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Volcanologists Keep A Weary Eye on Mt Etna

Satellite Image: The volcanic SO2 plume from the first Etna eruption on 10 May 2008 was tracked by GOME-2 for three days after the eruption. The plume was transported over large distances towards the east with the prevailing wind and travelled from the volcano over Greece to Asia. Credit: DLR.


The latest eruptions of Etna started on 10 May 2008 around 16:00 CEST. The first eruption lasted for about 4 hours and was dominated by heavy activity of the south-eastern crater. High amounts of lava have been emitted, a lava fountain could be seen at the crater and several lava flows travelling down into the eastern flank of the volcano into the Valle del Bove depression were visible on one of the webcams installed to monitor the volcano. Cloudy conditions and poor visibility obstructed the monitoring of the eruption activity, but it seems that this is one of the heaviest eruptions of the south-eastern crater since 2001. A second eruption occurred on the evening of 13 May from a fissure that opened NE of the SE crater, about 800m long. Catania airport had to be closed because of ash emission from Etna. Apart from the emission of lava, the eruption at Etna emitted large amounts of sulphur dioxide (SO2), a colourless and toxic trace gas, into the atmosphere. It plays an important role in climate change if it finds its way to high atmospheric regions through volcanic eruptions, where it can lead to temporary cooling.

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