains mysterious; they might be related to the uprise of magma through the central conduit system but they might as well not. After the more vigorous ash emissions from the Bocca Nuova and the Northeast Crater in late March everybody is eager to see the next move of the volcano. It is now nearly 8 months that Etna is unusually quiet; a return to eruptive activity at the summit craters is expected within the near future and would represent nothing else but normal conditions at the volcano. At the same time it is unlikely that there will be another flank eruption without being preceded by at least several months of summit activity.

14 April 2002 update. Although Etna is still not erupting fresh magma, the volcano continues to give signs of unrest. On 13 April, two earthquakes (with magnitudes of 2.7-3) were felt by the population on the southeastern flank (between the towns of Zafferana and Santa Venerina), their epicenters lying in an area named "Salto della Giumenta", which is about 5 km NW of Zafferana. Press sources citing scientists of the Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia of Catania give focal depths of about 4 km below the surface. Numerous earthquakes have occurred in the past few weeks in this area, although their correlation with magma movement within the volcano remains unclear. Ash emissions are continuing nearly without interruptions at the Bocca Nuova; on 14 April these appeared to be dark gray, and at times they were emitted forcefully to form plumes several hundred meters high. No incandescence has been seen so far during night observations.
For visitors capable of reading Italian, three pages of the Catania-based newspaper "La Sicilia" dealing with the recent events at Etna are available as PDF files: 26 March 2002, 30 March 2002, and 14 April 2002.

18 April 2002 update. A dense plume of brownish-gray ash is continuosly drifting from Etna's summit across the eastern sky of Catania as the Bocca Nuova contines to emit pulverized rock from its southeastern vent. This activity was observed by a local mountain guide on 18 April, who also noted that the northwestern vent of the same crater was filled with vapor and no eruptive activity was visible. No noises were audible due to a gale-force wind. The Voragine emitted a dense, but ash-free gas plume, while dense white vapor rose from the Northeast Crater.
Earthquakes have in recent days not only affected the southeastern side of Etna, but a distinct local seismicity has also been observed by the owners of isolated mountain huts on the northeastern flank. The northeastern flank earthquakes occurred at clearly different times than those felt in the Zafferana area as on 13 April. The owner of the "Ragabo" mountain hut which lies near Piano Pernicana, an area that is cut by a conspicuous east-west trending strike-slip fault, reports that earthquakes were felt daily between 12 and 15 April. The movement during each of the tremors was vertical and accompanied by rumbling noises or "bangs". No such earthquakes had affected the area prior to 12 April. The Pernicana fault was the source of a shallow local earthquake in December 1985 that destroyed the Hotel "Le Betulle" at Piano Provenzana a few kilometers further southwest, killing one person. "Le Betulle", rebuilt after the 1985 event, is the starting point for guided excursions on the northern flank of Etna.

25 April 2002 update. Very bad weather has repeatedly affected Sicily over the past week, leading to heavy snow falls on Etna where practically no snow had remained after the fairly snow-poor winter. Accessibility to the summit area was reduced to zero, and the mountain was covered with white down to about 1400 m. The late return of the winter already believed over has rendered a good occasion to see which are the hot areas at the summit and that no recent lava outflows have taken place. Snow is melting rapidly on the cones of the summit craters and along the fracture that extends north-northeast from the Southeast Crater. Besides, since 23 April it seems that there has been a marked diminution of the ash emissions from the Bocca Nuova that had been going on nearly continuously since early March. All visible summit activity on 24-25 April consisted of apparently ash-free gas emission, mostly from the Bocca Nuova and the Northeast Crater. No felt seismicity has been reported since the Piano Pernicana area on the NNE flank had been shaken by four earthquakes between 12 and 15 April. Nine months after the climax of its most recent flank eruption, Etna continues its unquiet slumber.

13 May 2002 update. Nothing much to report from Etna in these days. When visible the volcano shows its usual degassing activity from the summit craters (most pronounced at the Bocca Nuova and the Northeast crater, practically zero at the Southeast Crater). An explosive event of unknown character and at an unknown site was seismically recorded on 6 May (see Charles Rivière's web site), but no evidence of fresh ejecta was found in the summit area a few days after when visited by Rivière.
On the same day of 6 May, a 75-years old German tourist was reported missing after tempting an excursion to the summit craters with several companions. At their return from the mountain they noted that he was no longer among them, and search parties were sent out to look for the missing man. Weather conditions were rapidly worsening, so that the search had to be interrupted until the following morning. Luckily the man made managed to descend toward the village of Zafferana, traversing the desert-like Valle del Bove during the night (anyone imagine what this means?) and with frequent heavy rain showers. This is yet another example of how the dangers of venturing to the summit area of the volcano without guides are underestimated; we've had many similar cases in recent years. Some of them ended tragically, like the Spanish woman who probably fell into the Bocca Nuova one year ago and died, and the couple killed by lightning at nearly 3000 m elevation a few weeks after the July-August 2001 eruption. In the latter case warnings of impending thunderstorms had been disregarded.
ONCE MORE: Whoever visits this site prior to visiting Etna should be aware that it is anything but wise to go to the summit area of the volcano without guides. Although no significant eruptive activity is currently occurring at the summit craters, sudden explosions caused by the encounter of hot rock and external water in their conduits might endanger the lives of people who visit the craters; furthermore the frequent bad weather in this period of the year creates a high risk of getting lost in fog or snow storms or ending up in thunderstorms, which is among the least pleasant experiences one can live through on a mountain. Since this web page went on-line five years ago, five people were killed in various accidents on the volcano, none of them by eruptive activity, and many others narrowly escaped a terrible fate after getting lost in bad weather or during episodes of violent eruptive activity. This is not much in comparison with car accidents (still most of us drive cars nearly every day), but it is definitely too much, especially because all of these fatal or near-fatal accidents could have been easily avoided. So, common sense is needed, even at the expense of living the awesome experience of looking into the craters of an active volcano.

The July-August 2001 eruption and its precursors (the spectacular paroxysmal eruptive episodes at the Southeast Crater in June-July 2001) are featured on many web pages that contain additional information, highly spectacular images, and video clips. These will hopefully make up for the lack of photos on this page (I will post them as soon as I have my office computer back to working fully)

The July-August 2001 eruption - a special page on this web site, with an in-depth analysis of the events and related public reactions, mass media coverage, eruptive products, morphological changes, and a discussion of the recent paper in "Nature" about the changing behavior of Etna. Includes a map and press photos

View a streaming video clip with Boris Behncke interviewed by Dana Friesen of NBC channel on 2 August 2001 (courtesy of MSNBC). Windows Media Player is needed

The most instructive web page on the 2001 eruption so far (but in Italian only), created by Lisetta Giacomelli and Roberto Scandone

The "official" Etna 2001 eruption web site at the Catania section of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), contains a preliminary map of the lava flows

Photos of the eruption at the Roma section of the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV)

Etna eruption 2001: a page produced by the GNV (National Group for Volcanology) and hosted by, with photos, maps and movie clips

"Emergenza Etna" - the Etna emergency, presented by the Italian Department of Civil Protection (includes simulations of the lava flows), a splendid web site maintained by Andrea Fiore, has impressive photos and videos of the eruption.
Watch how this site will develop in the near future!

Charles Rivière's Etna home page, with frequent updates, photos, video clips: Rivière was at Etna almost continuously during the 2001 eruption

Davide Corsaro's (of the Hotel Corsaro) "Etna FAQ", a nice and entertaining resource with many references to this Etna News page (grazie Davide!)

Tom Pfeiffer (University of Arhus, Denmark) has stunning photos of:
the precursory activity at the SE Crater in the spring of 2001 and of the July-August 2001 eruption (scroll down to "Etna photos")

Alain Catté (Association Volcanologique Européenne) is currently working on a page on the 2001 eruption (we went together to see the incredibly spectacular activity at the "Monte del Lago" (also called "cono del laghetto") one evening during the eruption)

André Laurenti (also of the Association Volcanologique Européenne) came with the same excursion as Alain Catté and has made his impressions and photos available in the "112-911 Magazine"

Thorsten Boeckel's web site (Germany) contains various pages with photos and video clips of the SE Crater activity in the spring of 2001 and of the July-August 2001 eruption, a German homepage about volcanoes made by my former colleagues (at the University of Bochum) Marc Szeglat and Daniela Szcze

Jean Louis Piette from Belgium, who visits Etna every year, and who always has something good to drink when we meet on the volcano, presents his impressions of the July-August 2001 eruption

Alain Melchior, also from Belgium and partner in crime of Jean-Louis Piette, has set up his Etna 2001 page, with nice 3D animations and digital elevation models of Etna and photos, video clips and other items are planned to appear on this site soon

Eurimage has spectacular satellite (Landsat, ERS) views of the July-August 2001 eruption

Photos taken during the eruption on 20 July 2001 at

A brief summary of the 2001 eruption (in Spanish), with a few photos (the second one shows the 4 September 1999 lava fountain at the Voragine, the third and seventh show the Piano del Lago cone, and the other photos are of the vents at 2950 m elevation), from the Instituto Andaluz de Geofísica (University of Granada, Spain)

"Etna 2000" is an Italian home page made by Simone Genovese, with general information on Etna, and has a special section on the 2001 eruption with photos and video clips

A small selection of photos of the 2001 eruption (mainly of the lava flow from the vents at 2100 m elevation), by Giovanni Grasso and Antonio Guarnera (at Acitrezza On-line)

Photos (2 galleries) of the 2001 eruption (including a spectacular aerial view) by Alexander Gerst (in German)

Photos and reports on a field trip with OUGS-ME (Open University Geological Society - Mainland Europe) in May 2001, with a visit to the erupting SE Crater

A brief report and nice photos of two paroxsms at the SE Crater (22 and 24 June 2001), from André Laurenti (112-911 Magazine)

The Catania-based newspaper "La Sicilia" has published numerous articles on the eruption. Here is a page dedicated to the eruption, with photos, video clips and links

visitors counted since 12 February 1999
FastCounter by bCentral

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

Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 13 May 2002

Hosted by VolcanoDiscovery