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

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

EDUCATION PARTNERS

DurhamBath Spa600x200 Greenwich Aberystwythherts

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

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...

Wildlife

Ecoacoustics – a way to listen in closely to the…

Wildlife

Ash dieback is set to transform the British landscape. Robert…

Geophoto

Photographer Patrick Wack documents documents changes in the Chinese province 

Climate

A growing tide of legal action is increasing pressure on…

Wildlife

Classifying a group of organisms as a separate species has…

Geophoto

Artist Sarah Gillespie used the historic mezzotint technique for her…

Geophoto

The winners of the 2021 competition of Earth Photo have…

Climate

As climate change dysregulates weather patterns, cases of pest explosions…

Polar

Arctic nations are gearing up to exploit the region’s abundant natural…

Climate

Combining solar farms with biodiversity-boosting plants could result in a…

Oceans

Steps to regulate fisheries and protect marine reserves can be…

Wildlife

Government proposals to change conservation legislation could see vulnerable mammals…

Wildlife

New research confirms that sharks navigate using the Earth's magnetic…

Nature

The field of bioremediation involves cleaning up toxic waste products…

Wildlife

A new analysis tots up the cost of invasive species…

Climate

It’s surprisingly difficult to know why trees die, but understanding…

Nature

By the late 1980s, almost all mature specimens of the…

Oceans

Scientists are discovering that narwhal tusks reveal a great deal about…