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The mystery is solved! Mount Etna’s strange behavior in the last two weeks was revealed in a new, grandiose eruptive paroxysm on the afternoon of December 1st, 2023. The phenomenon began around 5pm, with small explosions from the usual South-East crater which initially did not look suspicious… given that the volcano had been repeating these mini eruptions for days.

The large lava fountain

The small fountains, however, instead of alternating with the usual period of quiet to which we had become accustomed, always continued to crescendo. And already an hour later a drastic increase in the tremor and height of the lava jet was noticed. A little later the actual lava fountain started, which continued for hours, slowing down – but not yet calming down – at around 9.30pm.

ETNA ERUPTION dec1Lava streams divided into multiple branches

The new paroxysm also produced several lava streams. Two, very long, flowed east, into Valle del Bove, dividing into several branches and descending several kilometers from the South-East crater. A third one headed south-west, branching off  here too. The fallout of fiery stones was notable across the entire summit area of the volcano. A high plume of ash and lapilli was carried by the wind to north-east.

Two new craters inside the old South-East

The new major eruption of Etna, which has actually been expected for days, was caused by a double “mouth of fire”. In fact, it seems that within the now battered and cracked South East crater, two brand new eruptive cones have formed in recent days. As volcanologist Boris Behncke wrote just yesterday: << Initially only what we call the “saddle mouth” was active. But on the evening of November 21st, for the first time, some weak spray of shreds of lava were also seen from a vent located immediately to the east (different from the already existing “new eastern mouth”). The activity faithfully follows that extraordinarily regular rhythm, always involving the same two vents, and in the last few days perhaps even a few more in the “saddle mouth” area>>

The spectacle of EtnaETNA ERUPTION dec1

So after a long period of “meditation”, Mount Etna seems to have decided to start a grandiose episode that has nothing comparable with the brief paroxysms it had carried out during 2023. This episode lasted much longer , emitted large quantities of lava and gave a certainly more lively and engaging show. In fact, thanks to the “multiple vents” of the South-East it was possible to admire the eruption from all four sides of the mountain! Now it seems a situation of calm is returning… even if the lava fountains can still be spotted beyond the edges of the crater. What will happen in the next few days? Nobody knows! We will see it as Etna decides what it wants to give us. (PHOTOS BY GRAZIA MUSUMECI)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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