Italy’s Etna Unleashes a Short but Spectacular Eruption

Explosions from Mount Etna's Voragine crater light up night sky
Mount Etna erupts on December 3, 2015. MARCO RESTIVO/DEMOTIX/CORBIS Enlarge

AFTER WHAT HAS been a quiet 2015, Etna saw one of its first paroxysms of the year. Over the last few weeks, the Voragina crater on Etna has been restless, with low level Strombolian activity that was mainly confined to the crater. However, last night, the Voragine crater unleashed a lava fountain that reached 1 kilometer (~3,200 feet) over the volcano with an accompanying ash plume that topped 3 kilometers (~9,800 feet). Even with all that intensity of eruption, the paroxysm was over in only 50 minutes. By this morning, only a thin, white plume was coming from Etna, although some of the ash plume was still visible to the east over the sea (see above).

Some stunning pictures were captured of this brief eruption (admittedly helped by some clever time lapse), but they show the lava fountain and the spreading ash plume as well. The plume was also spotted by weather satellites as well (see below), puffing upwards and then drifting to the northeast.

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