December 26, 2018
It’s well known that Mount Etna is Europe’s most active volcano. Despite this fact, it was a bit of a surprise when we walked outside on Christmas Eve to find that she had erupted. There have been quite a few eruptions in the 10 months we have lived in Sicily. However, there have been none of this magnitude!
The Christmas Eve eruption was the first flank eruption in over 10 years from Mount Etna. A new fracture near its south-eastern crater was the source of the spectacle. Besides the eruption, over 130 earthquakes occurred throughout the day. Because of the eruption column carrying rocks and ash, the airport had to shut down and some people (on the mountainside) were told to evacuate.
We live ~22 miles away from Mount Etna, so we were able to see the eruption from afar. We did drive up to Linguaglossa for a wine tasting we had previously scheduled (which is on the north side of the volcano). During our drive, we drove under the eruption column and were met with falling rock, ash, and other debris. It was quite exciting.
Mount Etna appeared to settle down around sunset, but the earthquakes continued.
Something worth noting in the last two photos is the pileus cloud (the circular cloud on the right side of the image). A pileus cloud is often called a “scarf” or “cap” cloud. It appears when there are strong updrafts and are indicators of severe weather. These types of clouds also appear above mushroom clouds from nuclear detonations! Crazy stuff!!