Sicily’s Mount Etna Volcano continued to billow large plumes in late October, 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured a true-color image of the volcano on October 29. A gray plume can be seen rising from the caldera and blowing to the west.
Mt. Etna experienced its 14th paroxysm of the year on October 26, shooting spectacular lava fountains high in the air, along with powerful explosions and lava flow. Lava fountains reached 600 m (1,968 feet) above the crater and the plume at that time rose to 13 km (30,000 ft) altitude.
A volcanic paroxysm is a strong increase in eruptive activity, and at Etna a paroxysmal episode usually has three phases. The first is a buildup of activity, in which lava flow may increase, small explosions may occur and ash puffs may rise. The second phase is marked by a sharp increase in activity, and is the climax of the event. Lava fountains may rise hundreds of meters, explosions occur, ash plumes and lapilli (small, solidified bits of lava) are ejected high into the air, and lava flow increases. In the third phase the volcanic activity returns to pre-paroxysmal levels.
Etna tends to experience multiple paroxysms over relatively short times. For example, the Northeast Crater experienced 20 episodes between July 1977 and March 1998 and 20 episodes occured at the Southeast Crater in 2006.
Since October 26 of this year, the volcano quieted briefly, but by early November tremors and explosions have increased, leading to speculation that another paroxysm should occur shortly.