Etna eruption with lava and ash - still from video di Vigili del Fuoco on X

Energy increasing inside Etna with lava plumes

By Region Environment News The Islands

Mount Etna on Saturday night belched out another lava plume and a five-kilometre-high column of ashy smoke.

This is the latest of a string of spectacular yet small eruptions from Europe’s tallest active volcano. Mount Etna spewed ash and lapilli into the towering column.

The ash was scattered onto nearby Catania but the eastern Sicilian city’s airport’s air space was not closed, as it has been for some recent eruptions. The volcano also emitted a fresh lava flow.

Volcanology institute INGV said it was the latest “paroxysm” in Etna’s new phase of volcanic activity, which began last year. The INGV recently said it had found the “beating heart” of the volcano which is fuelling the activity, and “the energy inside the volcano is increasing”.

What type of volcano is Mount Etna?

Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in continental Europe, boasts an eruptive history spanning over half a million years. Its iconic conical shape has developed over the past hundred thousand years. Classified as a stratovolcano, Etna is characterized by its prevalent types of eruptions: effusive and Strombolian.

The volcano’s main phenomena include:

  • Degassing from the summit craters
  • Summit and lateral eruptions
  • Ground deformations
  • Seismic activity

Magma ascends through an open central conduit, continuously releasing gaseous phases, which create the distinctive plume seen atop the volcano.

Mount Etna’s current eruptive activity can be categorized into three main types:

  • Persistent Activity:

Continuous degassing from the summit craters, which can occasionally escalate into low-energy Strombolian activity.

  • Terminal and Subterminal Eruptions:

Lava eruptions and/or lava fountains from the summit craters (terminal) or their immediate vicinity (subterminal).

  • Lateral and Eccentric Eruptions:

Eruptions from vents along the slopes of the volcano, either fed by magma rising through the central conduit (lateral) or through independent conduits (eccentric). These eruptions are the most hazardous to the populations living on Etna’s slopes, which are home to nearly a million people, as they can devastate the numerous towns in the area.

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