Etna paroxysm of 2013-02-23

Etna has done it again. The 5th paroxysm of this sequence of paroxysms has produced the most spectacular fountaining of this sequence and one of the most spectacular views in a long time. Around 18:30 local time (17:30 GMT) it was noticed the volcanic tremor was rising, and not much later the first strombolian activity could be recorded from the new southeast crater, which has been the location of all the previous paroxysms of this sequence.

Tremor graph as published by the INGV showing the significance of this paroxysm.

The activity quickly ramped up to provide a spectacular show around 19:30 – 20:30 local time. Fountaining has been reported up to 800 meters in height by mr. Behncke of the INGV in Catania. The episode ended rather abruptly and did not cause a big lava flow going down into the Valle del Bove, but it has probably been the most intense fountaining event since the Voragine events in the late ’90s. Due to the strong wind, most of the volcanic bombs/scoria have been blown towards the northeast.

Below are some video’s provided in the comments and from what I could find myself on youtube and elsewhere, just to provide some of Etna’s awesomeness for those who could not see it happen out there. Please share any additional spectacular photos and videos in the comments if you come across them, so I can also include them in the post. I’m guessing them Italians were always way ahead of their time, naming their mountain with the acronym of Every Time New Astonishment.

thanks ScienzaObsoleta for the link.

Turn the volume down, someone is grinding something in the background. The video is the most spectacular I’ve found yet of this paroxysm though.

Video from different perspectives.

Time-lapse from the Etna Walk webcam, posted by ‘pgen’ at the Wired Eruptions blog.

Thanks to tgmccoy for mentioning this

This morning the volcano looks quiet again, with only the black lava in the snow as proof of what happened, as can be seen in this photo made by, again, mr. Behncke of the INGV.

By seeing all this, one can only wait and hope for more of this the next days!

Links to previous posts on the latest paroxysms:

El Nathan

109 thoughts on “Etna paroxysm of 2013-02-23

  1. Hi Spica, thanks for a nice summing up, I missed it…
    Had a rugby party instead…
    Wonder if Greg managed to catch it?
    Etna has been schpectacular these last few days… 🙂
    P.S. I particularly liked Boris’ photo, titled The Proud Volcano!!!


    The map is good for the contours of the area: these 2 quakes occurred between Vulcano and Etna at the time when Etna was most active. I have a question about the Aeolian ‘plain’, and whether it might be another caldera??

    ‘The present shape of the Aeolian Islands is the result of volcanic activity over a period of 260,000 years. There are two active volcanoes – Stromboli and Vulcano. The volcanic activity of steaming fumaroles and thermal waters are on most of the islands. Only the one on Stromboli, the northernmost island, is still active.
    The Aeolian Islands as seen from space.

    Scientifically the archipelago is defined as a “volcanic arc”. Geology explains the origin of the Aeolian Islands is due to movement of the Earth’s crust as a result of plate tectonics. The African continental shelf is in constant movement towards Europe. The resulting collision has created a volcanic area with ruptures in the Earth’s crust with consequent eruptions of magma. The “Eolian Arc” extends for more than 140 kilometres, but the area of geological instability caused by the collision of Africa and Europe is very much larger. It includes Sicily, Calabria, Campania together with Greece and the Aegean islands.

    The complex of the eight Aeolian Islands, covering an area of 1,600 square kilometres, originated from a great plain at the bottom of the Tyrrhenian sea. Emissions of lava from depths of up to 3,600 metres resulted in the formation of the Eolian Islands, together with Ustica and a series of submarine volcanoes named Magnani, Vavilov, Marsili and Palinuro, as well as two that are unnamed.’

    • Hi Alyson, thanks for an interesting comment, the first map was a good ‘n from this I noticed that;
      Categorically not an expert… but (now I’m looking for the pattern,) there’s a “caldera-esque” formation including the north coast of Sicily “the football of Italy”, it curves all the way round the metatarsals and up the “shin” of Italy. Just north of the “Sorrento kneecap/ peninsular” is the bay of Naples…
      P.S. was it you that mentioned the 4 metre waves forecasted at El Hierro ont last thread? That would be my explanation for the “drumbeats” too x

      GL Edit: Character Spacing

      • Hi schteve – it wasn’t me that linked the ‘drumbeats’ to the size of the waves at El Hierro, but it would seem to fit as a likely explanation. As for the shape of Sicily and Italy it appears to me that, if you fit those pieces back together as a jigsaw, it shows that Sicily should be folded back up to join to the coast of Italy, which would suggest something spreading between them, turning Sicily away from southern Italy, and leaving the volcanic arc of islands in the ‘gap’. This is strictly speculation just from the topographic visuals, but to my mind this supports either plates spreading, or an intrusion of magma from deep pushing them apart.

    • Dunno – an island arc is the most likely explanation, given that the islands are close to the boundary between the Apulian Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate.

      Some interesting features, as seen on Google satellite. Don’t know whether they are volcanic or tectonic.

      • The one on the side is weird, just in the middle of a somewhat circular plain, although who knows its origins…, the other one, do you mean the hand with the 2 fingers?, 😛

        The upper mountain seems part of a chain (probably) or arc (and opposite of the aeolians).

  3. OT Short Rant.

    I hate marketing. I detest with extreme predjudice any marketing ploy that I see. At times, I laugh my arse off at the ludicrous usage of acronyms and abbreviations that they apply to their products in an attempt to dupe potential customers into thinking that theirs is better. Generally, it’s a line of s&)t.

    GM (Government Motors) had a spot advertising their new Silverado HD pickup truck. I’m sure that they mean “Heavy Duty” rather than “High Definition,” which is where the two letter abbreviation first made inroads to the public conscious as being a sign of being “better.”

    By far the funniest was back in the chip wars around the time of the Intel 386 and 486. “SX” was thrown on everything you can think of in the marketing side of things. “SX” meant better, right? Actually, no. It didn’t. At least not in its original context. “SX” was the nomenclature that indicated that the chip had a crippled math co-processor. Intel found that they could sell the crippled chips at a lower price and people would still buy them. It wasnt’ really intentional, but it it was fortuitous that all chips up until then did not have a math coprocessor on the CPU. You had to specifically buy a co-processor chip to do the dedicated math operations and free up the CPU to do more important tasks… like running the program. The 287, and 387 were the math coprocessors for the 286 and 386 CPU families. With the 486, the big development was putting the co-processor on the same silicon as the CPU. Natch, there were some errors in production and some of the chips had non-fuctional co-processors. These got the “SX” nomenclature. They weren’t bad chips, the CPU core was generally faster and more efficient than the predecessors (386 etc). Having discovered that a less than optimal chip would still market well, Intel catered to it in order to thwart AMD’s inroads into the market. The later Pentium line (x586) had an “economy” brother, the Celeron. In this case, the size of the L2 cache was where they were lacking. The L2 is a special high speed memory area carried on the CPU that is used in the fetch-prefetch cycle to get instructions into the CPU. The larger the L2, the quicker stuff could flow due to the extra breathing room in doing these operations.

    But… that gimpyness that was behind the “SX” nomenclature didnt’ stop the marketing dolts from using it on everything.

    So.. now if you see it, you know, and can silently chuckle to yourself.

    • At my previous job I used to get bored at work and would benchmark systems just to see what they were capable of. I found that the Pentium 4’s were horrible at math throughput. Pentium 3’s would generally blow their doors off, hands down. The AMD “Thunderbirds” of the time were very quick in the math realm, easily outpacing the P4. This changed about mid-family with the P4, the 533 Front Side Bus P4s were quite spiffy and could clock in good math performance, though not as well as the trend-line for the P3s said they should.

      This isn’t really a slam on Intel. What they had done with the P4 is to optimize it for matrix operations. Something that is handy when dealing with high volume data streams such as video and music. But it cut down on normal (general) math performance.

        • Not at all sure I’d want to be in collision in a car powered by batteries – lots of energy released in short circuit. A supercapacitor looks an even greater risk – instant energy release. – white hot metal in a trice.

        • Super Capacitors are handy where the application permits. The charge rate of a Capacitor is limited by the current capability of the supporting circuitry and whatever it is made of. Heat and dielectric breakdown are the enemy.

          Capacitors work by the accumulation of a charge difference on the two plates. What voltage it can be charged to depends on the dielectric constant of what ever separated the plates (made of some sort of dielectric material). If that breaks down or changes with age, that will detract from the capacitors performance.

          As noted (Peter Cobbold and TgMcCoy), an accident could be catastrophic. Plate spacing is critical, and anything that causes those two plates to get closer to each other than they were intended, could cause it to instantaneously discharge with what energy is stored in it. If it’s high enough, it could be rather spectacular.

          An instructor that I used to work with loved to try and convince the class that a 9VDC battery could destroy the world. The students, not being familiar with the way that material behaved with heating, would sit in awe as their calculators gave them numbers that were astronomical.

          Here is the equation that he used. P = E x I. (power equals voltage times current)
          and I = E/R (current equals voltage divided by resistance)

          If you shunt (short) the contacts of a 9V battery, you effectively take the resistance to zero.

          9/0 = (error) So, walk your way towards it. 9/.1 = 90 watts.
          9/.01 = 900 watts.

          you can see where this is going. What actually happens, is that the cells of the battery reach max current capability and start to give out. What ever is shunting the contacts will heat, and if it is a wire, will increase in resistance (depending on the material characteristics). Eventually, the cells in the battery will either fail, or the shunting material will act as a fuse and open, providing maximum resistance. (removing the short).

          Batteries are chemical devices. They generate power through reaction of the plates with the electrolyte and the transport of ions to the other plate. Capacitors store energy by the accumulation of different charges on its plates. The discharge rate of a battery is governed by how efficient the chemical reaction and ion transport is. When damaged, they quite producing usable energy. (and on occasion, swell and make my life a living hell trying to get them out of the UPS)

          Capacitors just discharge whatever energy they have stored.

          • Since I’m not on my PC. “quit” instead of “quite”. (above)

            Add to last sentence; “… energy they have stored. If internally, it could heat the dielectric and explode. I’ve had 500 uF electrolytic caps go off that sound like a 38. (co-worker hooked up the power supply in reverse, scared the shit out of me). Opened up the gear and found bits and peices of capacitor guts scattered around the chassis.

      • I forget what the DX stood for. But SX was the gimped version. At the time, I think they were already starting to bump up the size of the L2 cache on the 486.

        Side note. The Digital 21164 was a RISC based chip that was gargantuan fast. Digital went belly up, Compaq bought what was left of the company, and let the 21164 die on the vine.

        The 21164 chip pin-out lived on though. It was used in later AMD 64 bit chips as the bus architecture.

        At the time of the early Pentiums, the 21164 could easily leave them in the dirt.

  4. Fortunately I found the local earthquake dataset from INGV for East Sicily (1999-2013) the other plotters may also like to toy with:

    It is about one week behind present. I extracted the events from the past year and added the past two months from . Strangely there are only three earthquakes (green) from the latter site which have no correspondence in the local dataset (which has record of 140+). Anyways, here is are static images of the 3D plot.
    Top view:
    View from south:
    View from west:

    I have difficulties to see any clear pattern. Of all the plots I did so far, El Hierro beats everything regarding distinguishable swarms.

    Topology is from Geodas design-a-grid, Moho from the Institute of Seismology Helsinki

    • It has been literally years since I have seen / read / sniffed a write up about Etna and Sicily. But it indicated that Etna’s magma source trickles horizontally along a plate boundary stretching down from the North East. The melt from that being the reason that Etna has prolific magma events.

      In this context, I mean “down” as in relative map position. (north – up / south – down)

      I guess the old girl just knows how to party and does her own thing.

  5. My script was running over the weekend, but sadly the view from Montagnola was not great and 3 minute updates from the webcam meant that i only captured 1 frame that shows a clear view of the lava fountain.

  6. I notice that the RadioStudio 7 Maletto webcam updates every minute, and does not required the fancy perl to extract the jpg link from php. So i will try that instead:

    I suppose that Etna is a highly populated in the surrounding areas and it seems that they can predict when this thing will go in advance. Locals can capture it better with live pictures, I am probably wasting my time with Etna. Better to stick with remote volcanoes

      • For those tired of winter this is a local sunflower field in the Grande Ronde Valley;

        for perspective the big mountain you see is Mt. Emily it is approx.
        1200m above the valley floor. About the height of Etna’s fountains…

        • Oh! Thank you TgMcCoy! What a beautiful corner of the world. Indeed a far cry from the bitterly cold greyness of NW England today. However I have a few small crocus flowers valiently trying to brighten my planters and of course our snowdrops are at their prettiest right now.

          • Well we are getting the first few signs of crocus and snow bloom yet.
            a few early pussywillows. Catkins on some of the Birches now…
            If you look to left of the farm house and barn in the picture there is a brownish
            knoll. that is “Lone Pine.” there is an old pine on top of it that was there when
            the Bar MC ranch was there- the McCoys owned most of it and about 3000 or so acres … I grew up under Mt Emily a couple of miles from there..
            Wife and I have an fair rose garden Austins do quite well here…

          • Eh, we have a few confused blooming Dogwoods. Damn things grow like weeds out in the woods until you try to plant one in a specific location. Then they get picky. Our recent cold snap probably triggered them.

            The weird part about a Dogwood is you see nothing but dormant forest vegetation and then this one odd medium sized tree going nuts with the bright white flowers.

          • Dogwoods are one of my favorite spring plants few native to western Oregon lots
            of hybrids here- mainly Japanese crosses… bit tougher for our cold winters i guess..

    • Welcome 🙂

      The video looks kind of ehhhh scary to me. I’d have to know much more about about that volcano to want to stand there at that time….

      • Thank you all, too. Always nice to stop by! But I rarely find something to add which hasn’t been already posted 😉
        Anyway, keep on the good work and mood!

    • The guy who shot the video, james, is/was a frequent contributor to the eruptions blog. If I am not mistaken, I have seen him peek in here too.

  7. I’ve been a bit busy recently so I might have missed it if someone else has mentioned this.
    The free online course site Coursera are doing a course “Volcanic Eruptions: a materials science.
    Donald Bruce Dingwell”
    I’ve just finished their exobiology course which was good and naturally enough am signing up to this one. There is no exact starting date yet but it is currently down as July 2013 for 10 weeks.

      • What they say about themselves is:-
        “We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.”
        The volcano course is being run by Donald Bruce Dingwell, a Professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

      • You get a certificate of completion if you pass the course, though what actual use that is, apart from sticking on your wall, I’m not sure.

  8. I have had a busy day and just catching up with things in here…..
    Lurking and things XS….. I just want to avoid things XL wwhether the Microsoft program or clothes sizes.
    SM stuff I thought was something kinky and rude turns out to be something Lurking would be really well into… a plotting program ….I dislike acronyms but loved this….I am far too ladylike to types some of them so see for yourself how ridiculous the scientific world is becoming in it’s use of must spout Jargon…..

    • Ref your 22:02

      Interesting. After each iteration, the number of edges go up. Roughly at 10^(1.058+0.5396*Iteration)

      After about 10 iterations, there should be about 21754 edges. (lines)

      This is based off of the first 4 iterations. (0, 1, 4, 12)

      • This is a new word for me. You would have thought that by 68 years I would have read most words in the English Language….. But maybe I just avoid Mathematical readings.
        it·er·a·tion (t-rshn)
        1. The act or an instance of iterating; repetition.
        2. Mathematics A computational procedure in which a cycle of operations is repeated, often to approximate the desired result more closely.
        3. Computer Science
        a. The process of repeating a set of instructions a specified number of times or until a specific result is achieved.
        b. One cycle of a set of instructions to be repeated: After ten iterations, the program exited the loop

        Please Note # 3a is NOT the constant requests by Mothers to Kids to tidy their bedrooms….Unless of course she is using some IT method of Communication… yes! people actually text each other when in their own homes.

    • Rainbow vertigo !
      Is it just me or does anyone else have vaguely queasy feelings watching these things?
      maybe this is all tied in with my Maths Phobia. Seriously interesting. Brains are so mind blowingly complex….. scuse the pun!

          • Hi Diana,
            This one shows a 4D hypercube (tesseract) being drawn, useful simplification of the concept:

            Hi Geolurking, I guess I’m doing something wrong, just been running your formula through excel, I’m getting numbers that are way too high…
            I think I’m counting my iterations wrongly, goes to check…
            Now I’m getting 40 edges for the 4d cube, assuming that it’s iteration 1 (not 5.) That passes the sniff test…

          • Hey Shteve. I watch these things and my brain chops and changes the directions and perspectives…. Is this normal?
            I am seriously doubting my aged brain!

          • I’ve now worked the next two manually, and get 144, 544… Geo’s formula gives 138ish and 475, it’s not a critcism, I just want to make sure I’m working it right…

    • Hm! I am not convinced it’s ice. Although the weather is warmer than usual and precipitaion is rain rather than snow… maybe heavy rain causing fast water flow and ice melt… but look at the tremors for God. Looks like there is wind but there aren’t the gales that would cause this..
      Worth watching….

    • The tremor is due to high winds. I was driving around today, and there were some strong gusts in the mountain areas. Also strong rainshowers. And a lot of flood in the rivers. The tremor is NOT volcanic. But the earthquake swarm did happen and it was located in Godabunga. We know this is a region highly active with ocasional swarms since many years.

  9. Hi

    Here is Iceland earthquake animation for February 2013 up to the 25th.
    A zoom is made in the end to the Torfajokull zone.
    Size of dots is proportional to earthquake magnitude
    Color of dot is related to the left side of the colorbar (date value)
    Right side of colorbar shows terrain elevation values
    Data from IMO and NOAA, made on Octave/Gnu Linux

    • Thank you dfm. Interesting plot. The TFZ area shows possible magma rising in the area or am I reading this wrong? Dyke intrusions under Torfajokull?

      • For TFZ I don’t know, but there where some talks about Torfajökull a few days ago (last week ?) so I found a way to make a dynamic zoom to have a look. seems there is some activity in the latter days (orange/red dots)

  10. Greeting from Iceland. Today we are having a major flood in Hvitá river. It is rather impressive just 1km away from my house. Luckly, the river cannot get to where we live unless it would be a jokulhlaup. But the Hvitá river has a area here now about 2km wide with flooded terrain under water. Really impressive sight.

    But it is understandable. It has been raining like hell for several days non-stop. It has been raining for nearly 3 weeks without any sunny day. And it has been a very warm February, with temperatures up to +15ºC in Iceland.

    This has been a rather snowless winter in south Iceland.

    • Ah now I know where all our rain went! 😉 We have had rain almost every day here in the South of England since the beginning of October. Then 10 days ago the rain stopped and we finally have dry weather, (well almost dry, a lot of fog arises from totally rain-sodden ground!) I did wonder where all that rain had gone. obviously the jet stream finally moved North and Irpsit got it. 😀 Enjoy! I didn’t!

    • The landing at Cowford is underwater. Not that odd, it is on a floodplain. I always muse about how it got it’s name.. “cow” “ford”. sort of implies that the site used to be where they crossed cattle across the river. Now it’s just a place to put your boat in the water… not that far from the Dogtrack at Ebro.

      The semi ‘spooky’ part of it is that the roadway is about 25′ above the floodplain, and the bottom land along there doesn’t drain fer snizit. Large stands of juvenile hardwoods and cypress on flat terrain with 3 to 6″ of water covering the ground. This is pretty normal for around here. Alledgedly, this is the area where Ponce de Leon went traipsing around looking for the fountain of youth. I imagine that being in his expedition ranked pretty high on the “this sucks” scale. Of the native creatures in our forests and bottom land, the mosquito reigns supreme. As do water moccasins.

      • As for Ponce, I’m a fan of “on stranger tides” (the book… by powers).
        Happily I live on northern europe. The most dangerous thing here is probably eating horse meat at the moment 😀

        • dfm I agree with you. I have lived where mosquitoes carry nasty lurgies like Dengue fever. Not a pleasant experience. I am also glad my garden only harbours wild squirrels, rampant hedgehogs the occasional escaped ferret, foxes, badgers and an assortment of small furry critters and harmless amphibians.No deadly creepy crawlies or bad tempered serpents 😀
          I am happy to be here apart from the long grey cold days. Even tose have their good points. Enjoying hot soup and snuggling under a warm duvet is heaven. It’s easier to get warm than days and nights of trying to cool down in tropical, humid high temperatures.

        • Speaking of Dengue fever. I caused a bit of a stir in my Spanish Language class in college. The assignment was to bring something Spanish related (with text) and discuss it in class. I brought in a roll of toilet paper. Complete with the line-art diagram of a mosquito and a warning about preventing Dengue fever. I had found the label a bit different than the typical teddy bears and butterflies on US toilet paper, and had saved the wrapper. I had to re-wrap a roll of paper so that it at least had the appearance it did when I had discovered it.

          My discussion was more along the quality of the original toilet paper with respect to the rewrapped US variety. I firmly believe that the original roll came with a grit rating, akin to how sandpaper is rated. It wasn’t due to the origin of the paper, it was the intended consumer. Bulk purchased paper for office / factory settings usually has a higher durabilty (and lower relative grit) than you find for home use. I was subsequently labled as culturally insensitive, though I had the highest graded thesis in the class. (I did a fairly in-depth peice about the pre-history of the Iberian peninsula) Those of you who have read some of my posts have an idea of the amount of data I provided. It was about that intense.

          BTW, Dengue is an issue in tropical regions… such as Panama. (skeeters + diseases in the area = not a good thing)

          GL Edit: Really embarrassing typo corrected.

  11. Notice theres been a few quakes under the northern part of Vatnajokull. Guess these are more signs of unrest there?


    “Hundreds of quakes shake villages around smoking Peruvian volcano”

    This may be worth paying attention to. The listed eruptions haven’t been noteworthy, but the GVP summary says otherwise.

    From GVP: “Holocene activity has consisted of plinian eruptions followed by emission of voluminous andesitic and dacitic lava flows, which form an extensive apron around the volcano on all sides but the south. Records of historical eruptions of Sabancaya date back to 1750.”

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