Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
13-15 June 2001
All times are local (GMT+2 h)

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29 May 2001

BIRTHDAY CRATER: The fuming, twin-peaked Southeast Crater on 29 May 2001, as seen from Pizzi Deneri (about 3 km to the north). A small white gas plume is also emitted from the vent on the NNE flank of the Southeast Crater cone, and bluish gas rises from active lava flows that are being emitted from this vent. The high peak to the right of the Southeast Crater is the Northeast Crater, the highest point on Etna (about 3310 m). The Valle del Leone (which is actually the northernmost part of the Valle del Bove) is visible between the craters and the crest in the foreground. Photo taken by Jonathan Dehn (Alaska Volcano Observatory)

Do you plan to visit Etna in the near future?
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NEW: Excursions to the Etna area,
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The Etna telecamera is maintained by the "Sistema Poseidon" (now part of the newly constituted Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia) 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 VERY DANGEROUS and ACCESS TO THE SUMMIT CRATERS IS FORBIDDEN. The regime of eruptive activity at the Southeast Crater has changed once more, and episodes of vigorous explosive and effusive activity might occur with relatively little warning. Guided excursions on the south flank that end at the Torre del Filosofo, at about 2900 m elevation, have resumed in mid-March, and on the north flank excursions arrive at 3100 m elevation, on the E side of the main summit cone. Tourists should make excursions only with the mountain guides and NEVER GO ALONE, even though this will not satisfy the wish to see what's going on at close range. 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). There is now a new web site giving more information about guided excursions on Etna.

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The latest update is near the bottom of this page

13 June 2001 update. The fourth eruptive episode in a week occurred at the Southeast Crater on the early morning of 13 June. It was stronger and lasted longer than its three predecessors and thus followed the trend, observed earlier, toward more and more powerful eruptive episodes.
Due to timely information received from Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian delegate of the Paris-based Association Volcanologique Européenne, or "L.A.V.E."), it was possible to react swiftly and move to an observation point that offers a panoramic view of the eastern flank of Etna, the "Mareneve" road near the village of Fornazzo, about 6 km from the Southeast Crater. Observations were made by Boris Behncke, Christopher Crozet, Claudia Pirotta and Sebastiano Tarascio (Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, University of Catania)
, who were accompanied by Humphrey Reader from the U.K.
Lava extrusion from the vent (or cone) on the NNE flank of the SE Crater cone was first observed by Scarpinati at about 2130 h (local time=GMT+2) from his home in Acireale. About one hour later, Behncke and his companions left Catania for Fornazzo, where they arrived at about 2330 h. By this time, the activity was still at fairly low levels, with a lava flow extending about 400-500 m toward NE from the active vent, which was glowing brightly, and very weak, seep-seated Strombolian bursts at the summit vent of the SE Crater that occurred at intervals of 2-8 minutes.
For the next three hours, the progress of the eruptive activity was agonizingly slow. The first lava flow eventually waned, then the glow at the NNE flank vent intensified, and a fresh surge of lava began to advande on top of the earlier flow lobe. Strombolian activity at the summit vent of the SE Crater also fluctuated repeatedly over the hours. At times, when the summit vent activity increased, the NNE flank vent would become nearly inactive, remain so for up to 15 minutes, then a bright glow would reappear at that vent, while the summit vent became less vigorous. For quite some time the activity showed no clear increasing trend. Only at about 0300 h the NNE flank vent dramatically increased its activity, and the first jets of fluid lava were seen gushing 10-20 m high above its crest. At 0310 h, a large magma bubble exploded in the same vent, sending large blobs of fluid lava over much of the cone that has built around the vent during the latest eruptive episodes. By 0315 h, lava was jetting continuously to heights of 30-50 m, but at the same time the SE Crater summit vent still produced only sporadic Strombolian bursts, and incandescent ejecta rarely rose above its rim.
Then, at around 0345 h, activity at the summit vent began to increase rapidly. Explosions now occurred about once per second, and glowing bombs not only rose up to 100 m above the rim, but many of them fell onto the upper flanks of the SE Crater cone. Yet, at this time, there was very little sound audible at the "Mareneve" observation post.
During the following 30 minutes or so, activity at both vents continued to increase; by 0405 h, lava fountains from the NNE flank vent rose 150-200 m high, and at the summit vent, Strombolian bursts were now occurring so frequently that they eventually blended into one continuous, pulsating fountain up to 400 high. Some bursts sent bombs even to about 500 m above the rim. Much of the SE Crater cone was covered with incandescent ejecta. Ash was emitted with many of the stronger bursts, but on a whole, tephra generation was relatively modest in spite of the violence of the activity. Loud roaring noises, punctuated by impressive detonations and atmospheric pressure waves, were now audible; all of them came from the summit vent. At the same time, a slight rise in the air temperature was noted at the observation post.
From 0425 h on, the NNE flank vent gradually lost its vigor, the fountain here decreased in height and then became intermittent. Strong activity continued at the summit vent for another 15-20 minutes and then also became intermittent, although the eruption sounds were now louder than at any time before.
Similarly to the remarkably slow and by no means linear buildup, the waning phase also extended over 1 hour and was interrupted repeatedly by brief and violent resurgences of the summit vent activity. Supply to the lava flow had stopped; a multilobate flow front stagnated about 1.3 km from the source vent. By 0600 h the activity was practically over, more than 7 hours after Behncke and his companions had left Catania. The last eruptive manifestations occurred at about 0620 h, when several loud explosions sent ash plumes a few hundred meters above the summit vent of the SE Crater.
This latest paroxysm occurred once more after a quiet interval of about 2 days (precisely, the interval was about 44 hours). The SE Crater has thus established a fairly regular eruptive behavior, but it is evident that each new eruptive episode is stronger than its predecessor. It is not possible to say whether this trend will continue; however, more eruptive episodes are likely to occur in the near future.

14 June 2001 update. No eruptive activity has been observed at the Southeast Crater since its latest paroxysmal eruptive episode on the early morning of 13 June, but if the crater maintains the same rhythm as in the past week, another eruptive episode might occur within the next 24 hours. The next paroxysm might be as strong as (or even stronger than) the previous one, but will not present any threat to inhabited or cultivated areas.

15 June 2001 update. This update is posted at 1300 h (local time=GMT+2) on 15 June. At this moment, another eruptive episode is under way at the Southeast Crater, the fifth in 8 days, and it is occurring within the time window indicated in the previous (14 June) update. Preliminary information comes from Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian delegate of the Paris-based Association Volcanologique Européenne, or "L.A.V.E."), who is observing the event from the Pizzi Deneri area.
Lava began to issue from the small cone on the NNE flank of the Southeast Crater cone sometime after midnight; by 0900 h the first spatter ejections were observed at the same vent, and at about noon the activity reached its culminating phase. As of 1300 h, strong explosive activity was still occurring, while Scarpinati and others were attempting to obtain a closer view of the event. From Catania, a dense gas plume is visible, but hazy weather makes direct observation of the activity from here almost impossible. More detail will be posted at the end of this month, including a summary of the activity which will occur during my absence.

Photos of late May 2001, when the activity
at the Southeast Crater was still continuous

These photos were taken by Jonathan Dehn
(Alaska Volcano Observatory)

29 May 2001 1 29 May 2001 2
29 May 2001 3 30 May 2001 4

1. View from Pizzi Deneri toward the SE Crater with fuming NNE flank vent below the crater, and bluish gas rising from active lava lobes in the foreground at about 1941 h on 29 May
Leaving the lava field at the SE Crater (visible in the background) on 29 May 2001 at 1822; Andy Harris leads the way with Nicole Lautze (?) behind and John Bailey doing the "Ancient Lava Dance"
3. Andy Harris (wearing hard hat) taking thermal measurements near northernmost active lava flow below the SE Crater, 29 May 2001 at 1754 h
4. Fresh surface flows caused by voluminous lava surge and resulting overflow from active flow channel, 30 May 2001 at 1938. Persons in right foreground are Andy Harris and Scott Rowland

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)

Etna in 2000 - various pages at Stromboli On-line with photos and movie clips of SE Crater paroxysms and Bocca Nuova gas rings: most photos are of Marco Fulle, the artist photographer among us

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) - scroll to bottom of page

Alain Catté (Association Volcanologique Européenne) has photos of Etna
from many years

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

Thorsten Boeckel's web site (Germany) with photos and movie clips of several paroxysm of the SE Crater in February, April and June 2000

A small web page reporting on Etna's current activity - and check what happens to your cursor on that page...

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

Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 29 June 2001

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