Significant ash emissions observed at Mount Etna, Italy


Significant ash emissions are being observed at Italy's Mount Etna today. At 07:13 UTC, Toulouse VAAC reported ash emissions that started at 06:25 UTC are below 4.5 km.

Aviation Color Code has been raised to Red.

The following timelapse video by Turi Caggegi shows today's ash emissions pushed by the strong winds to the southwest: 

Timelapse courtesy of Turi Caggegi

Today's event comes just 5 days after Etna experienced brief but intense eruption on December 28, 2014, the strongest since December 2, 2013. The eruption was characterized by lava fountains and lava flows, but very bad weather prevented clear identification of the craters involved.

On December 31, Osservatorio Etneo reported that observations made during the last few days have allowed to say the paroxysmal episode of December 28th occurred on a number of eruptive vents aligned along a fracture oriented northeast-southwest, which has cut the cone of the New Southeast Crater (NSEC) and the southern side of the old Southeast Crater.

Lava poured from the two ends of this fracture to the southwest, towards the Milia-Galvarina, and northeast to the northern part of the Valle del Bove near Monte Simone, and reached lengths of about 4.5 and 3.3 km, respectively. (Find INGV's detailed analysis of that event here)

After the eruption on 28th, volcanic tremors briefly reached background levels and started rising again on December 31, as visible on the image below:

Volcanic tremors – Etna. Image credit: INGV

Geologic summary

Mount Etna, towering above Catania, Sicily's second largest city, has one of the world's longest documented records of historical volcanism, dating back to 1500 BCE. Historical lava flows of basaltic composition cover much of the surface of this massive volcano, whose edifice is the highest and most voluminous in Italy. The Mongibello stratovolcano, truncated by several small calderas, was constructed during the late Pleistocene and Holocene over an older shield volcano. The most prominent morphological feature of Etna is the Valle del Bove, a 5 x 10 km horseshoe-shaped caldera open to the east.

Two styles of eruptive activity typically occur at Etna. Persistent explosive eruptions, sometimes with minor lava emissions, take place from one or more of the three prominent summit craters, the Central Crater, NE Crater, and SE Crater (the latter formed in 1978). Flank vents, typically with higher effusion rates, are less frequently active and originate from fissures that open progressively downward from near the summit (usually accompanied by strombolian eruptions at the upper end). Cinder cones are commonly constructed over the vents of lower-flank lava flows. Lava flows extend to the foot of the volcano on all sides and have reached the sea over a broad area on the SE flank.

Featured image: Significant ash emissions from Mount Etna on January 2, 2014. Image courtesy of Turi Caggegi.

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  1. The planetary influences to Earth in 2015 suggest that more such volcanic eruptions could be in the news in the coming months. So precautions are required on our part to be in readiness.

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