Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
14-22 April 2000
All times are local (GMT+2 h)

Etna Home

Etna News

Archived Etna news

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

Sudestino erupting, 16 April 2000

The Sudestino erupting on Sunday 16 April, with the cone of the SE Crater in the background - this photo was taken by Judit Zachar during the buildup towards the paroxysmal eruptive episode at the SE Crater. More photos of this spectacular event are available on a separate page.

Do you plan to visit Etna in the near future?
Check the
weather forecasts for the Etnean area!

NEW: Excursions to the Etna area,
read more here!

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.

Etna summit map, March 2000

Map of the summit area and upper flanks of Etna, showing approximate distribution of lavas erupted from the SE Crater since 26 March (as of late March 2000). Lavas erupted between February and November 1999 from fissures at the SE base of the SE Crater cone and in October-November 1999 from the Bocca Nuova are shown for comparison (see legend). Arrows at flow terminations indicate flow directions rather than flow lengths. Broken line extending westwards from TDF (which stands for Torre del Filosofo) is the rim of the Piano caldera, probably formed during a violent explosive eruption in 122 BC. V is Voragine, BN is Bocca Nuova. Vents on the flanks of the SE Crater cone, which were active during many of the paroxysmal eruptive episodes of 2000 are indicated in yellow color, including the "Sudestino" on the S base of the SE Crater cone

WARNING: Access to the summit area is 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. Lava may also arrive rapidly at up to 1.5 km of distance from the crater. Besides this, weather conditions are often unstable. Strong wind, snow or rain and clouds are occuring frequently in the summit area, and one can get easily lost. 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 (during the summer) at the hotel "Le Betulle" at Piano Provenzana, on the northern side.

22 April 2000 update. The quiet interval at the SE Crater has continued for the sixth consecutive day after the eruptive episode of 16 April. During two visits to the summit area by Boris Behncke (Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche of the University of Catania) on 19 and 21 April (on the second occasion Behncke was accompanied by Carmelo Monaco, from the same department, and Judit Zachar from the University of Szeged, Hungary), no sign of eruptive activity was observed at the SE Crater and the Sudestino. Very weak gas emission was seen at the latter during the 21 April visit, but this did not increase afterwards.
The 21 April visit also revealed that recent lava flows from the SE Crater (and/or the Sudestino) have extended further to the W on the plain to the S of the main summit cone (bordered to the S and SW by the "Piano" caldera rim, which is shown as a broken line on the map above), and a lava lobe has extended from there to the SW, about 100 m further W than the westernmost flow lobe shown on the map above. Another lava flow has descended from the "Piano" caldera rim towards Monte Frumento Supino and then turned SW at the base of that cone, following the course of the 1949 and 1964 lavas for 500-600 m. This and the more westerly flow are the longest SE Crater flows emplaced in that area since the crater was born. The emplacement dates are not known, but they are certainly younger than 25 March. The Monte Frumento Supino flow probably predates the 3 April eruptive episode (it was already there before the 16 April event, and there was no lava effusion to that area during the eruptive episodes of 3 and 6 April), so that this flow was likely produced either during the 29 March or the 1 April eruptive episode. The more westerly flow may be of the same age or it was emplaced during the 16 April eruptive episode.
Yet the summit area of Etna is not fully quiet. As has been common in the past few months, the Bocca Nuova is the site of frequent discrete gas explosions, which occur from a vent in its E part. Many of these explosions consist of powerful, extremely short blasts which frequently generate gas or vapor rings (more commonly, but wrongly, known as "smoke" rings). During the past week or so, the frequency of these explosions appears to have increased, and as of 22 April, the explosions appear to be distinctly louder and, at times, longer. On this day Behncke conducted fieldwork between the Rifugio Sapienza area and Nicolosi, roughly between 1000 and 2000 m elevation on the S flank of the volcano. Loud rumbling sounds were heard frequently from the Bocca Nuova over the entire area. Some were short detonations, while others were somewhat prolonged. Such noises were last heard by Behncke during the October-November 1999 activity at the Bocca Nuova, and on other occasions when there was intense explosive activity at that crater or at the neighboring Voragine. This might indicate that fresh magma is rising towards the surface in one or both of the main eruptive vents in the Bocca Nuova.
There were few visible phenomena accompanying the noises. At times the arrival of the explosion sound coincided with the rise of a dense puff of gas, sometimes transforming into a gas ring. For the whole day a dense plume of gas was seen rising from the Bocca Nuova, and this had also been the case during the 21 April summit visit. After nightfall no incandescence was visible at the Bocca Nuova.

18 April 2000 update. No fresh eruptions are known to have occurred at the SE Crater since 16 April, but very bad weather on 17 and 18 April has prevented visual observations for most of the time. Before the SE Crater erupts again, enjoy the first photos of the 16 April paroxysm now available on a separate page.

17 April 2000 update. One day after the 50th and strongest eruptive episode in the series initiated less than 3 months ago, the SE Crater has remained quiet. However, more detail about the course of events is becoming available with eyewitness reports, particularly that of Judit Zachar, a Hungarian geology student who was at Torre del Filosofo during the initial phase of the paroxysm. She arrived just in time to see the initiation of pyroclastic ejections from the main vent of the SE Crater, and remained at Torre del Filosofo until the activity culminated at 1430 h.
Until then, the paroxysm was rather a beautiful spectacle, with dark ash fountains and huge jets of bombs rising from the SE Crater main vent, while near continuous lava fountaining occurred at the Sudestino. The onset of the culminating phase was sudden, and it seemed as though the southern flank of the cone was being blasted out. A dark, ash-laden cloud shot laterally from the base of the cone, right towards the Torre del Filosofo, and Judit Zachar fled away from the building towards south. During the following 20 minutes, there were some jets of bombs and ash rising obliquely from the base of the cone, which itself had completely vanished behind a dense curtain of ash and larger sized pyroclastics.
During the 90 minutes prior to the culmination, avalanches of brownish ash were frequently visible on the flanks of the cone, often raising dust clouds that veiled the entire cone for minutes. It seems furthermore that there was some eruptive activity at the vents on the N or NE side of the cone - until 1430 none was visible from Catania, but Judit Zachar reported that she saw intermittent jets of lava on the far side of the cone when observing the activity from Torre del Filosofo.
Video footage on the Italian State television RAI transmitted on the evening of 16 April had beautiful images of lava fountains at the Sudestino and powerful pyroclastic fountains at the SE Crater main vent. Surprisingly, none of the local newspapers had any photographs of the 16 April paroxysm - some did actually use "recycled" images of previous paroxysms, others showed screen shots of the Poseidon live-cam, but none taken during the most impressive phase. Many notes distributed via the mass media wrongly gave the length of the preceding repose as 13 days (not 10).
Ash and scoriae fell over a wide sector, covering an area from Zafferana-Acireale in the SE to Linguaglossa-Fiumefreddo in the NE. Traffic on the Catania-Messina highway was slowed due to the ash fall, but no serious incidents were reported.
Photographs taken during the 16 April paroxysm will be posted on this site during the next few days. Photos were taken by Judit Zachar from Torre del Filosofo, and later from the Montagnola (see map at top of this page), by Behncke from Catania, and by other staff of the Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche of the University of Catania from Zafferana on the SE flank of Etna.

16 April 2000 update. The SE Crater produced a new, very powerful and highly spectacular, eruptive episode early on the afternoon of Sunday 16 April after an unusually long repose interval of as much as 10 days. Although a paroxysmal eruptive episode may have taken place sometime between 8 and 13 April, this was the first such event to be observed directly since the 6 April paroxysm, and unless evidence of a paroxysm during the interval of bad weather (8-13 April) is available, this is considered the fiftieth paroxysm of the series that began on 26 January. Perfect weather conditions allowed good observation of the event, which was visible from all over eastern Sicily, attracting the attention of hundreds of thousands of people who were out for voting (16 April is the day of the election of the new Mayor of Catania) and/or for the traditional Sunday lunch out on the slopes of the volcano. It also provided a unique spectacle to countless tourists who are now on vacation in Sicily, especially in Catania and Taormina. The following is based on visual observation made by Boris Behncke (Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche of Catania University) from Catania. Additional information was provided by Charles Rivière from Tremblay-en-France (France).
Precursory activity at the Sudestino, 15-16 April. During the afternoon of 15 April, Behncke conducted fieldwork in the area of Nicolosi, on the S flank of Etna, having a clear view of the summit area from 1450 until about 1900 h. No unusual eruptive activity was noted at the SE Crater until the end of observation from that area; vigorous degassing punctuated by the emission of numerous gas rings (commonly known as "smoke" rings) occurred at the Bocca Nuova. Gas emission began to increase slightly between 1800 and 1900 at the Sudestino, just before low weather clouds formed, preventing any further observation for about one hour.
After nightfall, a weak glow could be observed at the Sudestino, indicating that slow lava extrusion had resumed at this vent. Throughout the night, lava emission continued intermittently, with periods of more intense activity alternating with strongly diminished activity. Explosion sounds could be heard at Nicolosi in the evening. On the morning of 16 April, spattering at the Sudestino led to the growth of a large hornito. Then, during the forenoon of 16 April, emission of lava and gas gradually increased at the Sudestino. The hornito collapsed as a large flood of lava broke out from the vent, and a small plume of whitish gas appeared at the summit vent of the SE Crater cone at around 1100 h.
By 1200 h, the gas column rising from the Sudestino had become denser, and at least two lava flows were moving down the flanks of the cone that had built around this vent during the past five weeks. One of these flows moved to the E, the other to the SSE, at a distance of a few hundred meters from the Torre del Filosofo building, which had been reached by a lava flow on 14 March. As of 1520 h on 16 April, there seems to be no new lava at the building. For one hour after 1200 h, fuming at the main vent of the SE Crater was irregular, but there seems to have been no significant eruptive activity there, neither was there any sign of activity at the vents on the N and NE flanks of the SE Crater cone.
Activity culminates at the SE Crater main vent. Shortly before 1300, intermittent Strombolian bursts became visible at the main vent of the SE Crater. Initially they produced small black plumes that rose only a few tens of meters above the summit of the cone, but then the activity gradually increased, and a diffuse dark plume began to rise a few hundred meters high. At the same time, a pulsating lava fountain was visible at the Sudestino, and a third lava flow began to extend from this vent towards SW. For about 30 minutes prior to 1330, lava fountaining at the main vent of the SE Crater generated a dilute tephra column. Only rarely did any pyroclastics ejected with this fountain fall onto the slopes of the cone.

Meteosat images of Sicily and surrounding areas, showing the development of a large plume during the culminating phase of the 16 April eruptive episode at the SE Crater. The first image, taken at 1430 h local time, shows a small bright spot at Etna: this is the massive eruption column that had just begun to rise from the SE Crater and had not yet extended laterally. In the next image, taken 30 minutes later, a dense plume is visible as a white streak extending from the NE part of Sicily to the ESE. At 1530 h, the plume has already detached from the volcano (eruptive activity actually ceased by about 1500 h), and has travelled about 50-80 km further in the last image, taken at 1600 h.

The activity at the main vent suddenly increased notably at around 1330, when a dark, dense tephra column shot up from the vent, rising about 1000 m in few seconds. The upper part of the cone rapidly disappeared behind a plume of brownish dust, caused by the heavy rain of pyroclastics onto its flanks. Vigorous explosive activity feeding the eruption column continued for about ten minutes, then decreased, but increased again at about 1400 h. Small jets of lava rose continuously from the Sudestino, reaching heights of several tens of meters, and the three lava flows fed from that vent were vigorously active. Between 1400 and 1430 h, the main vent of the SE Crater experienced several surges of increased explosive activity, which were somewhat weaker than the first one, but each time the cone received heavy showers of pyroclastics. The phase of most intense activity began sometime around 1430 h, when a very dense tephra column rose from the main vent of the SE Crater, reaching a height of up to 5 km above the summit. The column broadened in its upper part, where much vapor condensed to give it a white color, attaining a classical mushroom shape. For much of its height, however, the column was dark gray. During this phase, the SE Crater cone became entirely invisible due to a dense curtain of brownish-gray ash, much of which was probably generated by the heavy downpour of pyroclastics, but it is possible that there was also some activity from vents on the S flank of the cone.
Vigorous tephra emission ended abruptly shortly after 1450 h, and after this the main vent of the SE Crater only emitted gas. Similarly, all eruptive activity ceased at the Sudestino, followed by gas emission.
The 16 April eruptive episode was unusually violent and lasted almost 3 hours, considerably longer than the 6 April paroxysm. The intensity of the activity may be taken as another indicator of a long repose interval prior to this episode. Morphological changes at the SE Crater cone appear to be insignificant (there has been some minor vertical growth), but significant growth occurred at the Sudestino, which has attained a pointed shape. Tephra from the explosive phase of the episode was blown SE, and probably affected a sector between Zafferana, Acireale and Pedara. Satellite imagery (Meteosat; see images above) show that a dense plume appeared at Etna at 1430 h, the time when the activity reached its most intense phase - no significant plume had been produced until then. The plume was fed vigorously until about 1500 h (actually the activity ceased a few minutes before 1500 h) and was clearly detached from the volcano at 1530 h. It remained visible in Meteosat images until at least 1700, by which time it had lengthened to more than 300 km in WNW-ESE direction.

14 April 2000 update. Since the last directly observed eruptive episode at the SE Crater on 6 April, there has been very probably at least another episode. However, bad weather has prevailed on many days since 6 April, and no direct observations of any eruptive activity have been possible. On 13 April, Giuseppe Scarpinati noted fresh lava flows that had extended to the E and NE, on which the snow, which had thickly fallen elsewhere on the upper slopes of the mountain, had melted immediately. A similar snow-free flow was visible on 13 April on the slope north of Monte Frumento Supino (see map at top of this page), where many previous lavas had been emplaced during eruptive episodes since mid-March.
The count of eruptive episodes now stands at fifty (assuming that one episode has occurred after 6 April). This apparent indiscrepancy results from the "discovery" of a previously unknown eruptive episode which took place early on 13 February during very bad weather. Fortunately there were observers at Torre del Filosofo that night who noted that the dense weather clouds were illuminated by intense glow and could see flowing lava at the S base of the SE Crater cone through gaps in the clouds (information from Patrick Barois).

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 (the most recent of March 2000), updates, and other, highly interesting items (in French and English)

visitors counted since 12 February 1999
This page received 4362 hits during the week of 24-30 October 1999. 4430 hits were counted the week after.
Visitor statistics in February-March 2000:
01-05 February: 2189 (438 per day)
06-12 February: 4170 (596 per day)
13-19 February: 6498 (928 per day)
20-26 February: 4988 (712 per day)
27 February-04 March: 5327 (767 per day)
05-11 March: 4103 (586 per day)
12-18 March: 3942 (563 per day)
19-25 March: 6992 (999 per day)
26 March-1 April: 8205 (1172 per day!)
Change of counter mode on 2 April
3-9 April: 6046 (864 per day)

FastCounter by LinkExchange

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

Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 26 April 2000
Hosted by VolcanoDiscovery