Famed volcano 'sliding into the sea,' say scientists
Thursday, March 29, 2018, 8:50 - Europe's most famous and active volcano is sliding closer and closer to the ocean, and the scientists who announced the discovery say the movement is 'unstoppable.'
Mount Etna on the Italian island of Sicily has been geologically active for hundreds of thousands of years and has erupted hundreds of times since the first human-recorded eruption 3,500 years ago.
The authors of the new study used 11 years of GPS data to analyse the volcano's movement, and found it was shifting some 14 mm per year. While it's not unknown for part of a volcano to shift, a release from the U.K.'s Open University says the movement of an entire volcano has not yet been observed.
"While 14 mm might not seem much, previous studies of long-extinct volcanoes found those sliding downslope in a similar way have resulted in catastrophic landslides later in their history," lead author Dr. John Murray said in a release from the university. "Constant movement could contribute to a major landslide along Etna’s coast, causing devastating tsunamis to surrounding areas."
The authors take pains to note there's no sign of that happening in the near future, though a similar slide rate sustained for "hundreds or thousands" of years could cause the volcano to become unsustainable.
"The movement also presents an issue to volcanologists, with the motion interfering with signals indicating where the magma is and making it more challenging to monitor how likely the volcano is to erupt," Murray adds.
The new study, "Gravitational sliding of the Mt. Etna massif along a sloping basement," was published in the Bulletin of Volcanology earlier this month.
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SOURCE: Open University | Bulletin of Volcanology