Last update: September 18th, 2019 at 6:00 pm
The first eruption of 2016 by Mt. Etna volcano, Europe’s largest and most active volcano, was both complex and dramatic.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua captured this true-color image on May 18 as the volcano sent ash high into the atmosphere. The ash was quickly blown southeastward over the Mediterranean Sea.
Quiescent since December 2015, the volcano experienced small gas eruptions in April 2016, along with increasing tremors. Puffs of ash were reported near the summit in early May and by the evening of May 17 the Northeast Crater began intense Strombolian activity, with ejection of incandescent bombs above the rim. Early on May 18, a large ash plume was emitted and blew eastward, followed by ejection of a pulsating column of lava in a spectacular paroxysm from the main crater, Voragine. By May 19, effusive lava was flowing down Voragine as a second paroxysm sent ash and lava high above the crater’s rim, and three of Etna’s four summit craters had become active with lower-level activity. A third paroxysm is expected on May 21.
Mt. Etna has one of the longest documented history, with eruptions dating back to 1500 BCE. It has been in near-continuous activity since the early records, although most eruptions are low-level and not considered to be particularly threatening, despite sitting close to populated areas, such as Catania – which is Sicily’s second largest city. Etna is considered to be the second most active and second-most productive volcano on Earth, following only Hawaii’s Kilauea.