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

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

Subscribe Today

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

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

  • 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...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...
    Long live the King
    It is barely half a century since the Born Free story caused the world to re-evaluate humanity’s relationship with lions. A few brief decades later,...
    London: a walk in the park
    In the 2016 London Mayoral election, the city’s natural environment was high on the agenda. Geographical asks: does the capital have a green future,...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

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...

Oceans

Far beneath the waves, a race is unfolding to claim…

Climate

Compared to other types of carbon sink, seagrass in Kenya…

Geophoto

Who in their right mind wants to shoot with film…

Climate

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Geophoto

Calling photographers passionate about capturing and sharing great images of…

Climate

Five experts weigh-in on the future of the Paris Agreement…

Oceans

Analysis into a killer whale found dead off the shores…

Geophoto

For the past ten years, the Chartered Institution of Water…

Geophoto

Less than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild, so it…

Oceans

Zafer Kizilkaya has been awarded the 2017 Whitley Gold Award…

Wildlife

John Kahekwa is the founder and general manager of the…

Polar

Recent observations of Arctic flora and fauna indicate major changes…

Oceans

A massive die-off of Australian mangrove forests is being attributed…

Energy

Geographical’s regular look at the world of climate change. This…

Climate

Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…

Wildlife

The continuing adventures of Aaron Gekoski as he joins the…

Geophoto

What do Ethiopia’s ‘church forests’, the incipient HS2 high-speed rail…

Wildlife

Aaron Gekoski continues working alongside the Wildlife Rescue Unit

Geophoto

Today, the camera is regarded as an essential smartphone feature.…

Oceans

An innovative new theory hopes to save millions of lives…