A view of the steaming Mt. Etna, taken on April 8, 2010 by Dr. Boris Behncke.

Eruptions reader and member at Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Catania, Dr. Boris Behncke, has been keeping many of us appraised on the goings-on at Mt. Etna. A series of earthquakes occurred on April 2-3 along a fault near the north flank of the volcano – 175 earthquakes in all producing some impressive results – and Boris has noted increased “rumblings” at Etna since. This has culminated in explosions and ash April 7-8. Most of the ash appears to be made from merely crushed rock of previous eruption – accidental material rather than new juvenile magma, but all of this suggests that Etna could be headed for a new eruptive period. There has also been an increase in the gas emissions from the volcano – all signs that new magma may be rising in the conduit and a new eruption is approaching. Etna erupts quite frequently, but has been relatively quiet over the last few months, with little in the way of obviously eruptive activity.


  1. #1 Boris Behncke
    April 8, 2010

    hahaha Erik you must have been following my postings in real-time … I was about to submit a note about these developments at Etna to your blog.
    For the moment it’s calmed down but usually earthquakes and ground fracturing such as on 2-3 April on Etna’s northeast flank are followed, within max a few months by a new flank eruption. The events of today seem to confirm that the volcano is restless. I’ll keep you informed …

  2. #2 Erik Klemetti
    April 8, 2010

    Thanks Boris, be sure to keep us informed! Nothing like having someone on the scene to report on any eruption.

  3. #3 Jón Frímann
    April 8, 2010

    Looks like steam from nearby snow got melted there. It might be sings that things are getting hot there.

    Eruption in 24 to 180 hours time perhaps in that area ? Only time is going to tell us for sure what happens.

  4. #4 bruce stout
    April 8, 2010

    Great stuff you two! One day I’d love you to show us the pattern of all those fault systems Boris. They look really complex and I amazed to see such surface activity. Is this caused by inflation or by normal faulting? Anywhere else and the alarm bells would be ringing and the press would be all over it (one reason why I love Italy, I guess, is their charming fatalism ;-)).

    Is there any evident pattern to the faulting? If Etna erupts, please tell it to wait until the Pfingsten holidays for a I have a chance of seeing it then!

  5. #5 Gijs de Reijke
    April 8, 2010

    I haven’t booked my annual trip to Scotland yet, so I might just go to Sicily instead if an eruption is happening over there. Beginning of May please ^_^ !

  6. #6 Chris
    April 8, 2010

    @Gijs: Book one to Iceland – the volcano is active there 🙂

  7. #7 Helen Leggatt
    April 8, 2010

    According to photos and discussions on ATS Etna has erupted gas and ash today…

  8. #8 Erik Klemetti
    April 8, 2010

    Helen – It sure did, at least according to Boris (and he should know), but it wasn’t new magma being erupted. Instead it was pulverized pieces of rock in an old conduit – pretty common at volcanoes like Etna.

  9. #9 MadScientist
    April 8, 2010

    Any new vents or is it the usual suspects?

  10. #10 motsfo
    April 8, 2010

    OK,,,,, but not too close, Boris.
    (if You like parenthood; You are going to Love grandparenthood)

  11. #11 Anonsters
    April 8, 2010

    Looking at your old website, Boris, and I have to say, kudos. Lots of good info! 🙂

  12. #12 Mr. Moho
    April 9, 2010

    Would it be possible to list all publicly available webcams and data for My.Etna, like happened for Eyjafjallajokull? They help promoting interesting discussions.

  13. #13 Henrik
    April 9, 2010
  14. #14 Thomas Wipf
    April 9, 2010

    @Henrik There are two other Etna-webcam which are very nice. One is showing the flank above Valle del Bove (Cam 1), so if there occurs a flank eruption, it will might catch it and Cam 3, which is located a bit higher showing the summit area (but below the summit). I love them: They deliver the big picture. Unfortunately it is a foggy day today like at Fimmvörduhals too.

  15. #15 Boris Behncke
    April 9, 2010

    For the moment, all is quiet again. The activity yesterday was an ash emission and/or collapse from the vent on the eastern flank of the Southeast Crater (one of Etna’s four summit craters), which has been the focus of all activity at the summit since 2007.

    The web site of the Hotel Corsaro (who are good friends of mine) has an updated list of all current Etna webcams:

    They have also posted two spectacular photos of yesterday’s ash emission on the main page

    Some information (in Italian) is available at the INGV web site

  16. #16 Stefan,
    April 9, 2010

    The once I know are in the list at available. If one is missing, let me know.

  17. #17 Boris Behncke
    April 9, 2010

    Here are the links where you can see at least a little bit of the seismic activity that is being recorded at Etna – it’s a very reduced choice, but better than nothing.

    This is the seismic signal recorded by the seismic station “Serra Pizzuta Calvarina” which is on the south-southeast flank of Etna, at a distance of approximately 7 km from the summit

    Volcanic tremor recorded at two seismic stations near the summit of Etna (EBEL – Belvedere, about 1 km southeast of the Southeast Crater, and ECPN – Caldera del Piano, about 1.5 km west-southwest of the Southeast Crater)

    As you will see in this moment (about 18.30 h GMT on 9 April 2010) the situation is relatively quiet, but this might be only temporary. Many in our institute are quite convinced that a new eruption is days to weeks away.

  18. #18 Volcanophile
    April 9, 2010

    Let’s wait and see what Big Mama Etna has in store for us…

    I would truly love to see something like 2000-2001 happening there… EXTREME summit activity, high eruptive columns, large lava fountains, abundant ash emissions, all of this in an unpopulated area so virtually no harm done… and a great show for everybody..

    If such a thing happens, I’m gonna head straight away to Sicily to watch this….

  19. #19 Doug C.
    April 9, 2010

    I’ve had Boris’s Etna Site bookmarked since the SEC paroxysms of the late 90’s. Still one of the definitive Earth Science sites on the web!

  20. #20 Doug C.
    April 9, 2010

    Sorry about the redundant ‘s’.

  21. #21 Passerby
    April 9, 2010

    Thanks for the handy seismometer links, Boris. The southern flank is exactly the one I was hoping to see, for it is the proposed location of crustal spreading as a possible source of the new type eruption activity and change in magma geochemical characteristics.

    Given the frequency of eruptions at Etna, which is certainly the most active volcano in Europe and among the most active in the world for the past several hundreds years, it does seem probable that she may erupt soon.

  22. #22 Jón Frímann
    April 10, 2010

    Off topic.

    There have been string of earthquakes ~200 km north of Kolbeinsey. This is in the ocean. I do not know if there is a volcano there. But I figured that I would let someone know about this. This is close to a slip fault area that is there. But I do not know if it actually is that fault that is making earthquakes.

    The earthquakes have been getting bigger as the time passes. But do to distance only the largest earthquakes appear on the SIL network. My own sensor almost doesn’t see the earthquakes happening over there due to distance.

  23. #23 Passerby
    April 10, 2010

    Tjörnes fracture zone features two types of seismic swarms: tectonic strain and hydrothermal (pore pressure flux).

    See Fig 1 (earthquake history, by date) and Fig 2 (recent microquake spatial clustering), primer citation, below.

    The Tjornes Fault Zone displays complex brittle crust rupture behavior, typically within 10 km depth, characterized as ‘interacting rifting and magmatic processes and tectonic plate motions’. See discussion, review article, below.

    There is a submarine volcano.
    John Seach’s webpage

    Tjörnes fracture zone primer (open access pdf)

  24. #24 Henrik
    April 10, 2010

    Is Etna one volcano or is it a case of one mountain, many volcanoes?

  25. #25 Passerby
    April 10, 2010

    One mountain, 4 summit craters plus flank fissure complexes.

    It’s a complex structure. Maybe Boris will elaborate.

  26. #26 Diane
    April 10, 2010

    Etna is the first volcano I monitored back in the ’90s. I think I started to watch it in ’95, but I am not sure of that. Anyway, it was putting on some great shows back then and I even tried to print some and I did ok with what I had at the time.

    After that, I got on to John Seach’s volcano sites and it has spread from there to Kilauea, Stomboli, Iceland, Redoubt, and anything else that may be erupting. 🙂 Dang I wish I had gone into geology! Well, I can still study and I will be doing more of that!

    Thanks ,Boris for the neat pic of the latest Etna has shown us.

  27. #27 mike
    April 10, 2010

    John Seach will be on TV tonight for Australian viewers, visiting the active Vanuatu volcanoes.

  28. #28 Passerby
    April 10, 2010

    Speaking of John Seach, he has a nicely done synopsis page on Etna with summary list and brief descriptions of past eruptions.

  29. #29 Randall Nix
    April 11, 2010

    Boris last night I caught a documentary online with you in it….National Geographic, Volcanoes Built For Destruction. I sure hope you don’t live too close to Etna.

  30. #30 Gijs de Reijke
    April 11, 2010

    Off topic: something interesting going on in Spain:

  31. #31 Anonsters
    April 11, 2010

    Also OT, but can someone recommend some good background reading on plate tectonics? I’ve read through USGS’ “This Dynamic Earth” (available at:, but would like to read more.

  32. #32 mjkbk
    April 11, 2010

    624 km deep! Is that typical or unusual for the region?

  33. #33 Passerby
    April 11, 2010

    USGS historical seismicity map for Granada, Spain:

    Yes, one previous large shake z.mag 7 approximately same location, since 1900.

    Webpage describing historical quakes in the area:
    The earthquake of ATARFE-ALBOLOTE 19th of April 1956.

    Mentions fault system shakes early 1900s, 1932 (says March, but I found another article says it was Oct 2)

    More recent large quake, Mag 5.1 occurred in 1984

    Analysis of the Granada (Spain) earthquake of 24 June, 1984 (M = 5) with emphasis on seismic hazard in the Granada Basin. Morales et al (1996). Tectonophysics 257(2-4):253-263.

    The abstract compared the 1984 event (first regional EQ to be measured using modern accelerometers) to a larger mag 6.7-7.1 EQ that occurred in 1884. The abstract does not mention the 1932 event.

    Original seismic records from early in the century have been lost, which may account for historical event date variability (mentioned in more than one monograph on Granada basin seismicity).

  34. #34 Randall Nix
    April 11, 2010

    I posted this in another thread but here it is again.

    68 Another quake at Bárdarbunga volcano. Maybe I am looking at the site wrong but it seems like all of the quakes are pretty much at one spot….the North side of the volcano. Could it be ice quakes from the glacier?

    Posted by: Randall Nix | April 11, 2010 8:03 PM

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