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Pyroclastic density currents resulting from the interaction of basaltic magma with hydrothermally altered rock: an example from the 2006 summit eruptions of Mount Etna, Italy

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date10/2008
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Journal number10
Volume70
Number of pages20
Pages1249-1268
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

After 16 months of quiescence, Mount Etna began to erupt again in mid-July 2006. The activity was concentrated at and around the Southeast Crater (SEC), one of the four craters on the summit of Etna, and eruptive activity continued intermittently for 5 months. During this period, numerous vents displayed a wide range of eruptive styles at different times. Virtually all explosive activities took place at vents at the summit of the SEC and on its flanks. Eruptive episodes, which lasted from 1 day to 2 weeks, became shorter and more violent with time. Volcanic activity at these vents was often accompanied by dramatic mass-wasting processes such as collapse of parts of the cone, highly unusual flowage processes involving both old rocks and fresh magmatic material, and magma–water interaction. The most dramatic events took place on 16 November, when numerous rockfalls and pyroclastic density currents (PDCs) were generated during the opening of a large fracture on the SE flank of the SEC cone. The largest PDCs were clearly triggered explosively, and there is evidence that much of the energy was generated during the interaction of intruding magma with wet rocks on the cone’s flanks. The most mobile PDCs traveled up to 1 km from their source. This previously unknown process on Etna may not be unique on this volcano and is likely to have taken place on other volcanoes. It represents a newly recognized hazard to those who visit and work in the vicinity of the summit of Etna.