Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
28 February-14 March 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.

15 February 2000 paroxysm of the SE Crater
Photos by Thorsten Boeckel
Etna, 15 February 2000
At the beginning of the paroxysmal activity, a very powerful jet of incandescent lava occurred at the southernmost vent in the summit area of the SE Crater cone. Observers at the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut saw the top of the fountain rise high above their heads, and soon a downpour of bombs and scoriae forced them to search shelter at the building from where they were able to watch the awesome spectacle in relative safety.
Etna, 15 February 2000 1 Etna, 15 February 2000 2 Etna, 15 February 2000 3
Etna, 15 February 2000 4 This impressive series of photos was taken from Torre del Filosofo during the culminating phase of the SE Crater paroxysm shortly after 1800 h on 15 February 2000. The photos show lava fountains roaring at least 600 m above the summit of the SE Crater cone, and lava flowing out through a fissure cutting the southern flank of the cone (foreground). Etna, 15 February 2000 5
Etna, 15 February 2000 6 Etna, 15 February 2000 7

View the homepage of Thorsten Boeckel: it has more photos of the event

More spectacular photos of the 15 February 2000 paroxysm and of events during the following days, made by Marco Fulle, are available at Stromboli On-line

WARNING: Access to the summit area is EXTREMELY 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. It is absolutely not safe to stay in the area of the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut. Besides this, weather conditions are often unstable. 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. 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.

14 March 2000 update. An episode of vigorous eruptive activity occurred on the morning of 14 March at the Southeast Crater, following less than two days of relative quiet. Although little detail about this activity is known, it seems that most activity again occurred from the new crater at the southern base of the SE Crater cone. Lava was emitted to form several flows that covered lavas erupted during earlier eruptive episodes, and some passed again very close to the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut, which had been reached, but not destroyed, by lava emitted during the previous eruptive episode on 12 March. In that event, lava had reportedly consumed the wooden shack standing next to the building on its eastern side, where tourists could buy postcards, slide sets and other souvenirs and have a coffee or a sip of the highly alcoholic "Fuoco dell'Etna" during the past summer seasons. Lava was also reported to have touched the northern and western sides of the main Torre del Filofoso building on 12 March.
On 13 March, monitoring equipment was recovered from the building in order to save it from future assaults by lava from the SE Crater and its new vigorous vent on the S flank. The building definitely seems to be doomed, and it may be a question of days until it vanishes under more lava to be emitted in the next eruptive episodes. With the imminent disappearance of the Torre del Filosofo building, tourism policies will likely change in the forthcoming summer season. The access road has been covered in its uppermost part by the lavas of the latest two eruptive episodes, and there is no shelter elsewhere in the summit area which could be used as a point of arrival for the tourists expected to rush in within the next few months. A possible alternative arrival point is at "Belvedere" on the rim of the Valle del Bove or the Monte Frumento Supino cinder cone, which stands about 2 km southwest of the SE Crater, and which is the only place in the area which will likely not be covered by any lava flow from the summit craters for centuries.

12 March 2000 update. Once more, the repose period between eruptive episodes at the Southeast Crater lasted a bit more than 4 days. At around 1300 h (local time=GMT+1) on 12 March, a new episode of strong eruptive activity started from vents at the southern base of the SE Crater cone. Observers in Adrano (on the southwestern flank of Etna) reported that they could see lava fountains "which definitely came not from the summit vent of the SE Crater". During the night prior to the eruptive episode, lava emission had resumed, after two days of no effusive activity, from one or more vents at the southern base of the SE Crater cone, and it is possible that the initial vigorous activity originated at the same vents. Sometime after 1400 h it was seen that the SE Crater displayed vigorous ash emission from its summit vent, while small lava fountains played from a vent (or maybe several vents) at the southern base of its cone. Lava flows were extending towards SW and S, the latter passing at a very short distance (maybe only a few tens of meters) to the W of the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut and descending the somewhat steeper slope below, where the day before a crew of the SITAS (the society which owns the cable car on Etna's S flank) had cleared the access road to the Torre del Filosofo. Guided tours to the summit area were to be resumed during the next week, but the new lava which has interrupted the road may have rendered this uncertain.
The activity diminished after 1400 h but continued for at least one hour thereafter; at nightfall on 12 March all lava emission appears to have ended. The Torre del Filosofo building has survived narrowly another assault by the lava from the SE Crater; at this point it is a question of time how long it will remain standing.
Information received from Charles Rivière during a summit visit on 11 March indicates that during the previous eruptive episode on 8 March, the strongest seismic activity during any paroxysm since 26 January was registered by the network of the Seismological Observatory of Acireale. This may indicate that although there was much less intense lava fountaining during that event than during many of its predecessors, there were probably very powerful discrete explosions.
During the summit visit by Behncke and a German television team on 11 March the SE Crater was completely quiet, but deep-seated explosive activity at the Bocca Nuova produced dozens of beautiful "smoke rings".

8 March 2000 update. After another period of relative calm of slightly more than 4 days, the Southeast Crater erupted again sometime around 0900 h (local time=GMT+1) on 8 March. The eruptive episode was preceded by increased lava outflow on the northern flank of the cone; there does not appear to have been any activity at the southern base this time. It also seems that the activity at the culminating stage of the eruptive episode was much weaker than during most of its predecessors.
Slow effusion of lava from vents on the southern base of the SE Crater cone continued for about two days after the previous paroxysm on 4 March and was observed on 5 March by British camera man David Bryant and the Hungarian student Judit Zachar. Observations made by Charles Rivière of France during the past week indicate that activity in the Bocca Nuova is much the same as observed by Behncke and Scarpinati on 8 February: a vent in the E part of the crater is producing very powerful jets of incandescent gas, but there are practically no pyroclastic ejections.

27 February 2000 paroxysm of the SE Crater
Photos courtesy of Arnaud Guerin (L.A.V.E. France)

These photos were taken on the morning of 27 February during another paroxysm at the Southeast Crater, when a team of the French organisations "Volcano" and "Association Volcanologique Européenne" reached the summit area of Etna. The images were submitted as TIFF files and their colors are not of high quality, nonetheless they are displayed here since they provide good documentation of the event

Etna,  27 February 2000
Etna,  27 February 2000 Etna,  27 February 2000
SE Crater in eruption on the morning (0900 h to 0945 h) of 27 February, seen from the area to the W of Torre del Filosofo. The first fountain (center image) was observed at 0910 h.

4 March 2000 update. The Southeast Crater erupted again on the early morning of 4 March, after 4.5 days of quiet. The new eruptive episode - the 38th since 26 January - was preceded by slow lava extrusion on the N flank of the SE Crater cone, and a bright glow from the new crater on the S base of the cone. This glow was already visible after sunset on 3 March and gradually intensified during the night. Sometime around 0400 h (local time=GMT+1), Giuseppe Scarpinati who slept in his home in Acireale was awakened by loud detonations and saw vigorous Strombolian activity at the SE Crater. Scarpinati noted that even at its culmination the paroxysm did not produce dense, continuous fountains like during many of the earlier paroxysms.
After the activity at the summit vent of the SE Crater cone began to diminish - that is, at about 0430 h - a fountain of very fluid lava sprang up from the crater on the S base of the cone. "It was like a fountain in a public park", said Scarpinati, who estimated the maximum fountain height at about 30 m. Lava flowed in several arms to the SE and SW, probably on top of lavas emplaced during the previous eruptive episode, on 28 February. The activity at the southern vent diminished towards 0500 h, and no significant activity has occurred since then.

1 March 2000 update. During a summit visit by Behncke and others on the afternoon of 29 February, eruptive activity at Etna's summit craters was limited to mild explosive activity at the Bocca Nuova (which, however, produced dozens of beautiful "smoke" rings) and ash emission from the Northeast Crater, which had shown little activity since early October 1999. The Southeast Crater, source of a paroxysmal eruptive episode on 28 February, was quiet, but had a few incandescent spots on its lower southern flank, probably where hot gas escaped through fissures.
The eruptive episode of 28 February produced several new vents on the lower southern flank of the SE Crater cone, one of which was elongate north-south, while the lowermost vent was circular and about 30-40 m wide. More lava has accumulated at the southern base of the cone, forming a delta-like hill, with various flow lobes extending hundreds of meters further downslope. The longest flow of the 28 February paroxysm extended to the southwest, reaching a length of about 700-800 m from the base of the cone (about 1 km from the summit of the SE Crater cone).
The lava did not reach the Torre del Filosofo building, but the nearest flow front was about 300 m distant. However, the area around the building bears the scars of the recent paroxysms: the ground is covered with tens of centimeters of pyroclastics, and pierced by hundreds of impact craters created by larger fragments. A continuous sheet of pyroclastics extends from the SE Crater to the southeast, burying much of the upper part of the 1999 lava field which formed during the long-lived effusive activity at the SE and ESE base of the cone.

29 February 2000 update. The Torre del Filofoso building may have survived, at least partially, the eruption from the SE Crater on the evening of 28 February. However, lava flowed throughout the night from a vent on the southern base of the SE Crater cone towards southwest. The eruptive activity on 28 February caused light shower of ash onto Catania and surrounding areas. More detailed information will be made available as soon as possible.
Correction to the previous (28 February) update: the number of paroxysmal eruptive episodes from the SE Crater since 26 January is 37, not 38. There appears to have been only one paroxysm on 27 February, sometime before 0900 h (local time=GMT+1).

28 February 2000 update. Unconfirmed information on the evening of 28 February reports that during the latest eruptive episode from the Southeast Crater, lava flows have reached the building of the Torre del Filosofo mountain hut, located only about 1 km south of the erupting crater, and lava flows are slowly advancing towards south a few hundred meters to the west of the building.
After a rather quiet week (only one paroxysmal eruptive episode occurred on the early morning of 23 February), the Southeast Crater had become more vigorous since Sunday, 27 February. At least three eruptive episodes have occurred since midnight on the 27th, one shortly after midnight, the second at around 0900 h (local time=GMT+1) on the 27th, and the third at about 1530 h on the 28th. With the wind blowing to the east-southeast, ash and lapilli fell over towns and villages like Zafferana and Acireale.
Little detail is known about these events, but it appears that at least the first of these new paroxysms was preceded by Strombolian and effusive activity from vents on the N flank of the SE Crater cone, and lava continued to flow from this area as late as 27 February evening. The number of paroxysmal eruptive episodes since 26 January has risen to at least 38, and it is possible that more will occur within the next few days.

Several other web pages covering the October-November 1999 eruptions of the Bocca Nuova have recently been posted; these contain photos and movie clips of some of the most spectacular moments of that period.

A photo gallery covering the period September-November 1999 (with photos by Boris Behncke and Giuseppe Scarpinati)

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 1999. 4430 hits were counted the week after. However, this is nothing compared to the more than 1000 visitors daily in mid-February 2000)
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Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 14 March 2000
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