Summary of all Mount Etna eruptions that took place on February 2021. Eruptions distinguished by violent explosions of Strombolian type. Strombolian eruptions involve moderate bursts of expanding gases that eject clots of incandescent lava in cyclical or nearly continuous small eruptions. After that, one of these explosion caused the subsidence of a small portion of the south-east crater. The rockfall raised a large cloud of gas and pyroclastic material that rapidly reached Catania and the nearby towns.
Mount Etna eruptions 16 February 2021
Spectacular eruption of Mount Etna with ash and lapilli fallout over Catania.
The Strombolian activity projected a high dark cloud over Catania and the nearby villages. A large fall of ash, but also lapilli of about one centimeter in size. Catania international airport closed. The airport’s security unit suspended all operations due to the emergency linked to the volcanic ash cloud.
plural Lapilli, unconsolidated volcanic fragment with a diameter between 4 and 32 mm (0.16 and 1.26 inches) that was ejected during a volcanic explosion. Lapilli may consist of fresh magma, solid magma from a prior eruption, or basement rocks through which the eruption passed.
Etna awakens: the images of the spectacular eruption
According to INGV (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology), just over an hour later, the lava fountains, which caused the falling of ash and lapilli over a wide portion of the province around Mt Etna, were exhausted. The two lava flows poured into the “Valle del Bove“, the wide caldera covering the eastern flank of the volcano. Later they divided and slowed down to finally finishing their slow run at around 1.600 meters above sea level.
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Mount Etna eruptions 17/18 February 2021
A new eruption of Etna lights up the night!
In the early hours of February 18th 2021, nearly thirty hours after the paroxysm of February 16th, the Southeast Crater of Mount Etna took of again with a new eruption.
Previously, in the late evening of February 17th, the explosive activity gradually intensified, together with an increase of the amplitude of “volcanic tremor”. Around 11:30 pm, a lava flow developed from the eastern vent of the S.East crater, heading towards the caldera “Valle del Bove”.
Mount Etna eruption: the lava flow of February 18th, 2021 seen from Space
The spectacular images taken by satellites that show the different branches of the lava flows produced by the volcano Etna.
Shortly, after 01:00 am on February 18th, the explosive activity showed a sudden intensification. The lava fountains reached 600-700 m on heights above the summit of Etna. An eruptive plume of gas, volcanic ash and lapilli rose up to an altitude of a few kilometers above the volcano. This poured down ash and lapilli over Zafferana Etnea and Acireale.
The lava fountain activity lasted for about forty minutes and ended quickly, coinciding with the decrease in the amplitude of the volcanic tremor, and the disappearance of infrasonic signals. Several lava flows developed from the crater, spreading east, north-east and south-west. The largest lava flow reached a length of about 3.5-4 kilometers. The flow stopped a few hours later at an altitude just below 2000 m.
In the hours following this paroxysmal episode, sporadic explosions were still observed from both the Southeast Crater and the Voragine Crater. During the morning of the 18th, the amplitude of the volcanic tremor began to show a slight increase again.
Mount Etna eruptions 19 February 2021
Two’s company, three’s a crowd!
Third eruption of Mt Etna in three days
On the morning of February 19th, 2021, the Southeast Crater of Etna produced a third eruption within a few days. Shortly before 09:00 pm, a small lava flow began to emerge from the eastern vent of the S.E. Crater, through a “niche” along the crater rim formed during the paroxysm of February 18th.
Through satellite observations it has been estimated that the eruptive column reached a height of over 10 km above sea level.
At the same time, frequency and intensity, increased the Strombolian explosions. Throbbing lava jets spewed out from several points along the fracture. In the following minutes, other vents further west were gradually activated. An eruptive column charged with pyroclastic material was formed, which rapidly rose for several kilometers above the summit of Etna.
Spectacular explosive interactions have been observed between lava flows and snow; which on several occasions have produced phenomena extremely similar to pyroclastic flows. But they have been generated by mechanisms called hydromagmatics or phreatomagmatics, in points far from the eruptive vents.
A pyroclastic flow is a dense, fast-moving flow of solidified lava pieces, volcanic ash, and hot gases. It occurs as part of certain volcanic eruptions. A pyroclastic flow is extremely hot, burning anything in its path. It may move at speeds as high as 200 m/s.
The activity of lava fountains continued until just before 11:00 pm, when the lava jets shown a strong regular rhythm. Within about ten minutes, all the explosive activity ended, while a passive emission of ash continued for a while.
Mount Etna eruptions 20/21 February 2021
Mount Etna, very intense eruption and lava flow
This time, Etna gave us moments of suspense, she delayed, she hesitated, she seemed to think about it several times, but then in the end it was unleashed as rarely in the memory of us who have been working on it for decades.
It seemed by now it had taken on an almost Swiss watch rhythm! Between the paroxysms of 16th, 18th and 19th of February 2021; thirty hours had always passed, as if to believe that the next interval would also be of that duration, and that the new paroxysm. The fourth in a week, would take place on the afternoon of Saturday 20th February.
The waiting becomes long, sunset arrives, and finally, at dusk, the first tiny jets of incandescent material. Hours go by and Strombolian explosions increase in intensity very slowly. Only at 10:30 pm does a small, thin flow of lava seek its way through a deep niche, formed in the eastern edge of the Southeast Crater.
Finally, in the interval between 11:00 pm and midnight, a sustained lava fountain activity can be distinguished; jets reaching just 100 m. Only around 01:00 am on 21st February do we begin to see the first, still weak explosions from a vent further west of those already in operation for hours. But the volcano still has a lot to say tonight.
The fountains with their eastern vents now reach heights of many hundreds of meters; the cone of the Southeast Crater is increasingly covered with incandescent pyroclastic material. In the meantime, the lava flow fed by the overflow towards the east is lengthening towards the Valle del Bove. The lava fountains rise higher and higher, and a plume of gas and ash begins to form in the starry sky; initially in the shape of an immense almost vertical cylinder, thanks to the almost absence of wind.
At 1:28 am, the paroxysm enters a phase of extraordinary intensity.
Several very violent explosions cover the entire cone of the Southeast Crater of incandescent pyroclastic material. Volcanic bombs with dimensions of several meters fly up to 1 km away. Subsequently, a lava fountain over 1000 meters high rises above the crater; from which, like a black curtain, myriads of rock fragments descend. For a few minutes, the cone, the fountains, everything disappears under this dark curtain; then, when it is diluted, the cone appears red everywhere, and huge fountains of lava rise exceeding 1000 meters in height. Then a second lava stream overflows outwards, expanding in a southwest direction.
The eruptive plume rises over 10 kilometers into the night sky.
Soon, however, the activity begins to decrease, the fountains turn off one after the other and at 02:20 am everything became calm. Only the lava flows still remain incandescent, continuing to move almost imperceptibly. A few hours later, the Southeast Crater awakens once again! A series of violent explosions throwing metric-sized bombs up to the southern part of the Barbagallo craters, of the 2002-2003 eruption.
The roars produced by these explosions echo among the houses of numerous towns around the volcano, creating amazement and consternation among the residents. But this is just a last goodbye after this magnificent paroxysm; one of the most spectacular and powerful eruption that we have been seeing on Mount Etna past activities.