Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
23-29 May 2000
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18 May 2000

Photos of two of the most recent eruptive episodes at the SE Crater. The photo above shows a large explosion towards the end of the eruptive episode on early 18 May. A small lava fountain can be seen at one vent on the lower N flank of the SE Crater cone (right). In the right foreground the church tower of Zafferana. This photo was captured from video recorded by David Bryant. The photo below is a time exposure taken by Boris Behncke from near Fornazzo shortly after midnight on 20 May, during the next paroxysm. Lava can be seen flowing in several branches from the eruptive fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater cone (center right), and a small lava flow is also heading southwards (left). A number of fountains are jetting from the N flank of the cone, while the largest fountain at the summit vent of the cone is partially hidden behind a curtain of falling tephra.

20 May 2000

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" 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. Violent eruptive episodes are occurring every few days 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 on the plain between Torre del Filosofo, Monte Frumento Supino, and the summit crater cones. The Torre del Filosofo area, which is familiar to many excursionists, is presently not a safe place at all. Tourists are presently not allowed to go beyond 2700 m elevation, and they should make excursions only with the mountain guides. 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. The mountain guides 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.

29 May 2000 update. Etna has returned to a state of relative calm after the latest paroxysmal eruptive episode from the SE Crater of late 27 May (the paroxysm culminated at around 2300 h, not before 2200 h as reported previously). Ash emission from the NE Crater continued during the morning of 28 May but then gradually diminished. Light ash falls caused by this activity occurred to the S and SSE of Etna, extending to the outskirts of Catania. However, much more significant tephra falls occurred after the SE Crater paroxysm of late 27 May to the SW of the volcano (as suspected in the previous update of 28 May), hitting mostly the town of Adrano. This area had so far received only little tephra from the eruptive activity at the SE Crater initiated on 26 January.

28 May 2000 update. A new eruptive episode - the 58th in 4 months and 1 day - occurred during the evening of 27 May at the SE Crater. This event, which came after a quiet interval of more than 4.5 days, could not be well observed due to cloud cover; however, the approximate timing and some details of the extent of lava flows could be established due to the faithful "volcano watch" from Acireale by Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian delegate of the French "Association Volcanologique Européenne").
Nothing is known about the start of the activity; an intense glow amidst weather clouds was noted by Scarpinati at 2200 h. The glow was not fluctuating, so that it seems that fountaining (which would have produced a rather pulsating glow) had not yet begun, and most of it was produced by effusive activity and/or incandescent ejecta covering the SE Crater cone. The most vigorous activity, not well visible from Acireale, occurred around 2300 h. Lava flows running down the E flank of Etna emerged from the base of the cloud cover, extending for quite some distance (maybe 2 km or more); Scarpinati noted that these flows were considerably longer than those of the preceding eruptive episodes. Most of the lava was directed toward the Valle del Leone, to the E of the SE Crater, but one smaller lobe, which apparently came from a location further S than the effusive vents on the N flank of the cone, was directed southeastwards. The flows continued to advance vigorously for about 4 hours - that is, until about 0200 h on 28 May.
Nothing is known about the area and extent of tephra falls caused by this latest paroxysm. When Scarpinati began his observations, no large eruption column was visible above the cloud bank over the volcano, which could mean that the most vigorous activity had already ended some time before, or that the plume was blown by strong wind in a direction away from his viewpoint, that means to the W or SW. Winds were blowing essentially to that direction during the day, so that the area affected by tephra falls would be in the W sector of the volcano, which is much less densely populated than the E side, stricken by frequent tephra falls during the recent paroxysms from the SE Crater.
As has happend in connection with all eruptive episodes at the SE Crater during the past 2 weeks, the NE Crater emitted dense plumes of ash. This activity continued on the morning of 28 May, and the easterly wind blew the ash plume toward W or SW.

Photos of the 18 May 2000 paroxysm:
The view from Zafferana

Captured from video taken by David Bryant

18 May 2000
18 May 2000

Left: A small group of people is watching the lava fountains jetting from the SE Crater, but they are talking about anything else than the volcano. In the foreground is the central square of Zafferana, with the central church at right
Right: A zoom on the lava fountains rising from the SE Crater at the height of the paroxysm. The large fountain (about 400 m high) at left comes from the summit vent of the cone, while a much smaller fountain to the right of it is jetting from a vent on the N flank of the cone. Church tower of Zafferana is in the right foreground

23 May 2000 update. The SE Crater reactivated on the evening of 22 May with the slow emission of small lava flows from the fissure on the N flank of its cone. This activity culminated at dawn the next morning with the 57th paroxysmal eruptive episode in 4 months. Observations of the activity were made until 0100 h on 23 May by Boris Behncke (Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, University of Catania) from Fornazzo, on the E flank of Etna, and thereafter by Giuseppe Scarpinati (Italian delegate of the French Association Volcanologique Européenne) from Monte Zoccoloaro, on the SE flank of Etna.
Slow extrusion of lava from the upper portion of the fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater cone was first seen by Behncke at about 2000 h from Fornazzo. This activity formed two small lobes of lava that advanced about 150 m to the E and then gradually slowed. For the next 5 hours, very minor effusive activity continued at the same fissure, producing repeated small surges of lava that slowly advanced 100-200 m to the NE and E and then stopped. On some occasions the lava could be seen rising in the fissure to produce a new surge. In another case, lava rose very slowly from the upper part of the fissure, forming a dome-shaped feature about 50 m across and no more than 10 m high, from which several very small branches of lava extended in various directions. No ejection of lava fragments occurred at the vents (there seemed to be at least two sources of lava emission) until 0100 h when Behncke returned to Catania.

Photos of the 20 May 2000 paroxysm:
The view from Fornazzo

Photos by Boris Behncke

20 May 2000
20 May 2000
20 May 2000

These three photos show the progressive development of the eruptive episode early on 20 May from its beginning to its end, over a time span of about 30 minutes

20 May 2000

The paroxysm is over, lava fountaining has ended. However, lava flows are still advancing both on the N flank of the SE Crater cone (center and right) and on the S flank (left). The longest flows at right are spilling over the slope break separating the Valle del Leone from the Valle del Bove, its fronts being about 1.5-2 km distant from the SE Crater

For the next two hours the activity continued at the same painfully slow pace as previously. At about 0300 h when Scarpinati had begun to feel the strong desire to return to his home in Acireale, lava spattering began at the N flank vents. This activity continued for about 15 minutes and then decreased notably, only to increase once more shortly thereafter. During the following 100 minutes the activity underwent repeated fluctuations, and only at 0450 h, a low but steady lava fountain began to rise from the vent area on the N flank of the SE Crater cone. Five minutes later the fountain rose 30 to 40 m high, and the output of lava increased dramatically. At 0505 h the summit vent of the SE Crater, which until then had shown no signs of activity, began to emit large volumes of ash, forming a plume that rapidly rose high above the cone. Two minutes later a huge jet of lava rose from the same vent, thus initiating the phase of lava fountaining, which continued for about 25 minutes. The radiating heat of the fountain could be clearly felt by Scarpinati at his observation site about 6.5 km from the erupting vent. Large amounts of tephra were produced with the fountain, which rose in an eruption column several kilometers high. A heavy downpour of lapilli occurred on the ENE flank of Etna, depositing several centimeters of scoriaceous clasts on the "Mareneve" road which connects the Rifugio Citelli with Fornazzo. Some of the clasts were up to 5 cm in diameter. Lapilli also fell in Fornazzo, Sant'Alfio, Mascali, Giarre, and Fiumefreddo.

Photos of the 20 May 2000 paroxysm:
The view from space

Photos by Meteosat

20 May 2000

The eruption plume of the 20 May paroxysm at the SE Crater is very evident on these two images taken by the European weather satellite Meteosat. The upper image, taken at 0200 h (local time), shows a circular white spot near Etna - this is the plume rising from the SE Crater less than 1 hour after the beginning of the paroxysm. The image below (showing a smaller area) was taken at 0800 h and shows a long trail of ash from the NE Crater, which is carried to the SE by the wind. The conspicuous circular feature to the E (right) of the tip of Calabria is probably the main eruption plume erupted 7 hours earlier from the SE Crater

20 May 2000

The activity at the summit vent of the SE Crater ended abruptly at 0535 h, but lava spattering continued for about 10 minutes at the N flank vents before all activity subsided. Lava flowed mainly from the N flank fissure to the NE and E, but a small lava flow was also formed on the S side of the cone, although there were apparently no vents on that flank of the cone.
Like during the preceding paroxysmal eruptive episodes at the SE Crater, this latest event was accompanied by sympathetic eruptive activity at the NE Crater. Copious ash emission from that crater was observed by Behncke from about 1900 h on 22 May on, and during a summit visit by Behncke on 23 May, large amounts of fine, mostly lithic ash were continuously emitted from the crater. This activity produced no noise, although some of the emissions appeared to be somewhat forceful. Mountain guides at Piano Provenzana reported that no incandescent ejections had occurred at the NE Crater since about 8 days. However, the near continuous emission of ash from the NE Crater in the past few weeks has led to the deposition of a thin film of very fine, powdery ash in a vast sector on the E and SE sides of the volcano. The Bocca Nuova was in more or less the same state as seen during several visits since February, with short, deep-seated explosions expelling only gas, many of which led to the formation of gas rings.

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 and video clips (the most recent of the paroxysm of 5 May 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-May 2000:
01-05 February: 2189 (438 per day)
26 March-1 April: 8205 (1172 per day!)
06-12 February: 4170 (596 per day)
3-9 April: 6046 (864 per day)
13-19 February: 6498 (928 per day)
10-16 April: 5363 (766 per day)
20-26 February: 4988 (712 per day)
17-23 April: 4827 (689 per day)
27 February-04 March: 5327 (767 per day)
24-30 April: 4916 (702 per day)
05-11 March: 4103 (586 per day)
1-7 May: 5679 (811 per day)
12-18 March: 3942 (563 per day)
8-14 May: 6436 (919 per day)
19-25 March: 6992 (999 per day)
15-21 May: 6573 (939 per day)

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Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 29 May 2000

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