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Mount Etna Eruption in Sicily Creates Stunning Display (Video)

By Megan Anderle   |  

Europe's most active volcano, Mount Etna, erupted Tuesday, sending plumes of ash and lava into the night sky on the island of Sicily on Tuesday.

Surrounded by towns and villages, the mountain's eruption did not cause any damage to the nearby area, Slate reported. The eruption also did not affect flights in and out of the nearby Catania airport.

However, the activity prompted Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology to register an increased explosive activity warning, Italy's Civil Protection agency said.

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Though the volcano is extremely active, it has been relatively quiet for the past year, until Feb. 19, when it blew out ash, lava, lahars (mud flows), and pyroclastic flows —avalanches of burning hot ash, rock, and gas, according to Slate. Additionally, emissions from the volcano haven't hit a major population center in nearly a century, though it has come close.

The Telegraph reported that Italian authorities have used explosives, concrete dams, and ditches to divert lava flows away from where people live.

The mountain is two miles high, with a cone that is 25 miles across, making it twice the height of Mount Vesuvius. However, size doesn't have anything to do with how dangerous volcanoes can be, Slate reported; the type of activity is the affecting factor.

Named a "Decade Volcano" by experts for its large, disruptive eruptions near populated areas, Mount Etna falls into the same category as Mount St. Helen's and Mount Vesuvius, as a composite volcano. Composite volcanoes are built by multiple eruptions, sometimes recurring over hundreds of thousands of years.

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Mount Etna has been created by the Earth's active tectonic plate system, the African plate moving below the Eurasian plate. As the Eurasian plate moves down into the Earth, it melts. Rising magma erupts at the surface as lava and ash and builds Etna in the process, according to Slate.



Related stories:

Nicaragua Volcano Spews Ash Cloud; Residents Evacuated

Remote Alaska Volcano Has Small Eruption

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Mount Etna erupted Tuesday, sending plumes of ash and lava into the night sky on the island of Sicily. No damage was reported in nearby areas.
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