Long-term dynamics across a volcanic rift: 21 years of microgravity and GPS observations on the southern flank of Mt. Etna volcano

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In this paper, an integrated analysis of microgravity and ground deformation measurements at Mt. Etna is performed over a 21-years time span (1994–2014), a period encompassing several flank and summit eruptions. Data were collected along a common gravity and ground deformation network located on the volcano's southern flank to monitor the dynamics of the main volcanic and tectonic processes. Gravity variations have first been corrected for the free-air effect using the vertical deformation and the experimental vertical gravity gradients measured at each station. The free-air corrected gravity changes were then reduced for seasonal fluctuations, mainly imputable to water-table fluctuations, and for high frequency variations (noise). This long-term dataset constitutes a unique opportunity to examine the behavior of Mt. Etna in a period in which the volcano exhibited different styles of activity characterized by recharging, flank eruptions and fountaining episodes at summit craters. The joint analysis highlights common periods in which gravity and deformation underwent contemporaneous changes occurring mainly in the central and eastern stations of the profile. Specifically, it was possible to distinguish three different sectors, showing significant deformation and gravity patterns: a western sector, lying west of the South Rift, a central one between the South Rift and the 1989 fracture zone, and an eastern one lying east of the 1989 fracture system. The data shows that the deflation dynamics accompanying the eruptive phases mainly affect the western portion of the profile, gradually disappearing toward East, where the more constant sliding dynamics dominates. This pattern defines a transition zone corresponding to the sector comprised between the South Rift and the 1989 fracture. Furthermore, it was also possible to detect at least three main magma charging phases in 1996, 2000 and 2011 which preceded and accompanied the onset of intense flank eruptions and lava fountaining activity at the summit craters.




Bonforte, A., Fanizza, G., Greco, F., Matera, A., & Sulpizio, R. (2017). Long-term dynamics across a volcanic rift: 21 years of microgravity and GPS observations on the southern flank of Mt. Etna volcano. Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research, 344, 174–184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvolgeores.2017.06.005

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