Effusive/explosive activity, lava flows and amazing winter scenery at Mount Etna, Italy

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Italy’s Mount Etna continues creating amazing scenery with effusive/explosive activity and two lava flows. Etna’s current activity is very different from what we have seen over the past 8 years, but not atypical.

The activity is taking place at the eastern vent of the New SE crater which is feeding two small lava flows down the eastern slope of the crater towards the upper Valle del Bove.

“The larger and more active flow emerges from the rim of the new cinder cone, while the smaller one to the south of it is coming from a vent located few meters beneath the crater rim,” said volcanologist Dr. Tom Pfeiffer.

“While the lava effusion seems to have been more or less stable, strombolian (explosive) activity has been decreasing over the past days. On December 9, it was continuous, as pulsating low fountains, with abundant noise audible in several kilometers distance,” Pfeiffer said December 13.

“When observed this evening, strombolian explosions were smaller and much more intermittent, and only rarely ejected incandescent material to the outer slopes of the eastern flank of the SE crater complex.”

Activity at the volcano during the first 10 days of the month was characterized by gas emissions at the summit craters, with periodic Strombolian activity from vents in Bocca Nuova, Northeast Crater (NEC), and New Southeast Crater (NSEC). Strombolian explosions at the cone in NSEC became more frequent on December 4.

In addition, lava effusion became continuous with small overlapping flows traveling about 500 m (1 640 feet) down the E flank of the cone.

Incandescent blocks generated by the lava flows rolled to the base of the cone, and occasional small collapses produced minor ash plumes. Strombolian activity and occasional ash emissions were characteristic of vents in the W part of Bocca Nuova’s (BN-1) crater floor.

Gas emissions at Voragine Crater continued from a vent on the E rim of the crater, and Strombolian explosions were evident at NEC.

INGV’s Boris Behncke described Etna’s current activity as ‘very different from what we have seen over the past 8 years, but not atypical for Etna at all.’

INGV will host a special scientific meeting late December 14, discussing the meaning of Etna’s current activity and what might or not happen at the volcano in the near-future. and how to deal with it.

Featured image: Mount Etna erupting on December 13, 2018. Credit: Boris Behncke

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