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Spectacular eruptions at Italy's Etna

Italy's (second) most famous volcano, Mt. Etna, has been quite busy while I've been off in California. Many of you have been following Etna on the webcams and leaving lots of comments about the impressive activity.

A brief summary:

Etna has experienced a number of eruptive episodes over the last 2 weeks - paroxysms as they are called by Dr. Boris Behncke. Some were quite small, while others have been downright amazing, with towering (upwards of 350-m tall) fire fountains from the Southeast Crater of the volcano. Others have produced lava flows on the volcano and ash fall as well. This activity brings the grand total of episodes that Etna has experienced this year to 8, making 2011 quite an active year for the Sicilian volcano.

The latest eruptive episode started on July 30. You can check out some video from the eruption (courtesy of Dr. Behncke) that shows just how impressive this latest activity is - producing fire fountains upwards of 500 meters (half a kilometers) and a large lava flow that is flowing down the flanks of the volcano (see above). The sound from the eruption is like a jet engine, proving just how much force is behind the lava as it erupts from the vent. Dr. Behncke has provided some great images of all the activity on his Flickr stream and you can always be on top of the action by following his Twitter feed as well. I'm especially impressed with the two images - one from January 2011 and one from July 2011 - that shows how much Etna has grown due to this new activity. The tephra cone being built on the side of the edifice is quite impressive considering it only took six months to produce.

Sometime the constant activity at Etna does make me sell it short, but have no doubt, Etna is one of the most impressive volcanoes in the world thanks to its style of eruption and frequency. Be sure to keep an eye on the webcams for the time being to see all the eruptions as they happen.

Top left: The fire fountain and lava flow from the Southeast Crater on Etna as seen on July 31, 2011. Image by Marco Neri, INGV-Catania.

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