Mount Etna's Ferocious Future; April 2003; Scientific American Magazine; by Tom Pfeiffer; 8 Page(s)
Last october about 1,000 italians fled their homes after mount etna, the famous volcano on the island of sicily, rumbled to life. Shooting molten rock more than 500 meters into the air, Etna sent streams of lava rushing down its northeastern and southern flanks. The eruption was accompanied by hundreds of earthquakes measuring up to 4.3 on the Richter scale. As a huge plume of smoke and ash drifted across the Mediterranean Sea, residents of Linguaglossa (the name means "tongues" of lava) tried to ward off the lava flows by parading a statue of their patron saint through the town's streets.
Perhaps because of divine intervention, nobody was hurt and damage was not widespread. But the episode was unnerving because it was so similar to an erratic eruption on the volcano's southern flank in the summer of 2001 that destroyed parts of a tourist complex and threatened the town of Nicolosi. Some of the lavas discharged in both events were of an unusual type last produced in large amounts at the site about 15,000 years ago. At that time, a series of catastrophic eruptions led to the collapse of one of Etna's predecessor volcanoes.