Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

All about Etna

All about Etna Antonio Zanghi/Getty
08 Sep
2015
Europe’s largest volcano smoulders on, but real-time monitoring might help predict the next lava flows

Last year, an eruption from Mount Etna sent lava flows down the volcano’s flank. The largest active volcano in Europe, Etna regularly produces flows and eruptions, and although there have been no recent casualties, houses have been destroyed by seismic activity and authorities occasionally have to divert the molten flows, often in dramatic fashion. In 2001, the Rifugio Sapienza, a tourist observation point, was saved when explosives were used to divert one such flow heading in its direction.

Etna’s volcanic activity can be traced in historical records as far back as 1500 BC, according to the Smithsonian Institution and it mostly produces slow-moving pyroclastic flows, meaning that while people have enough time to escape the volcano’s eruptions, the flows can still damage nearby agriculture and infrastructure.

Researchers from the University of Leeds, the Etna Observatory and Spain’s Institute of Geoscience have recently developed a system to better estimate the location and evolution of Etna’s magma.

‘The tool allows for tracking inflation and deflation sources in time, providing estimates of where a volcano might erupt, which is important in understanding an ongoing crisis,’ write the researchers. Volcanic prediction till now has usually centred on watching the volcano’s seismology, although thermal monitoring and hydrology can also provide clues to possible activity. Using GPS and a model of the magma, the researchers were able to develop estimates of where a volcano might erupt, the research simulated a period before the May 2008 eruption of Etna.

The volcano has been under observation since 1876 in efforts to determine lava flow direction and intensity. Interruptions have occurred during that time, mainly due to limited funding but also once because of the opening of a new vent in 1971 which swallowed the research station.

This article was published in the September 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

Related items

Subscribe to Geographical!

Geographical Week

Sign up for our weekly newsletter today and get a FREE eBook collection!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...

Energy

The Treasury has announced that it is considering imposing a…

Tectonics

Major earthquakes are triggering seismic activity half the world away

Climate

Marco Magrini finds that a warming world also means a…

Wildlife

Unchecked tourism is potentially reducing the number of cheetah cubs that…

Oceans

A relocated military base in Okinawa, Japan will cause ‘irreversible’…

Climate

The ongoing recovery of the planet’s ozone layer is being…

Oceans

The Ocean Cleanup has launched System 001, a floating barrier…

Nature

New videos reveal how plants respond to wounds, sending forth…

Geophoto

The recent heatwave had everyone longing for a drop of…

Wildlife

The demand for horseshoe crab blood – vital for testing…

Climate

One of the problems in getting accurate climate science out…

Wildlife

Italy is divided over the future of its wolves and…

Energy

A Scottish tidal power project in the Pentland Firth has…

Oceans

The world’s first full global analysis of beaches reveals the…

Geophoto

With the recent Saddleworth Moor fire, it can be easy…

Wildlife

Whale sharks have been found to not travel far from…

Wildlife

The Lone Star tick is spreading across North America, carrying…

Tectonics

Earlier this week, Indonesia was struck by a series of…

Energy

Efforts to reduce the energy drain of the internet are…

Energy

Coal’s rising popularity among climate-apathetic leaders is a worrying trend,…