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Are you ready for the next excursion on Mount Etna? Listen to the advice of our good guides, but be ready for any unexpected event. Despite the forecasts and the expertise of those who will lead you, in fact, Etna is a great mountain. And in the great mountains the climate is always uncertain. But it is also an active and smoking volcano ... and this affects the climate. Not just the local one. Volcanoes are the “engine” of the climate of the whole world. Not infrequently they have decided the climatic changes that have affected even the course of human history. Mount Etna is not one of these devastating giants, but it is certainly the one to govern the weather.

The eruptions and the climate

In 1815, in Indonesia, the volcano Mount Tambora exploded in a violent eruption. It threw an impressive amount of material into the air, to the point that the sun was darkened for days. But the dust thus created blocked the sunlight almost everywhere, and for months. To the point that that year, and the next two, the seasons seemed to have gone mad and the world experienced long periods of frost! Something similar also happened with the Krakatoa, Laki and Pinatubo volcanoes. Recently, in 2010, it was an Icelandic volcano (the unpronounceable Mount Eyjafjallajökull!) that erupted. This changed the fate of the European climate for months. So volcanoes, and their eruptions, have an effect on weather conditions. And what about Etna …?

etna climate_ (2)
many clouds start from mt etna

Etna decides the climate on the Ionian Sea

Etna is such a vast and high volcano that it already represents a planet of its own. On the same day you might find snow in the north, warm sunshine in the south, dryness in the west and humidity in the east. But it is the combination of some factors that determines the way in which the great Sicilian mountain decides the climate on the Ionian coast.

In addition to emitting vapours, gases and hot ash particles, in fact, Etna has a collapsed side – the eastern one . The famous Valley del Bove is a sort of a small desert located on a mountain of 3350 meters. From the walls of the Valley del Bove, among other things, fumaroles open that expel vapours and literally create clouds from nowhere. This valley is the first to warm up, not only because of the lava that often invades it, but also because it receives the first morning sun. This involves the rapid melting of snow, when there is any, and the formation of clouds that can also become thunderstorms in a short time.

It is not uncommon, especially in late summer, to see and hear thunderstorms only on the east side of the volcano. While perhaps the sun shines in the west! Etna also helps to stop the strongest wind currents. Consequently, tornadoes are less likely to form on its slopes. On the contrary, on its top, wind eddies are more frequent and favour the formation of the beautiful domed clouds called “contentions of the winds”.

How to deal with Etna and its climate?

To face Mount Etna, unless it is full summer, you better go prepared with clothing that can include a bit of everything. As you climb to the top there is always the risk of finding cold air, or freezing cold in winter. It can get very cold in the evening as well, even in the summer months, if you stay at high altitudes.

Always be prepared for rain, because it can surprise you at any time, especially on the east and north sides. If you go on an excursion in the valley del Bove, identify some shelters, in case of sudden storms. Do avoid finding yourself under lightnings, there. It does not matter whether it is April or May, if the forecasts speak of possible cold winds, be prepared for surprise snowfalls or hailstorms at high altitude. If you go by car, always have chains for your tires, even if there is no obligation.

If you go hiking in the summer and want some coolness, avoid the west and south slopes. Instead, prefer the areas to the east, where fresh humidity forms more easily and where the woods are denser. This favours a less scorching climate. In winter, on the other hand, the west is the best side for hiking.

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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