Gravity is pulling Etna towards the sea, raising the possibility that the collapse of the hyperactive volcano may someday result in catastrophic consequences.
There have not yet been any indications that the volcano will suffer a collapse, but according to a new research survey, the volcano’s southeastern flank is both sliding under the sea and above ground. These movements mean that the risk of the volcano collapsing is higher than previously assumed, scientists reported in the journal Science Advances.
Mount Etna is Europe’s most active volcano. According to the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program, this volcano has experienced eruptions since 6000 B.C. and its eruptive cycle has been ongoing since September 2013.
The flank on the volcano’s eastern side is thought to have collapsed about 8,000 years ago, triggering a devastating tsunami that could have destroyed a coastal area in Italy, which is approximately 1,000miles away from the Mediterranean sea.
Researchers are concerned the creepy movements that have been monitored and calculated on the volcano’s southeastern flank could increase and result in a part of it sliding under the water. If this event occurs, it would put the neighboring areas of Sicily in danger as debris enters the ocean, possibly resulting in a destructive tsunami.
Dr. Morelia Urlaub, of the GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research, who has been studying the slow movement of the volcano, cautioned that the movement has intensified. As per her research team, in 2017, movement of around 3.9cm has been noticed in just one week between May 12 and 20th, which is a vivid increase from the average shift of 3-5cm per year.
Dr. Urlaub’s team has further included that the collapse of Etna’s underwater flank is not a good news as it is more likely to take place than previously believed.
The research study, which was published in Science Mag, states: “Catastrophic collapses of ocean island volcanoes or those along the shoreline pose the biggest threat as the sudden collapse of the gigantic tower of volcano and magma could cascade right off into the Mediterranean sea, triggering tsunamis with extreme effects.
Researchers and scientists have been warning about this collapse for years now. “It’s been around 30 years now we’ve been monitoring Mt. Etna, but this time period is nothing compared to the age of volcano, which is 500,000 years old,” she explained.
“There is much more research to be done. It could happen in the next 10 or 100 or 100,000 years – we can’t predict.”
If the volcano continues its movement, the pressure will build up on the island, leading to huge landslides.