In mid-January 2011, Europe’s largest and most active volcano rumbled with new energy and lit up the Sicilian night with a fountain of lava. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this image of the east coast of Sicily and of Mount Etna as it was spewing ash or steam on January 11, before the lava eruption.
According to news reports from Italy, tremors were detected around Mount Etna on the evening of January 11; by the next evening, lava was shooting hundreds of feet into the air and flowing toward the western wall of the Valle del Bove. An ash plume from the eruption shuttered Fontanarossa Airport in nearby Catania (Sicily’s second-largest city) for much of January 12, with flights diverted or canceled. To date, there have been no reports of injuries.
The massive 3,350-meter-high volcano is one of the most consistently active volcanoes in the world, and accounts of its rumblings go back to 1500 B.C. Since at least October 2010, the volcano was showing signs of unrest that slowly built to the January 12 eruption.
An ongoing collection of ground-based photos and webcams of the eruption can be viewed online.
- Global Volcanism Program (n.d.) Etna. Accessed January 14, 2011.
- Global Volcanism Program (2011, January 12) Weekly Volcanic Activity Report. Accessed January 14, 2011.
- MSNBC/Our Amazing Planet (2011, January 13) Mount Etna blasts lava, ash into the sky. Accessed January 14, 2011.
- Volcano Live (n.d.) Mount Etna Volcano. Accessed January 14, 2011.