Monitoring Mount Etna 


Techniques and tools for predicting eruptions

Monitoring Mount Etna is crucial for preventing risks and protecting surrounding communities.

In this article, we will explore the advanced techniques used for monitoring Mount Etna and the main organizations involved in these activities.

Seismic activity: volcanic earthquakes and tremors

One of the first signs of an impending eruption is increased seismic activity. Volcanic earthquakes can be divided into two categories:

  • Volcano-tectonic (VT) earthquakes: caused by the movement of magma fracturing the rocks.
  • Low-frequency (LF) earthquakes: caused by the movement of the magma itself.

Additionally, volcanic tremor is a clear indication of the movement of magma and gases within the volcano. Seismic swarms, or increases in the number of earthquakes over a short period, are often precursors to eruptions.

Ground deformation: GPS and InSAR technologies

Ground deformation is monitored using GPS and InSAR (Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar) technologies. These tools measure changes in the Earth’s surface, detecting swelling and displacements that indicate magma accumulation. Tiltmeters measure variations in ground tilt, providing further indications of magmatic pressure.

Monitoring volcanic gases

Monitoring volcanic gases is essential for understanding magmatic activity. Emissions of gases like sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and carbon dioxide (CO₂) are constantly analyzed. An increase in these gas emissions can indicate an impending eruption.

Thermal activity monitoring: satellite images and infrared cameras

Thermal activity is monitored through satellite images and infrared cameras. These tools detect temperature increases on the volcano’s surface, identifying potential lava flows and new eruptive vents.

Visual observations and expert reports for monitoring

Surveillance cameras and field observer reports are crucial for visually monitoring Etna. These tools record eruptions, explosions, and ash emissions, providing real-time data.

Organizations responsible for monitoring Mount Etna

Several organizations are involved in monitoring Mount Etna:

  • INGV (National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology): responsible for seismic monitoring and gas emissions.
  • Italian Civil Protection: coordinates emergency responses and collaborates with INGV.
  • CNR (National Research Council): involved in scientific studies on the volcano.
  • Universities: collaborate in research.

Monitoring Mount Etna is a complex process that involves various techniques and organizations. Thanks to these measures, it is possible to predict eruptions and minimize risks to local populations. Staying updated on developments and understanding these signals is fundamental for safely living near one of the world’s most active volcanoes.