Mount Etna Plume
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Mount Etna Plume

November 9, 2013
Early in the morning of October 26, 2013 Sicily’s Mount Etna erupted, sending spectacular lava fountains into the air while twin volcanic plumes – one of ash, one of gas – poured out of two different craters. The Northeast Crater – one of several on the volcano’s summit – emitted a column of dark brown ash while the New Southeast Crater vented a paler column of primarily gas.

According to the L’Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) Osservatorio Etneo (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology Etna Observatory), lava from the saddle between the two cones of the Southeast Crater flowed southward, destroying two wooden shacks at Torre del Filosofo. The lava fountaining reached its peak in the early morning hours, with heights of up to 600 m (1,968 ft) above the crater. As the fountains diminished in the late morning, a long series of powerful explosions was heard up to tens of kilometers away. Etna is one of the Europe’s most active volcanoes and gas emissions are not unusual, but this is the first paroxysm in six months, and the fourteenth in 2013.

During the eruption the vigorous ash emissions from the Northeast Crater rose 13 km (30,000 ft), or 10 km above the crater. Ash clouds from explosive eruptions are hazardous to aircraft, as ash pulled into a jet engine can melt and, essentially covering moving parts with a layer of glass, can cause the engine to shut down. Nearby airspace was shut down during the early morning hours, but was opened later in the morning.

Plumes were still rising from Etna on October 27, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite passed over the region and captured this true-color image. A broad, light gray plume lifts from the volcano and drifts toward the southwest, approaching the town of Adrano.

Credits: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

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