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Authors: Coltelli, M.* 
Marsella, M.* 
Proietti, C.* 
Scifoni, S.* 
Title: The case of the 1981 eruption of Mount Etna: An example of very fast moving lava flows
Issue Date: 2012
Series/Report no.: 1/13(2012)
DOI: 10.1029/2011GC003876
Keywords: Etna
discharge rate
lava flow eruption
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.03. Magmas 
04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.06. Volcano monitoring 
05. General::05.02. Data dissemination::05.02.03. Volcanic eruptions 
Abstract: Mount Etna despite being an extremely active volcano which, during the last 400 years, has produced many lava flow flank eruptions has rarely threatened or damaged populated areas. The reconstruction of the temporal evolution of potentially hazardous flank eruptions represents a useful contribution to reducing the impact of future eruptions by and analyzing actions to be taken for protecting sensitive areas. In this work, we quantitatively reconstructed the evolution of the 1981 lava flow field of Mt Etna, which threatened the town of Randazzo. This reconstruction was used to evaluate the cumulated volume, the time averaged discharge rate trend and to estimate its maximum value. The analysis was conducted by comparing pre‐ and post‐eruption topographic surfaces, extracted by processing historical photogrammetric data sets and by utilizing the eruption chronology to establish the lava flow front positions at different times. An unusually high discharge rate (for Etna) of 640 m3/s was obtained, which corresponds well with the very fast advance rate observed for the main lava flow. A comparison with other volcanoes, presenting high discharge rate, was proposed for finding a clue to unveil the 1981 Etna eruptive mechanism. A model was presented to explain the high discharge rate, which includes an additional contribution to the lava discharge caused by the interception of a shallow magma reservoir by a dike rising from depth and the subsequent emptying of the reservoir.
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