Dynamics of a lava fountain revealed by geophysical, geochemical and thermal satellite measurements: The case of the 10 April 2011 Mt Etna eruption

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Abstract

[1] Geophysical (tilt, seismic tremor and gravity signals), geochemical (crater SO2flux) and infrared satellite measurements are presented and discussed to track the temporal evolution of the lava fountain episode occurring at Mt Etna volcano on 10 April 2011. The multi-disciplinary approach provides insight into a gas-rich magma source trapped in a shallow storage zone inside the volcano edifice. This generated the fast ascending gas-magma dispersed flow feeding the lava fountain and causing the depressurization of a deeper magma storage. Satellite thermal data allowed estimation of the amount of erupted lava, which, summed to the tephra volume, yielded a total volume of erupted products of about 1 × 106 m3. Thanks to the daylight occurrence of this eruptive episode, the SO2 emission rate was also estimated, showing a degassing cycle reaching a peak of 15,000 Mg d−1 with a mean daily value of ∼5,700 Mg d−1. The SO2 data from the previous fountain episode on 17–18 February to 10 April 2011, yielded a cumulative degassed magma volume of about ∼10.5 × 106 m3, indicating a ratio of roughly 10:1 between degassed and erupted volumes. This volumetric balance, differently from those previously estimated during different styles of volcanic activities with long-term (years) recharging periods and middle-term (weeks to months) effusive eruptions, points toward the predominant role played by the gas phase in generating and driving this lava fountain episode.

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