Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
18-29 January 2000

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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, especially at the SE Crater which has resumed its episodic eruptive behavior. 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. One man was killed in December 1999 when he fell into a chasm and dozens of people have since then been reported lost and searched for, fortunately without further tragic accidents. 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.

29 January 2000 update. On Etna's summit, the SE Crater has erupted again this morning (29 January), producing its second eruptive episode in three days. The activity was apparently very violent and short-lived: at about 0845 h (local time=GMT+1) Giuseppe Scarpinati, Italian correspondent of the French "L'Association Volcanologique Européenne" (L.A.V.E.), saw a spectacular eruption column rising to a height of several kilometers above the summit; after 0900 h the activity was already declining. Scarpinati lives in Acireale and has a panoramic view of the southeastern side of the volcano; at his home loud rumblings were audible during the activity. Tephra fell over the eastern flank of the volcano, and therefore the skiing areas on the southern and northern flanks of Etna luckily were spared: this weekend, with favorable weather conditions persisting, a massive rush of skiers to the mountain is expected.
Scarpinati was unable to state whether the SE Crater had emitted any lava flows during the new eruptive episode, because its eastern base and the upper eastern flank of the mountain were hidden by a pall of ash and gas drifting eastwards. A significant quantity of lava had been produced during the preceding paroxysmal episode on 26 January, forming a flow 1.5 km long that reached the floor of the Valle del Bove, longer than any flow produced by the SE Crater during the series of similar eruptive episodes of late-1998 to early-1999.
Minor activity apparently continued throughout the day after the cessation of the paroxysmal activity. At nightfall lava continued to flow from a vent on the southern flank of the SE Crater cone, in the same location where lava effusion continued for about 15 hours after the paroxysmal episode of 26 January

27 January 2000 update. The SE Crater has apparently calmed after yesterday's spectacular eruptive episode. Lava effusion continued after nightfall yesterday, but diminished gradually during the night, and this morning (27 January) very little incandescence was visible on the new lava flow that has spilled about 1.5-2 km into the Valle del Bove. When observed before daybreak from Acireale by Giuseppe Scarpinati, Italian correspondent of "L'Association Volcanologique Européenne" (L.A.V.E.), no incandescence was visible at the summit craters of Etna. The new lava flow has advanced downslope along the southern margin of the lava flow-field formed during the long-lived effusive activity of February-November 1999 and reached the floor of the Valle del Bove.
At the SE Crater, the activity of 26 January has caused some changes. The summit of its cone appears to have collapsed partly, enlarging the diameter of the crater. The eruptive activity from the lower flank of the cone does not appear to have occurred at the 4 February 1999 fracture, but at a new fracture which trends in a more southerly direction.
The eruptive activity on 26 January was accompanied by loud detonations audible as far as Acireale, and caused light ash falls over the E and NE flanks. Lapilli several millimeters in diameter reportedly fell in Zafferana.
The cessation of the activity at the SE Crater may indicate that the crater will behave in an episodic manner in the near future, rather than producing continuous mild activity. Eruptive episodes usually are characterized by a higher eruption rate with abundant tephra and lava emission. Tephra falls might cause problems to the skiing areas on the southern and northern flanks of the volcano, as happened frequently during the winter of 1998-1999. The resumption of the activity is therefore viewed with concern by the owners of the skiing facilities who lost almost the entire skiing season last year (but recovered due to the massive tourist flux during the summer).

26 January 2000 update. During the past week (until shortly after midnight on 26 January) the activity at Etna's summit craters has continued at similar levels to the previous weeks, with mild Strombolian activity in one of the eruptive vents of the Bocca Nuova. This activity was accompanied by frequent ash emissions that were well visible from towns around the volcano during the few moments of clear weather.
On the early morning of 26 January, vigorous eruptive activity began at the SE Crater which had been inactive since a brief eruptive episode on 4 September 1999 (lava emission from vents at the ESE base of the SE Crater cone had ceased in early November 1999). It appears that the summit vent of the crater became active sometime after midnight, and lava fountaining continued through daybreak. At the same time lava flowed down the southern and southeastern flanks of the cone, and it seems that activity also occurred from the fracture that had cut across the SE slope of the cone on 4 February 1999. As of noon on 26 January the activity continued, mainly from the summit vent of the SE Crater, and some subsidence or collapse was evident at the summit of its cone (this seems to have occurred sometime after 10:00 h local time=GMT+1).
After nightfall on 26 January, bright incandescence from a spot on the SE flank of the SE Crater cone indicated continued lava effusion, possibly in the direction of the Valle del Bove.
The resumption of eruption from the SE Crater is not surprising, since this has been the most continuously active of the four summit craters of Etna in the past 3 years (including the effusive activity from vents at its SE and ESE base between February and November 1999). Etna is thus continuing its long series of summit eruptions initiated in the summer of 1995, and the reactivation of the SE Crater could be interpreted as the uprise of fresh magma in the central conduit system. Between September 1998 and February 1999 the SE Crater produced more than 20 powerful but short-lived eruptive episodes, and it is well possible that similar episodes will occur for the next weeks to months.

19 January 2000 update. Weather conditions have again worsened today, Etna is again in clouds, and there are probably more snow falls. However, last night the sky was clear, and mild, intermittent Strombolian activity could be seen at the Bocca Nuova. This activity was similar to that observed in early January, but weaker.

18 January 2000 update. After nine days of very bad weather (which has caused heavy snow falls on Etna down to about 1000 m elevation), the volcano has become visible again from Catania this morning. The visible activity consists mostly of dense gas emission from the Bocca Nuova, accompanied by sporadic puffs of brownish-gray ash. Most snow on the S flank of the main summit cone and on the SE Crater cone has melted, indicating heat emission from the ground.

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.

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! - And, amazingly enough, 4430 hits were counted the week after.)
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Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 29 January 2000

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