What happened in February 2021?
Mount Etna on the island of Sicily erupted for the first time this year. It has largely been dominant for the past 2 years with the last major eruption in 1992. Mount Etna is one of only 1,500 active volcanoes around the world. Italy is the only country on mainland Europe with active volcanism. Mount Etna is Europe’s highest and most active volcano.
The lava type erupting out of Mount Etna is viscous and sticky, therefore it is slow moving. As a result, Etna has killed no more than 77 people in the last 2,700 years due to the lava speed and nature of the eruptions. However, it is still dangerously close to the local population.
Etna is a stratovolcano with strombolian eruptions. A stratovolcano is otherwise known as a composite volcano and can be very dangerous. BBC Bitesize give an excellent explanation (with diagram) of such a volcano and the USGS give a good short definition in their glossary pages.
On Tuesday 16 February, Mount Etna erupted sending lava and ‘orange smoke’ several hundred metres into the air. Flights into and out of Catania have been suspended as the surrounding airspace has filled with volcanic ash. Nearby villages on the slopes of the volcano have also been covered in falling ash with 3 town in particular being monitored closely by the emergency authorities: Linguaglossa, Fornazzo and Milo, all highlighted below.
Volcano Discovery reported that the ‘paroxysm’ foundation eruption on Tuesday begin to erupt from a new SE crater, at around 11pm local time. By 1am on Tuesday night the eruption had reached its peak with tall lava fountains shooting up 500 metres into the night sky.
Lava flows have been reported heading both eastwards into the Valle del Bove (see map), towards Milo and Fornazzo, and south into the Torre del Filosofo.