Volcano decides eruptions are boring, tries sliding into the sea instead

Popular Science | 10/12/2018 | Staff
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Some volcanoes bring disaster the old fashioned way—a violent eruption that floods the surrounding landscape in hot lava and heaps of ash, destroying all the plant and animal life in its wake. But there are other sorts of volcanic catastrophe. For some, like Mount Etna, disaster might strike simply because the volcano is unable keep itself together. Literally.

In a new study published in Science Advances, a team of German researchers illustrate how the southeastern flank of Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, is sliding into the Ionian Sea. If that slow creep gives way to a rapid collapse, it could trigger disaster in the form of mega-tsunamis that threaten millions of people living nearby and on the Mediterranean coastlines.

Mount - Etna - Feet - Sicily - Edges

It’s no secret that Mount Etna, sitting 10,000 feet high along Sicily’s northeastern edges, is in rough shape. Data since the ‘80s has shown how mobile and unstable the eastern flank of the volcano is, even while the rest of the sides, buttressed by surrounding mountains, are relatively solid. Ancient signs of this instability include landslide scars on the mountain, like the prominent “Valle de Bove," close to the summit. About 8,000 years ago, another flank collapse may have devastated coastlines in modern-day Israel, 1,000 miles away.

“Mount Etna is one of the best investigated volcanoes in the world, and almost every kind of monitoring data is available,” says Felix Gross, a researcher at the University of Kiel in Germany and a coauthor of the new study. “However, this is only valid for the onshore [portions], while the volcano continues underwater. There is a huge scientific discourse about why Etna's southeastern flank is sliding seawards.”

Findings - Observations - April - July - Paint

The new findings, based on observations collected from April 2016 to July 2017, paint for the first time a bigger picture of what’s going on underwater. The research team...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Popular Science
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