Eruption of Mt. Etna in Sicily

Eruption of Mt. Etna in Sicily
  • Credit:

    Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

On October 27, 2002, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of the eruption of Europe’s largest and most active volcano, Mt. Etna, on the island of Sicily. The volcano’s thermal signature was detected by MODIS and is marked with a red dot. On the northern slopes of the volcano, the thermal signature detected could be a forest fire caused the eruption. A long, grayish-brown plume of ash and smoke is streaming southward from the volcano and out over the Mediterranean Sea.

According to news reports, at least two lava flows were still streaming down the summit.s flanks as of Monday, October 28, but the flows had not come far enough down the mountain to affect any towns or villages. The lava did topple some ski resort facilities and power lines. Regional airports were closed when the ash and smoke decreased visibility to unsafe levels.

Etna is one of the most studied volcanoes on Earth, and just last summer, French scientists reported that Etna appeared to be undergoing a gradual shift from being a "hot spot" volcano, in which magma wells up from within the Earth, to an "island arc" volcano, in which magma is produced from the collision of tectonic plates. In keeping with that idea, this most recent eruption occurred after a series of hundreds of small earthquakes affected eastern Sicily. Unfortunately for area residents, the transition from a hot-spot volcano to a island-arc volcano signals the potential for greater danger, as the latter produces explosive, as opposed to oozing, eruptions.

Images & Animations


File Dimensions

  • 950x1250
  • JPEG 294 KB
  • 1900x2500
  • JPEG 1 MB
  • 3800x5000
  • JPEG 3 MB

Note: Often times, due to the size, browsers have a difficult time opening and displaying images. If you experiece an error when clicking on an image link, please try directly downloading the image (using a right click, save as method) to view it locally.


  • Data Date:

    October 27, 2002
  • Visualization Date:

    October 28, 2002
  • Sensor(s):

    Terra - MODIS
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration