Mount Etna

Volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna in 2002

30 October 2002 00:00 UTC

Mount Etna
Mount Etna

Early in the morning of 27 October 2002, a new flank eruption began at Mount Etna (3315 m) after only a few hours of seismic activity.

Last Updated

24 May 2022

Published on

29 October 2002

This eruption was more violent and more devastating than the previous flank eruption in July–August 2001 and once more occurred from fissures on two sides of the volcano: at about 2,750m on the southern flank, and at elevations between 1,850 and 2,500m on the northeastern flank, in an area known as the Northeast Rift.

After its extremely vigorous start, the eruption generally declined until 5 November, and then continued in a more or less stable manner on the upper southern flank.

The tourist complex and skiing areas of Piano Provenzana were all but devastated by the lava flows that issued from the NE Rift vents on the first day of the eruption.

Heavy tephra falls caused by the activity on the southern flank occurred mostly in areas to the south of the volcano and nearly paralysed public life in Catania and nearby towns.

For more than two weeks the International Airport of Catania, Fontanarossa, had to be closed due to ash on the runways. Strong seismic activity and ground deformation accompanied the eruption; a particularly strong shock (magnitude 4.4 on the Richter scale) on 29 October destroyed and damaged numerous buildings on the lower southeastern flank, in the area of Santa Venerina.

Volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna
Figure 1: Mount Etna on 27 October
Volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna
Figure 2: Meteosat-6 (visible channel), 30 October, 12:10 UTC

In the Meteosat-6 visible image the ash plume is clearly visible as a bright band caused by the high reflectivity of ash particles when compared with the dark water surface. The wind direction on this day was from the north-west. The ash plume is also visible in the infrared images, as shown in the image below.

Volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna
Figure 3: Meteosat-6 (infrared channel), 30 October, 12.10–15.00 UTC (rapid scans)
Volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna

The animation in Figure 4 shows the start of the eruption when the prevailing winds at the height of 3000m were from the north.

According to the satellite animation, the eruption started around 02:00 UTC.

Volcanic eruptions from Mount Etna
Figure 4: Meteosat-6 (infrared channel), 27 October, 00:00-12:00 UTC