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Will it be a spectacular year like 2021? Or a year of relative calm, as was the “old” 2022?Mount Etna is always unpredictable and always ready to surprise and deny forecasts. But for the moment it seems to have welcomed the new year 2023 with a new and respectable eruption. An eruption that actually started in 2022, but which against all odds is dragging on for a long time and has accompanied us until the new year. What is it about? And what should we expect in the immediate future?

The eruption born from a fracture

On November 27th, 2022, almost by chance, the inhabitants of the foothills of the volcano noticed – on the eastern side – an anomalous red light just below the base of the South East Crater. Given the volcano’s relative quiet period, they did not worry. It was a mini fracture, yes, but similar ones had occurred in June of that year. A harmless and very touristic sight, which had not caused any concern.

In any case, the volcanologists of the INGV of Catania immediately monitored the event. The graph of the volcanic tremor went in fits and starts, without ever going beyond the red alert. The “small fracture” continued to emit a poorly fed lava flow (so it appeared) for a few weeks. It seemed that everything would run out in a few days. But no, instead.

A respectable lava flow

During the month of December, the lava flow born from the small fracture went on. Amidst rain, snow and fog, it was digging its route along the side of the Valle del Bove. And it stretched a lot, starting a descent divided into several branches. Around the week of Christmas 2022, the flow had already dropped from an altitude of 2800 to an altitude of 2150 meters.

However, Etna did not show other worrying signs. Seismic tremors were low, normal for a lateral fracture. There were no ground deformations and the other parameters always remained at relative quiet levels. Certainly, however, the lava flow remained well fed, even with grooves and deviations. Thus, New Year’s Eve 2023 arrived, with the side of the volcano illuminated – as well as by the fires of the party – also by various lava branches (VIDEO HERE). So this also seems to be the first eruption of 2023. Will it last long? The question remains suspended pending the “decisions” of the volcano.

eruption 2023 2
the eruption spotted from Milo

Is the 2023 eruption a touristic event?

Is an effusive eruption that descends so calmly and without particular dangers therefore suitable for the curiosity of Etna’s winter tourists?

Volcanologists curb enthusiasm. The lava flow descends along deserted slopes, far from urban centres, but it is also in very inaccessible areas. Among other things, it is surrounded by snowdrifts and pools of ice that freeze more and more every night. The coming winter makes the possibility of snow always possible and when the lava meets the snow, it becomes dangerous. The difficult area would also make the work of the rescuers dangerous, in case of missing tourists.

Prudence and wisdom are therefore recommended. Avoid approaching the lava flow and limit yourself to admiring the eruption from the many observation points around Valle del Bove. You can go trekking up to Serra delle Concazze with expert local guides, or climb up to Monte Fontane. But the 2023 eruption can also be easily admired from your own car, without treading too much. Just go up to Milo, or along the Mareneve Road, or settle down on the road that leads from Fornazzo di Milo to Sant’Alfio.

Future predictions?

Experts cannot make so many forecasts for the future. At the moment the eruption is only spectacular, not dangerous at all. But what if the lava continues to flow? The slowness with which it advances, however, would allow the population to be secured well in advance and without panic. At present, however, this danger does not exist.

Could it suddenly change? Of course, as it happens with all volcanoes. And Mount Etna is one of the most active. The eruption could continue like this for months, end tomorrow or turn into an explosive phenomenon. We’ll just have to stay and watch. And be prepared for anything new. This is why we will never tire of suggesting that you always consult the INGV website and its official social channels. (PHOTOS BY GRAZIA MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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