Mount Etna Erupts

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Mount Etna is Europe’s most active volcano. Mount Etna is also the world’s second-most active volcano, behind Kilauea in Hawaii. The latest eruptions occurred on February 16 and again on February 18, 2021.

Also one of the world’s largest continental volcanoes, Mount Etna is located near the east coast of Italy’s province of Sicily.

About 3,350 m (10,991 feet) tall, Mount Etna’s morphology has changed over time as the active volcano’s deposits have altered summit area. The complex stratovolcano is asymmetrical in shape due to its growth from a series of volcanic openings that have collapsed over time.

Map of the location of Mount Etna in Italy.  Map: Equal Earth Physical Map, public domain.
Map of the location of Mount Etna in Italy. Map: Equal Earth Physical Map, public domain.

February 2021 Eruption of Mount Etna

When Mount Etna erupted on February 16, 2021, large fountains of lava reached up to 700 meters into the air. Large lava flows descended the volcano eastwards into the Valle del Bove for about four kilometers.

The second eruption on February 18, 2021 sent lava down the volcano’s southern side for about 1.3 kilometers.

Imagery from the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission captured lava flow from Mount Etna on February 18, 2021 at 09:40 GMT.

Processing Sentinel-2's shortwave-infrared band shows the bright red lava flow on Mount Etna's southern flank on February 18, 2021.
Processing Sentinel-2’s shortwave-infrared band shows the bright red lava flow on Mount Etna’s southern flank on February 18, 2021. Image: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2021), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

The latest eruptions have also sent ash over the neighboring  city of Catania and authorities are monitoring the base towns of Linguaglossa, Fornazzo and Milo. The latest volcanic activity has also forced the closure of  Sicily’s Catania Airport.

Dark ash from Mt. Etna covering runways at Catania's international airport. Ash fall from Mt. Etna, 30 km from Catania, caused repeated closures at the airport over a 3-month period beginning late October 2002. Photo: Mauro Coltelli . Public domain via USGS.
Dark ash from Mt. Etna covering runways at Catania’s international airport. Ash fall from Mt. Etna, 30 km from Catania, caused repeated closures at the airport over a 3-month period beginning late October 2002. Photo: Mauro Coltelli . Public domain via USGS.

December 2018 Eruption of Mount Etna

Prior to the February 16 and 18, 2021 eruptions, Mount Etna last erupted on December 24, 2018. That eruption was a flank eruption, with volcanic activity emerging from the Mount Etna’s side instead of the summit. 130 earthquakes followed the eruption over a three hour period.

 Landsat 8 satellite captured imagery of the 2018 eruption which shows the active vent and thermal infrared signature from lava flows on the southeastern side of Mount Etna.

Landsat 8 imagery of Mount Etna acquired on Mount Etna on December 28, 2018. Source: NASA.
Landsat 8 imagery of Mount Etna acquired on Mount Etna on December 28, 2018. Source: NASA.

Strombolian Eruptions in September 2019 on Mount Etna

In September of 2019, Mount Etna was tracked spewing “lava bombs”, known as “strombolian” eruptions starting on September 9. NOAA-20, an environmental satellite captured imagery of steam from the intense eruptions of ash and red-hot chunks of lava on September 13, 2019

NOAA2 satellite imagery of Mount Etna on September 13, 2019.  Source: NOAA
NOAA2 satellite imagery of Mount Etna on September 13, 2019. Source: NOAA

December 2015 Eruption of Mount Etna

The December 3, 2015 eruption of Mount Etna marked sent fountains of lava into the air and jetted material as high up as three kilometers above the summit. This Suomi NPP satellite image captured on December 9, 2015 shows Mount Etna still glowing from the eruption.

Suomi NPP satellite image of Mount Etna, December 9, 2015. Source: NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).
Suomi NPP satellite image of Mount Etna, December 9, 2015. Source: NOAA National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS).

Current View of Mount Etna

Interested viewers can see real-time views of Mount Etna via these webcams.

References

Etna erupts. (2021, February 19). European Space Agency. https://www.esa.int/ESA_Multimedia/Images/2021/02/Etna_erupts

Neri, M., Mazzarini, F., Tarquini, S., Bisson, M., Isola, I., Behncke, B., & Pareschi, M. T. (2008). The changing face of Mount Etna’s summit area documented with Lidar technology. Geophysical Research Letters35(9). https://doi.org/10.1029/2008GL033740

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