Mount Etna has sent a cloud of volcanic gas and debris seven miles high over Sicily and spewed boulders the size of large cars, prompting experts to warn that the volcano is becoming “increasingly efficient”.
The sky turned darker, the airport in nearby Catania was closed and towns were covered in a thin black layer of ash on Monday as Etna belched out about two million cubic metres of lava, gas and debris.
VIDEO: Italy’s Mount Etna spews smoke and ash.
Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, belches smoke and ashes in a new eruption, briefly forcing the closure of the airport of Catania in Sicily pic.twitter.com/5htm57WVFY
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) February 22, 2022
“This was the 54th episode since February 2021 and we think the volcano has released well over 100 million cubic metres of material since then,” said Boris Behncke, a researcher with Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology.
Powerful eruption reported at Mount #Etna
? Meteo News 24 pic.twitter.com/9AZcKWe5iR
— Kildare Weather (@KildareMet) February 21, 2022
During the year-long bout of eruptions from its southeastern crater, Etna has fired out “primitive” magma from the earth’s mantle, which contains high levels of gas and vapour, making it more explosive.
“We’ve been lucky a new opening has not appeared lower down on Etna’s flanks, from where lava could have reached inhabited areas — as happened in the Canaries recently,” Behncke, who lives close to Etna, said. The chance of that happening in the next ten years is “rather elevated”, he added.
Experts believe the activity resembles the build-up to an eruption that wiped out nine towns in 1669.
— ABC News (@ABC) February 22, 2022
When activity ceased last October, experts thought Etna had exhausted a quantity of magma that had accumulated after rising from deep below ground.
But with two eruptions this month, Behncke said another theory was emerging. “Etna seems to be getting more efficient. There is less accumulation, so what comes in goes straight out,” he said. “Etna never sleeps.”
— Boris Behncke (@etnaboris) February 21, 2022
Samples of debris would now be analysed to understand how deep below the ground it originated. “It’s not hard to get the samples — I just pick up the fragments that land on my balcony,” Behncke said.
He joined colleagues on Monday at an observation post three miles from the eruption. “We could see enormous rocks as large as SUVs crashing down close to the crater,” he said.
?Mount Etna erupted while covered in snow, spewing lava, ashes and smoke into the winter sky near Catania in Sicily, on Monday. pic.twitter.com/VTuyR1zKBp
— France Résistance (@FranceRsistanc1) February 22, 2022
Behncke added that towns close to the volcano that are regularly blanketed in ash needed to organise their clean-up campaigns more efficiently. “People often don’t realise they are living next to one of the most explosive volcanoes on the planet,” he said. [The Times]
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