Mt Etna Volcano - John Seach


Sicily, Italy

37.73 N, 15.00 E,
summit elevation 3350 m
Shield volcano 

Mt Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe. It has an elliptical base (38 x 47 km) and a maximum elevation of about 3350 m. The volcano dominates the landscape of NE Sicily, Italy. The first eruptions at Etna occurred 500,000 years ago.

Mt Etna has the longest period of documented eruptions in the world. Etna is noted for the wide variety of eruption styles. The volcano is at its most spectacular when when both summit and flank eruptions occur simultaneously.

Mt Etna volcano photos by John Seach

John Seach at summit of Mt Etna. 800 m high lava fountain

mt etna eruption
John Seach at Mt Etna volcano

mt etna
Mt Etna gas rings

Mt Etna Mt Etna volcano

Paroxysm, SE crater 2000

Mt Etna volcano, italy
Bocca Nuova eruptions 1999

mt etna volcano
Sapienza, Etna

Mt Etna

The structure of Mt Etna consists of a series of nested stratovolcanoes, characterised by summit calderas, the most important one being the Ellittico Caldera, which formed about 14,000-15,000 years ago.

Historically Mt Etna has produced effusive activity; however several pyroclastic deposits related to Plinian eruptions have been identified in the Holocene sequence. Under open vent conditions, ash emission only occurs during flank eruptions of Mt Etna volcano.

Structural and seismic data indicate that the regional deformation in the Etnean
area is generally dominated by N-S compression as the result of subduction of the African tectonic plate under the Eurasian plate.

2013 Eruptions
Eruptions occurred at 3 craters at Mt Etna volcano in February 2013. Five paroxysms at new southeast crater over past week. On 27th February Strombolian eruptions and small lava fountains were observed at Bocca Nuova crater. Magmatic activity has occurred at Voragine for the first time since 1999. Renewed eruptions on October 26 2013 occurred at new southeast crater and northeast crater.

2011 Eruption
On the evening of 11th January 2011 an increase in volcanic tremor was recorded at Mt Etna volcano. Seismic activity reached a peak at 07:00 hr on 12th January when the source moved from north of NE crater to the SE crater. This corresponded to weak eruptive activity at SE crater on 11th January. On 12th January eruptions increased with strombolian activity recorded at SE crater. About 21:00 hr, lava overflowed the eastern rim of SE crater, and fed a flow that moved toward the western wall of the Valle del Bove.

Lava fountains occurred at SE crater, Mt Etna volcano on the night of 12-13 January 2011. The eruption consisted of a sustained lava fountain, lava flow, and an ash column reaching several kilometres high. The lava fountain lasted 42 minutes from 22:48-23:30 hr on 12th January and reached a height of 300-500 m. The lava fountain became pulsating after this time and reached a height of 100-200 m until 0:55 hr on the morning of 13th January. Ashfall was reported on the south flank of Mt Etna. The eruption was preceded by smaller episodes of Strombolian activity from SE crater on 23rd December 2010, and the evening of 2-3 January 2011. A lava flow descended the western slope of the Valle del Bove in three branches and reached the base after midnight. The longest flow surrounded the northern side of Monte Centenari, 4.2 km from the vent. On the 13th January ash emissions were caused by a partial collapse within the cone and eruptive activity at Mt Etna's SE crater.

2010 Eruption and Earthquakes
An ash eruption occurred at the summit of Mt Etna volcano, Italy on 8th April 2010. The eruption occurred at the lower east flank of the Southeast Crater. The eruption increased the crater from 10 m to 50 m. The eruptions were preceded by a series of earthquakes at the Pernicana fault on 2nd April. This was the first time in 6 years that earthquakes occurred in this location on Mt Etna (NE flank). The largest earthquake was magnitude 4.2. Ground cracking occurred adjacent to Ragabo mountain hut. Mareneve road, which links the town of Linguaglossa to the tourist area of Piano Provenzana, was fractured in two locations. The earthquake focus was at a depth of 1 km, and surface fractures occurred over a distance of 1 km. At a location 1 km up slope from Ragabo mountain hut, there was vertical displacement of the ground by 20 cm.

2009 Eruptions
Eruptions resumed at Mt Etna volcano, Italy after 4 months of inactivity. On 7th November Strombolian eruptions commenced at the eastern flank of South East crater. On 8th November at 07:51 am there was a magnitude 4.4 earthquake beneath the southwest flank of Mt Etna at a depth of 10 km.

2008 Eruptions
A paroxysmal eruption began at south-east crater on 10 May 2008. This was followed on 13th May by two fissures opening between 3,050 and 2,650 m elevation on Etna’s upper east side. The fissures sent lava flows 5 km into the Valle del Bove.

July 2006 Eruption
On 14 July 2006 at 2330 hr a fissure opened on the E flank of the Southeast Crater. Two vents along the fissure produced a lava flow which spread 3 km E to the Valle del Bove. The eruption ended on 24 July.

2004-2005 Eruption
An effusive eruption that started on 7 September 2004 on the W wall of the Valle del Bove. The eruption ended in March 2005. During the flank lava flows, there were no explosions at the summit.

2002-2003 Flank Eruption
The 2002-2003 eruption was one of the most explosive flank eruptions in the past 150 years at Mt Etna. The magma mixed with groundwater and was phreatomagmatic. Ash fell as far away as the Greek island of Cefalonia. Between 26 and 27 October 2002, strong seismicity accompanied the opening of fissures on the S and NE flanks of the volcano. Along the 4-km-long NE-fissure, eruptions consisted of Strombolian, Hawaiian fountaining and minor phreatomagmatic activity. On 27
October 2002, during the opening of the S-fissure, a 1-km-long curtain of fire fed a grey plume that reached a height of more than 3 km above the fissure. Between 20 and 21 November, a new effusive vent opened at the SSE base of the 2750 m cinder cone, causing a lava flow that threatened Rifugio Sapienza at an altitude of 1920 m. The effusive activity at the S vent finished on 28 January 2003.

2001-2002 Eruption
This was the first in a new series of flank eruptions at the volcano. Etna's flank eruptions have previously occurred at intervals of 1.7 years, during each series. In 17th July– 9th August 2001 the eruption of Mt. Etna caused significant damage to tourist facilities, and for several days threatened the town of Nicolosi on the S flank of the volcano. Seven eruptive fissures were active, five on the S flank between 3,050 and 2,100 m altitude, and two on the NE flank between 3,080 and 2,600 m elevation. The most voluminous of which reached a length of 6.9 km. One of the eccentric vents, at 2,570 m elevation, was the site of vigorous phreatomagmatic activity as the dike cut through a shallow aquifer, during both the initial and closing stages of the eruption. the eruption confirmed a trend, initiated during the past 50 years, toward higher production rates and more frequent eruptions, which occurred in the early to mid seventeenth century.

Between 1971 and 2001, the Southeast Crater was the most productive of the four summit craters of Mount Etna, with activity that can be compared, on a global scale, to the opening phases of the Pu‘u ‘Ō‘ō-Kūpaianaha eruption of Kīlauea volcano, Hawai‘i.

Earlier Eruptions of Mt Etna...