The myth of the ‘harmless’ volcano and other thoughts on yesterday’s Mt. Etna explosion

Mount Etna, Europe’s largest volcano, made headlines yesterday when an explosion injured at least 10 people. A BBC crew captured the moment in a harrowing video, showing scorching hot rocks and ash pelleting visitors. None of the injuries were serious — mostly bruises and burns — but the BBC science reporter Rebecca Morelle did tweet that it was “not an experience I ever ever want to repeat.”

Yesterday’s explosion on the Sicilian volcano was unexpected, but not unusual, says Marco Neri, a volcanologist and senior researcher at the National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology in Catania, Sicily. Mount Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanos, and since 2011 there have been about 60 eruptions, Neri says. Yesterday, some of that scorching lava got into contact with snow, causing the water’s near-instantaneous evaporation and resulting in the explosion of steam, ash, and rocks.

Related Posts