Italy's Volcanoes: The Cradle of Volcanology

Etna Decade Volcano, Italy
Eruption update:
9-31 July 2000
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Photos of the SE Crater
paroxysm of 24 June 2000

Photos by Giuseppe Scarpinati, Acireale

24 June 2000

Spectacular panoramic view of the lava flow that was erupted from the fissure on the N flank of the SE Crater cone (which can be seen at the upper left hand end of the lava flow) before and during the paroxysmal eruptive episode on the evening of 24 June 2000. This flow, the longest to be erupted from the SE Crater during the current series of eruptive episodes, reached the floor of the Valle del Bove at a distance of almost 3 km from its source. The photo was taken after the end of the phase of vigorous lava fountaining. A much smaller lava flow was erupted from vents on the S flank of the SE Crater cone, which can be seen at far left. Scarpinati took this photo from Monte Zoccolaro, 5-6 km from the SE Crater; view is to NW

24 June 2000
24 June 2000

Details of the middle and lower portions of the lava flow, the flow front being visible in the right image. Photos were taken from the same viewpoint and at about the same time as the one above

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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, 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, or (during the summer) at the hotel "Le Betulle" at Piano Provenzana, on the northern side.



31 July 2000 update. During the past sixteen days, Etna has remained in a state of near complete calm. The latest significant activity was a paroxysmal eruptive episode on the late evening of 24 June at the SE Crater, the 64th in five months. After that event, the summit craters of the volcano have become progressively less active, and at this moment there is nothing to indicate when and where eruptive activity will resume. The levels of activity during July have been lower than any time since the spectacular summit eruptions began five years ago.
Since Behncke's latest visit to the summit craters on 14 July, observations of the craters have been made sporadically by Claude Grandpey and Jean Pierre Kloster, both of the French Association Volcanologique Européenne (L.A.V.E.). On 12 July, Kloster observed deep seated explosive activity within the NW vent of the Bocca Nuova, with ejections of glowing lava fragments which did not rise as high as the rim of the vent. This was the most recent observation of any eruptive activity at Etna; during the following days the intensity of degassing decreased (Grandpey describes this as a diminution of the gas pressure). Gas rings, which had been produced at the E vent of the Bocca Nuova every few minutes for about five months, became less frequent, and the last rings were observed on 16 July. When Grandpey visited the Bocca Nuova on 24 and 26 July, the vent that had produced the gas rings was quiet, and another vent nearby had noisy gas explosions every now and then. The NW vent was a bottomless pit and did not show any signs of activity except weak degassing. During Grandpey's visits, the Voragine was fairly quiet as well, with relatively weak gas emissions from its two vents. On 24 July the smaller of these vents, which had formed sometime in May, was completely quiet, but had resumed degassing two days later.
The NE Crater was inactive as well, although collapse of the walls of its central pit occasionally generated dilute plumes of brownish ash. Similar plumes were seen at the NW vent of the Bocca Nuova on some days in late July. The SE Crater has remained almost totally quiet, with some gas emission from fumaroles near its crater rim.

15 July 2000 update. There has been no paroxysm at the SE Crater for three weeks, and it is well possible that another amazing chapter in the fascinating story of Etna's summit eruptions (which began almost five years ago, in late July 1995) has come to a close.
Eruptive activity in the summit area has been at quite low levels since the SE Crater last erupted on the late evening of 24 June. Most visible activity has consisted of voluminous gas emissions from the Bocca Nuova, the Voragine and the NE Crater. However, there may be deep-seated magmatic activity in the NW vent of the Bocca Nuova - there are unconfirmed reports about ejections of incandescent lava fragments in that vent on 12 July, but those fragments did not reach the rim of the vent.
On the afternoon of 14 July, Boris Behncke, his brother Jakob Behncke with his fiancee Eva Maria Wiegershausen and David Bryant visited the summit area during heavy storm and some weather cloud. Breaks in the clouds permitted occasional observations of the activity at the Voragine and in the NW vent of the Bocca Nuova. No visible eruptive activity was seen (or heard) in the latter vent, but there was a vigorous gas plume rising from the large central pit of the Voragine, which was seen to be strongly pulsating after the weather clouds dissipated, shortly before sunset. No ejections of solid material or glow were observed after sunset. Nonetheless the gas plume was distinctly more voluminous and active than during Behncke's and Bryant's previous visits in the past few weeks.
From these very incomplete and preliminary observations it might be concluded that there is a slight increase in gas emission from the Voragine, whereas the occurrence of magmatic activity in the NW vent of the Bocca Nuova has to await further confirmation. An increase of the activity at these two craters would be no surprise; it is very likely that magma continues to rise through the central conduit system of Etna towards the summit craters, and renewed eruptive activity in that area will likely occur within the near future.

9 July 2000 update. The SE Crater has remained unusually quiet during the past two weeks. This is the fifteenth consecutive day without any eruptive activity at the crater which has produced 64 episodes of violent paroxysmal activity in the 5 months following 26 January 2000. No repose interval between paroxysms during that period were as long as the period of inactivity since the latest of those paroxysms, which occurred on the late evening of 24 June.
Little has changed at the other three summit craters of Etna. These craters were visited by Behncke and Bryant on the afternoon of 29 June, and the only change since their previous visit 9 days earlier was a slight enlargement of the new fuming pit in the SW part of the Voragine. The NE Crater continued its vigorous degassing activity, which takes place at a depth of hundreds of meters in its active pit. Sometimes the resulting gas plume mixed with fine lithic ash. Deep-seated explosive activity in the E vent of the Bocca Nuova produced gas rings, adding to the many thousands of gas rings emitted from that vent during the previous months.
Some who have observed the volcano during the dramatic period of paroxysms at the SE Crater are now beginning to speculate that these peculiar eruptive manifestations may be over. It has always been clear that the SE Crater could not go on like that forever, and that something else would happen at Etna after that. But what will happen, if that series of paroxysms has really ended, and why did it end - if it really has ended?
Maybe magma supply to the SE Crater has slowed. Maybe it becomes more and more difficult for the magma to rise to the crater, whose cone has grown higher and higher in the past six months, and thus the repose interval between eruptive episodes becomes longer. But if magma continues to be fed into the conduit below the crater, one day it will erupt - either from the crater itself, or from fissures on its slopes or at its base, like it did for 9 months in 1999.
On the other hand the SE Crater conduit may have become blocked, and any fresh magma rising in the central conduit system of Etna may be diverted towards one or more of the other summit craters. This would eventually lead to renewed eruptive activity in one of those craters, where the amount of gas emission appears to be higher since about two months.
It cannot be excluded that a fresh batch of gas-rich magma rising up within the volcano might cause the slopes of Etna to fracture, leading to a flank eruption. In this moment there are few signs that enable us to speculate about the future at Etna - the only thing that is certain is that it will not remain quiet for long.

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), frequent updates, and other, highly interesting items (in French and English)

visitors counted since 12 February 1999
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Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 31 July 2000
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