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Powerful paroxysmal eruption at Etna volcano, Italy

etna eruption december 1 2023 f

Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, once again showcased its might with a striking paroxysmal eruption on the evening of December 1, 2023. The eruption was characterized by spectacular lava fountains and intense volcanic activity, visible from great distances and capturing widespread attention. A dense column of volcanic ash rose to about 9 km (30 000 feet) above sea level. The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red.

Mount Etna entered a new phase of paroxysmal activity starting around 18:00 UTC on December 1, 2023. The eruption was anticipated following a week of increasing signs of volcanic unrest, as reported by the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV).

The Aviation Color Code was raised to Red at 17:08 UTC and lowered back to Orange at 22:38.

Lava fountains were seen rising at least 500 m (1 640 feet) in height and feeding two lava flows toward the E and SW of the cone.

A dense column of volcanic ash rose to about 9 km (30 000 feet) above sea level, drifting east.

In the days leading up to the event, Etna’s South-East Crater exhibited a rhythmic pattern of Strombolian activity, with eruptive episodes occurring every 10 – 15 minutes. This pattern was reminiscent of activity observed in previous years, suggesting a balance between the rising magma and its subsequent eruption.

The INGV’s monitoring networks had been closely observing the volcano’s behavior. Prior to the eruption, over 250 Strombolian episodes were recorded between November 19 and December 1. These “mini-eruptions” were marked by intervals of calm, followed by a sudden increase in intensity, ejecting incandescent lava fragments and gas.

The eruption’s audible impact was significant, with thunderous detonations shaking the windows of nearby villages, causing concern among the local population. The frequency and intensity of these episodes indicated a high level of volcanic activity, leading to the spectacular event witnessed on December 1.

Etna’s eruptive history includes a variety of scenarios, from mild Strombolian activity to more intense paroxysmal events. The recent eruption falls into the latter category. According to INGV scientists, such events are typically caused by a delicate balance in the magma dynamics within Etna’s conduit system.

References:

1 L’Etna in eruzione… intermittente! Cosa succede? – INGV – December 1, 2023

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