Mount Etna erupted in spectacular fashion late on Thursday for the first time this year. Europe’s highest and most active volcano lightened up the night sky with explosions and bright red molten lava. The powerful eruption sparked a volcanic storm above the volcano and sent bolts of lightning across the sky.
The latest eruption centred on the volcano’s southeastern crater and sent ash and plumes of smoke 8 km into the sky, Italy’s National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology said.
Volcanologist Boris Behncke told The Associated Press volcanic lightning is a rare phenomenon but can happen following particularly violent eruptions.
He said the event is also more likely to happen with volcanoes located close to the sea.
Dr Behncke said the last time the phenomenon was observed at Mount Etna was in 2021, and then once before in 2015.
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The 3,330-metre high volcano can burst into spectacular action several times a year, spewing lava and ash high over the Mediterranean island of Sicily.
The last major eruption was in 1992.
Dr Behncke shared footage of the “spectacular” event on his social media, pointing out the lighting could be spotted in the eruption column.
He said: “During the most intense phase of the spectacular paroxysmal eruptive episode at #Etna’s Southeast Crater on the evening of 10 February 2022, several lightning strikes occurred in the eruption column, causing widespread amazement in the local population.”
The National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGY), Etna Observatory, of Catania reported that the average amplitude of the tremor of the internal magmatic ducts reached very high values.
The springs remained in the southeast crater area, at an altitude of about 2,900-3,000 meters above sea level.
The infrasonic activity also reached very high values and is located in the southeast crater.
The current activity of the volcano was not reported to have impacted the full operation of the ‘international airport of Catania.