Mount Etna is Europe's most powerful volcano. Reaching a height of 3352 meters, it dominates visible from Sicily's east coast. For eons, the eruptions of Mount Etna have driven the destiny of the people into its sphere of influence. It is not surprising that the volcano was considered the residence of various gods in the ancient world.
600,000 years ago, the primal- Mount Etna emerged and the Cyclops Rocks on the coast near Aci Trezza were formed.
The formation of the present day Mount Etna began about 100,000 years ago. Even then the volcano fostered trachybasalts and trachyandesite. Since then, the eruptive center has moved further and further west.
Tectonics of the Etna regionIt was only later that people discovered which forces were responsible for volcanism. The origin of Etna at this point in Sicily is due to the special tectonic situation in southern Italy. The underground of Sicily is anything but stable. In the Mediterranean Sea south of the island, the plate boundary between Africa and Europe runs. A part of the African plate pushes itself under the European continent and is melted in the earth mantle. Along the west coast of Italy the mountain ridge of the Apennines pushes itself up. This leads to a host and trench structure with a rift. The Comiso-Messina fault runs along the north coast of Sicily, where the Strait of Messina once sank, separating Sicily from the mainland. Etna originated in the region where these two fault systems cross. In addition to these two vertical fault zones, there are other local faults in the Etna basement. There is a lot of movement in the Pernicana fault, on the north side of the volcano. It coarsely strokes in a west-east direction and is the scene of countless earthquakes and subsidence. This complex tectonic situation favors the formation and rise of magmas. In addition, strong earthquakes occur again and again along the fault zones - such as that of 28 December 1908. More than 100,000 people died in this major "Messina quake". The people of Sicily live with the constant threat of natural disasters. Even Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is not spared.
Eruption of 1969One of the most violent eruptions in historical times manifested its self in 1669 when a fissure vent system opened at the level of the village of Nicolosi and seven cinder cones formed. Streams of lava destroyed the village of Malpasso and cut a path through Catania before it flowed into the sea.
Origin of the main cratersAfter the big eruption in 1669 the central crater collapsed. The resulting caldera was filled with eruptive material as a result of a series of smaller eruptions. The Piano del Lago plateau was formed. In 1788 the present central cone began to grow. Today it has a diameter of 1000 metres at its base and 500 metres at its summit. It rises 400 meters above the plateau. During a large eruption in 1911, the northeast cone was formed. In the central complex the Bocca Nuova opened in 1968. Two years later this new crater already had a diameter of 100 meters. The Voragine, the actual main crater, was separated from the Bocca Nuova by a narrow ridge. During the peak activity in 1999 and 2000, the Bocca Nuova filled up to a large extent, leaving two smaller craters. The narrow ridge between Voragine and the northwestern crater collapsed, forming a large crater. The largest changes occurred in recent years at the southeast crater. It was born in 1979 and since then the original fissure has become a more than 300-metre-high cone with several funnel funnels. The activity of the past years concentrated on this crater. There were several paroxysmal eruption phases at its winding vents at the summit. Lava flows flowed from fissures on its flank; most of them made their way into the uninhabited Valle del Bove.
Latest Eruptions of Mount EtnaMount Etna has produced several large flank eruptions virtually every century. In the 20th century the eruptions of 1928, 1950, 1971, 1981, 1983 and 1991 were the topic of conversation.
In the years 2001, 2002 and 2003 there were large flank eruptions, where several homes were destroyed and two large crater cones emerged near the central complex.
The most recent eruption cycle began in January 2011. Within a year there were 19 paroxysmal eruptions in which the "New Southeast Crater cone" emerged. This formed east of the existing south-east crater. Paroxysms refer to volcanic eruptions that slowly begin and after a short interlude quickly increase to a sharp eruption and often end abruptly after less than an hour.
I was able to photograph one of the last paroxysms in November 2013. Since 26th November 2013 it is relative quite at Mount Etna. There were some strombolian eruptions and small lava flows from the New Southeast-Crater during first month of 2014. The most spectacular event was an unusual pyroclastic flow in February 2014.