Mount Etna is an active volcano all year round and one of Sicily’s most famous tourist attractions. Every year the volcano spews enough lava to fill over a 100 story skyscraper.
Now, new research has found the volcano is sliding towards the sea with the entirety of mount Etna creeping downward at a rate of half an inch per year.
While the current sloping of the volcano is not a cause for immediate alarm, geologists warn that the site should be heavily monitored as this type of movement could lead to landslides.
A team of researchers from the United Kingdom conducted a study monitoring and collecting data from GPS sensors placed around Mount Etna.
The research team used data from 2001 to 2012 to gauge the rate of Mount Etna’s gravitational slide.
More than 100 GPS stations were set up on the volcano and used throughout the study.
The results were recently published in the journal Bulletin of Volcanology and show that Mount Etna is sliding a little every year because of its weak basement.
Volcano basements are the rocks that underlie the volcano, and Mount Etna’s basement is comprised of weak sediments. These sediments shift and the whole volcano then moves along with it.
“This is the first time basement sliding of an entire active volcano has been directly observed,” write the researchers. “’This is important because the geological record shows that such sliding volcanoes are prone to devastating sector collapse on the downslope side, and whole volcano migration should be taken into account when assessing future collapse hazard.”