Steaming Mount Etna

Steaming Mount Etna

Even in the absence of an eruption, there are signs of activity at the summit of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano. Water vapor and other volcanic gases overflow Etna’s summit craters, spilling out over the volcano’s upper slopes. A steam plume rises from a collapse pit that formed in late 2009, the newest volcanic feature on Etna. Dark lava flows from recent eruptions cover the peak, overlaying lighter, weathered flows from hundreds or thousands of years ago. (Numbers on the image indicate when a flow was erupted.) The oldest lavas are covered by green vegetation. Eruptive cones and fissures also dot the landscape.

Although Etna is not currently erupting lava or ash, there is more activity than just gas emissions. Frequent explosions deep within the Northeast Crater, which may presage an upcoming eruption, are audible at the summit. These explosions were occurring sporadically every few minutes, as recorded by nearby seismometers.

This natural-color satellite image was acquired by the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) aboard (EO-1) on September 26, 2010.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using ALI data from the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Robert Simmon.

References & Resources

  • Behncke, Boris. (2010, September 30). Personal Communication.
  • Global Volcanism Program. (2010). Etna. Accessed October 1, 2010.