Is Mt. Etna Nearing an Eruption?

Mt. Etna is a frequently active volcano on Italy’s southern island of Sicily. Today, the Etna Volcano Observatory (INGV) issued a statement (translated with Google):

“From the early hours of today 30 January 2017, an earthquake swarm consists until now (12:45 LT) from about 60 shocks, with maximum magnitude of 3.5 (hours 10:51 LT), it is affecting the area of the volcano Etna , coinciding its average south-western slope. In particular, the focal volume involved lies between the towns of Ragalna – M. Parmentelli – M. San Leo, in the range of 10-15 km depth.
Seismic activity, still ongoing, is not accompanied by abnormalities in the other geophysical parameters monitored; among these, in particular, the amplitude of volcanic tremor is maintained stationary on medium-low values, typical of recent months.
It remains virtually unchanged, showing no significant changes, the moderate explosive activity at New SE Crater.”

Full report can be viewed at: http://www.ct.ingv.it/it/?option=com_content&view=article&id=1108

Will Etna Erupt in early 2017?

It’s tough to say with any certainty, although Etna does erupt extremely frequently, so it wouldn’t be surprising if this will lead to an eruption. Right now, these earthquakes are quite deep in the crust, so this is likely an indication that magma is just starting to work it’s way up towards the crust, or upper crustal-pockets..

Another point worth mentioning (as discussed in the report) is that there is no heightened volcanic tremor at the current time, which has been a very reliable predictor of the onset of an eruption at Etna specifically. While there is no tremor now, if magma works its way further towards the surface, we may see an increase in tremor, which would be a strong indicator of a future eruption.

What Would the Eruption Potentially be Like?

Effusive eruption at Etna near a populated area

Etna regularly erupts effusive lava flows or explosive yet smaller sized eruptions, so it is likely that a new eruption would continue that pattern. The biggest risk on Etna are the effusive flank eruptions which can occur without much warning, erupting fast moving lava flows directly into a populated area.

There have been other styles of eruption at Etna in the past, although eruptions such as flank collapses or larger explosive events are considerably rare here.

How Can I Follow Etna?

Mt. Etna can be monitored at http://www.ct.ingv.it/it/tremore-vulcanico.html

We suggest following Boris Behncke https://twitter.com/etnaboris on twitter, who works for INGV as a volcanologist monitoring ETNA.

Learn about basic eruption information on Etna at the Etna Global Volcanism Program Page

 

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