plan to visit Etna in the near future?
latest update is near the bottom of this page
14 November 2001 update. No new activity has been observed on Etna in recent weeks, and it seems that the volcano is still slumbering after its major eruption in July-August this year. Meanwhile more web sites dealing with that eruption have appeared on the internet, which are listed at the bottom of this page.
22 December 2001 update. Etna continues its post-eruptive slumber, no fresh magma has appeared in the summit craters, although occasional collapse within the Bocca Nuova conduits generates emissions of lithic ash. Quiet, non-eruptive degassing is occurring at the NE Crater and the Bocca Nuova, and minor gas emission can be observed at the SE Crater and the Voragine. The lava flows erupted during July-August 2001 are still warm so that they remain free of snow, while the mountain is covered with a splendid white blanket to an elevation of about 1700 m. Snow-free areas are also present on the S flank of the SE Crater cone.
January 2002 update.
beginning of the new year has been a quiet one at Etna, as far as
eruptive activity is concerned. Heavy snow falls repeatedly covered
the slopes of the mountain down to less than 1000 m, and skiing is
possible on the northern flank, which has spared by the destructive
effects of the July-August 2001 eruption. During visits made to the
summit area in early January, no unusual activity was observed and
no explosion sounds were heard. The Southeast Crater, site of spectacular
eruptive activity between 1996 and 2001, was perfectly calm until
17 January 2002 update. Increased gas emissions from the Southeast Crater and from the Bocca Nuova (at the latter crater mixed with ash) occurred in mid-January. Very light ash falls occurred on the eastern side of the volcano, extending as far as Acireale. During visits to the summit area loud explosions were heard, which probably came from the Bocca Nuova. These explosions were also heard in the skiing area of Piano Provenzana on the northern flank of the mountain. No incandescent ejections have been noted at night. Bad weather has occasionally hampered visual observations since 13 January.
February 2002 update.
a visit to the summit craters of Etna on 30 January, low levels of
activity were observed. Deep-seated, loud explosions occurred at intervals
of 5-30 minutes within the northwestern pit of the Bocca Nuova, but
no solid material was ejected. The rims of the pit were covered with
brown lithic ash (which had been emitted in December-January) but
there were no blocks or fresh scoriae indicating recent ejections.
The conformation of the pit was the same as in September 2001, with
a crecent-shaped flat terrace surrounding a deep degassing vent in
the SE part of the pit. The southeastern pit of the Bocca Nuova was
quietly degassing, and its bottom could not be seen while peering
over its S and SW rims.
7 March 2002 update. No eruptive activity is occurring presently at Etna, although deep-seated explosions are probably continuing within the conduit of one of the eruptive vents of the Bocca Nuova (see previous updates). Numerous small earthquakes, some of which were felt by the local population, have been recorded recently on the S flank (in the area of the largest of the July-August 2001 lava flows), which were interpreted as the result of the cooling of the lava flow. Thus the longest quiet interval at Etna since 1995 is continuing, and nothing indicates in this moment when this will end.
13 March 2002 update. Near continuous, pulsating emissions of reddish-brown lithic ash have started around 9 March at the NW vent of the Bocca Nuova, generating a plume that trails for dozens of kilometers downwind. The source vent is the same one that was the site of deep-seated explosions during the past six months. The emissions might be caused by collapse within the conduit, which has occurred repeatedly after the end of the July-August 2001 eruption, and does not necessarily indicate an intensification of the activity or uprise of fresh magma. On the other hand, it is 8 months now that the volcano has been quiet, and renewed magmatic activity at the summit should be expected in the not too distant future.
21 March 2002 update. Emissions of lithic, pink-colored ash continue at the Bocca Nuova. These are accompanied by voluminous degassing from the Northeast Crater and minor fumarolic activity from the Voragine and the Southeast Crater. During days without strong wind, these emissions rise vertically to form a spectacular plume that might easily create the impression that true eruptive activity is taking place at the summit of Etna. However, there is no evidence that fresh magma has risen to near the surface, since no incandescence can be seen at night. Yet it seems that something is moving up there. During a mid-March summit visit by Giovanni Tomarchio, the cameraman of the Italian television RAI (much of what you have seen about Etna in the TV news in recent years is footage by Tomarchio), frequent loud explosions occurred in the southwestern vent of the Bocca Nuova. Although the floor of this vent, which was exceptionally clear, was not visible, it seemed that the explosions originated somewhere immediately below the visible part of the pit. The southwestern vent was silent when visited by Behncke in late January, while loud explosions occurred at its neighbor pit in the northwestern part of the crater, which is now emitting all the ash. All recent ejecta are fine lithic ash, which has left a thick, soft deposit in the summit area. Similar emissions occurred for months at the Bocca Nuova during the spring and summer of 1999, prior to the vigorous eruptions at the Voragine and the Bocca Nuova in September-November of that year.
March 2002 update.
nearly three weeks of ash emissions from the Bocca Nuova, the Northeast
Crater has joined the party and begun to emit dark brown to gray ash
early this week. The first direct observation of these emissions were
made on 27 March but local mountain guides report that they began
about two days earlier. In that case the beginning of the Northeast
Crater emissions would coincide with a series of small earthquakes
that shook the southeastern flank of the volcano during the night
of 24-25 March. At least three of the shocks were felt by the local
population and caused some apprehension but no damage.
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 new 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
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)
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
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)
Copyright © Boris Behncke, "Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of
Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 29 March 2002