Etna Current Activity
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Etna Decade Volcano, Sicily, Italy

Current activity

This page provides updates on the activity of Etna at irregular intervals, based mainly on visual observations. For more systematical reports, visit the "Current Activity" page of the Istituto Internazionale di Vulcanologia in Catania and reports (since January 1996) in the Bulletin of the Global Volcanism Network.

1 September 1997

During late August, lava ejections from Bocca Nuova have become significantly more vigorous, becoming a potential threat to people who stay on the crater rim. Both the southeastern and northern eruptive centers in this crater often eject fluid lava bombs outside the crater, with many bombs falling on its S rim. Occasional explosions eject boombs on the lower south flank of the central cone. Passage from Bocca Nuova to SE Crater along the south rim of Bocca Nuova has become extremely dangerous, but bomb fallout has also affected the N rim of Bocca Nuova where a track leads to the Voragine. The number of active vents in Bocca Nuova increased to seven on 28 August but was down to five two days later. Explosions from the southeastern vents are accompanied by loud roaring noises which at times last for several minutes (while explosions from these vents were very brief until early August). The largest bursts from the northern vents are strikingly noiseless.
The intense bombardment and possible seismic or air shocks from the explosions have led to widespread collapse on the eastern side of Bocca Nuova, lowering significantly the narrow septum (known as "diaframma" among Catanese volcanologists) between this crater and neighboring Voragine, and eroding further the remains of a cone formed in 1964.
Highly picturesque Strombolian and effusive activity continues from SE Crater whose intracrateral cone is now looming above a gap in the NE rim of the crater when seen from coastal areas east of Etna. During a visit on 30 August, lava fountains rose up to 150 m above the cone's summit, and three vents were active at times. Lava effusion occurred from the NW and E sides of the cone, but much of the active lava had crusted over, feeding small flows from ephemeral boccas. Significant infilling of the deep southern part of SE Crater since effusive activity shifted to the cone's NW flank some time before 11 August. Before that shift, lava had repeatedly spilled onto the SE flank of the cone, forming a small field of partially overlapping lava tongues no more than 200 m long, and minor overflows had occurred, presumably during the first days of August, onto the NE flank of the cone.
Activity at NE Crater began during the second half of July and was characterized by occasional ejections of incandescent bombs from a deep pit in the central part of the crater. Much of this activity does not eject any material (except fine ash) outside the pit. Due to the instability of the pit's rims and dense gas emissions, observation of the intra-pit activity is next to impossible.
A very small cone began to form on the floor of the Voragine in late July, and Strombolian activity has been periodically observed at this cone, most recently on 5 August. On 30 August, the cone was found mildly steaming, and the surrounding deposit of black scoriae was partly covered by blocks that had collapsed from the septum between Voragine and Bocca Nuova (see above).

23 July 1997

While activity at Bocca Nuova and SE Crater is continuing much as it has done during recent weeks, photos of the activity are now available. Go to this page to see them.

21 July 1997

Lava has begun to overflow from SE Crater on the night of Saturday-Sunday (19-20 July). The first lava to erupt onto the outer slopes of the cone since 1990 has formed a very small tongue spilling over the low ESE rim of the crater, reaching no more than 30-40 m in length. Explosive activity occurred from three boccas aligned E-W on the intracrateral cone during the 19-20 July visit, the largest and most vigorously active being situated below the cone's summit on the upper E flank. Lava issued from this vent in surges coinciding with eruptive cycles that lasted 10-20 minutes, and were separated by quiet intervals up to 15 minutes long. News about a possible reactivation of the Voragine crater on 13 July (passed along by mountain guides) were uncorroborated as of today, and it is possible that the ash plume seen above the Voragine that day by observers in Catania was caused by internal collapse of the crater, rather than by the reopening of the central pit which was found obstructed during recent summit visits. Activity at Bocca Nuova is continuing from the two eruptive areas in the SE and NW of its floor.
Strombolian activity and lava emission at SE Crater on the evening of 11 July 1997 is visible in a photo that you can view here (ca. 40 k).

18 July 1997

Bocca Nuova and SE Crater are in a state of persistent activity. Visits to the summit during June and July revealed a graduall filling of these craters by intracrateral cones and lava flows. Bocca Nuova has two areas of activity, one in its SE part and one in the NW, both displaying intense Strombolian activity, at times accompanied by lava emission from boccas near the explosive vents. The number and size of the boccas varies rapidly. During the most recent visit on 16 July, a large spatter cone with a crater 20-30 m wide had formed in the NW area of activity, where there had been three small vents only five days earlier. The crater of this new cone was filled with vigorously boiling and spattering lava. Explosions from the SE eruptive vent occurred about every 3-5 minutes, at times ejecting bombs high above the SE rim of Bocca Nuova, that is, about 150 m above the vent. SE Crater has an intracrateral cone in its northern half, the cone now being as high as the crater rim (about 50-70 m above the lowest part of the crater floor). Lava flows issue more or less continuously from boccas on the upper S and SE flanks of the cone, forming a complex lava field on the S, SE and E sides of the cone. The lava fill was only 10 m below a low point on the SE rim of SE Crater during the 16 July visit; thus an overflow onto the outer flanks is possible within days to weeks. Explosive activity from the summit of the intracrateral cone is visible from Catania at night, 30 km away from Etna's summit.

Bocca Nuova vent27 May 1997

Activity at Etna's western summit crater, Bocca Nuova, continued through early May 1997. On 5 May, scientists of an international scientific meeting (including GEOMAR staff) climbed to the rim of Bocca Nuova and observed small-scale Strombolian activity from a funnel-shaped vent in the NW part of the crater floor. The photo at right has been kindly supplied by Eduard Harms, GEOMAR. A second vent adjacent to the active one apparently was inactive.
The activity in Bocca Nuova is continuing intermittently since July 1995 and has involved the building of small cinder/spatter cones as well as emission of minor lava flows on the floor of Bocca Nuova. Northeast Crater and Southeast Crater have been active through November 1996 and March 1997, respectively but were only strongly degassing during the 5 May visit. No observations were made at the Voragine crater.

Page set up on 27 May 1997, last modified on 1 September 1997