A spectacular volcanic eruption that sent lava and smoke more than 100 meters into the air occurred on Sunday, December 13, 2020, at Mount Etna, Italy.
Mount Etna is located in Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the most active volcano in Europe situated near the convergence zone between the Eurasian and the African plates.
Due to the fact that Mount Etna has been an active volcano for more than 2000 years, fertile agricultural lands have been created and harvested for many years. 7 years ago, the volcano was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Another interesting fact about Mount Etna is that it is sliding into the Mediterranean Sea, according to a study published in 2018. In particular, the southeastern flank of Mount Etna is moving towards the Mediterranean Sea at an annual rate of a few centimeters. Moreover, the possibility of a total collapse into the sea was not excluded by the authors of the study, a scenario that could lead to a massive tsunami.
The eruptive episodes that occur at Etna consist of two main types:
The current explosion mainly occurred in the southeastern crater of Mount Etna but it also included lava flow from a fissure that appeared in the southern flank. The eruption was characterized as of moderate intensity. Click the video in the Media Section below to watch stunning footage from the eruption.
At least 17 earthquakes (relatively small in magnitude) associated with the volcanic activity have been recorded since the morning of December 13. However, by the following day, both the explosive and the seismic activity had been reduced showing that the explosive episode may be gradually receding.
Some villages nearby were covered by volcanic ash and residences had to conduct cleaning operations. Nevertheless, there was no other damage associated with the eruption reported on the Italian island.
Mount Etna has erupted many times recently. In 2017, a sudden and violent explosion was triggered after magma made contact with snow. 10 people, including a crew of BBC, were injured. According to the reporter of BBC, a volcanologist who was at the scene during the explosion said that it was the most hazardous event he had witnessed in his carrier.
On Christmas Eve, 2019, the volcano erupted again sending plumes of smoke into the air and causing the airport of Catania to temporarily close. The explosive episode was followed by 130 earthquakes with the largest being M 4.9 and causing some infrastructure damage in Catania. In total, 10 people were injured but, fortunately, there were no fatalities.
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