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Spectacular eruption at Etna volcano, Italy


Another significant eruption started at Etna's Southeast crater just before 22:30 UTC on February 17, 2021, just 32 hours after the spectacular eruptive episode on February 16.

A new paroxysm took place in the early hours of February 18, INGV reports. Like most paroxysms at Etna, it lasted only a few tens of minutes, from 01:00 to 01:45 UTC.

This event was also characterized by high lava fountains, possibly reaching heights between 600 and 700 m (1 970 – 2 300 feet), and lava flows heading toward Valle del Bove and to the southwest. 

Strong ash emission started at around 00:00 UTC today, rising up to 9.1 km (30 000 feet) above sea level and drifting toward the southeast. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red at 00:36 UTC and lowered back to Orange at 02:07 UTC.

Ash and lapilli were reported southeast of the volcano, in areas such as Zafferana, Fleri, and Acireale.

Etna on February 18, 2021. Credit: Copernicus EU/Sentinel-2, ADAM Platform, Antonio Vecoli

Explosive activity intensified at Etna's Southeast crater on Monday, February 15, and continued into Tuesday.

The activity further intensified at 16:10 UTC on Tuesday with lava fountaining and strong ash emissions reaching a height of about 10 km (33 000 feet) a.s.l. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red and lowered back to Orange at 05:31 UTC on February 17.

Lava fountaining ended at around 17:00 UTC but lava emission along the Valle del Bove continued and the fallout of small ash and lapilli was reported up to Catania airport.

A sudden and obvious decrease of average volcanic tremor amplitude and infrasonic activity was observed starting at 16:50 UTC on February 16.

The activity forced the temporary suspension of all operations at the Catania international airport.

Read more: Intense explosive activity at Etna volcano, Aviation Color Code raised to Red, Italy

Geological 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 (5.1 x 6.2 miles) 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. (GVP)

Featured image credit: INGV

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