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But … what is Etna up to? What’s happening to our volcano? After having accustomed us to a precise “standard” with its historical and recent eruptions, now it seems it is experimenting. From 2018 to today it has changed its behavior several times and the latest news, from 12 November 2023, are these mini “Strombolian” eruptions. But not in the technical sense of the term, which indicates the type of lava fountains, rather in the method and timing!

Etna imitates Stromboli

After the last paroxysm on November 12th, Etna began to behave… like Stromboli! In fact, it alternates small series of explosions with long periods of quiet. We experienced in the field, during a day spent at altitude, that the rhythm is: a series of 4 or 5 explosions and a break of 20-30 minutes, sometimes 40. Just like Stromboli, which erupts continuously with short pauses of about half an hour between one mini-paroxysm and another. But why does the large volcano imitate the smaller one (in terms of age, because Stromboli has a big beautiful submerged mass!)?


etna november change2How is it changing and why?

We asked some volcanologists for their opinion on this “change” of Mount Etna. Dr. Boris Behncke answers us: “First of all, we must accept one fact: everything that Etna does is normal for Etna itself! This volcano – which we sometimes amiably call ‘lady volcano’ – has the absolute freedom to do whatever she wants!

Etna as an image of a modern and emancipated woman, so. We like the idea! So just like every curious and lively woman she loves to experiment, right? Dr. Behncke continues: “Let us remember that for centuries Etna has produced flank eruptions, with scattered summit activities and rare paroxysms; in the years 1950s-70s the North-East Crater had persistent Strombolian activity (not interrupted by intervals of calm as now), accompanied by the emission of small lava flows“.

These are not new phenomena, but…

So we had already seen such bizarre behavior in the past. And we had also seen it change. For example, the volcanologist reminds us “since the second half of the 1970s, ‘continuous’ paroxysms have become typical of Etna, while persistent Strombolian activity and small lava flows are only rarely seen ”. Now, continues the expert, at INGV they have the impression that activity is increasingly concentrated on the summit craters only. There have been no more significant lateral eruptions in the last 15 years (2008-2009).


Etna is always a wonder to discover


So we are all spectators of a unique show produced by a “mountain diva” who loves to be admired, and loves to experiment. At the moment she is experimenting by putting herself “in the shoes” of her neighbour Stromboli and we won’t know what this change of register is for, until she herself “tells us”.

While waiting, all that remains to do is to enjoy the moment. And that is: a show of fire and noise but without the tons of ash dispersed into the air, the almost certainty that the eruptions will concern the summit area – therefore no danger for the towns. A godsend for tourists, who however must follow the rules and advice of the Civil Protection and avoid going on adventures on the volcano.

Those who climb Etna must pay more attention to the weather than to the volcano” says Dr. Marco Neri, because the climate at the top of the mountain changes without warning and if you are poorly equipped you risk freezing. But above all, if you get lost in the snow or fog you can also end up in a gully or, worse, fall into some boiling vent of steam or lava. Therefore, always climb Etna in the company of expert guides, relying on tour operators who know what they are doing! (PHOTOS BY GRAZIA MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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