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- Archived activity updates: 2003 -

Sept.-Dec. 2003:
Since the activity remained fairly stable during this period, comparable to the latest updates, only a new photo page has been posted documenting activity as observed during a summit visit in Sep. 2003. It is found here.

12 August 2003: Update - end of flank eruption, strombolian activity with near-continuous spattering at NE crater

As reported by INGV, the flank eruption on Stromboli volcano finished on 22 July 2003.
At the same time, strombolian activity from the NE crater became gradually more frequent and almost continuous in July, with spatter often falling outside the crater rim. The SW crater showed mainly degassing and sporadic ash emissions during July, with occasional strombolian
explosions during the second half of the month.
As on 9 August, strombolian activity from the NE crater continues, accompanied by weak near-continuous spattering from a small intracrater cone. Occasionally, lava bombs are ejected beyond the crater rim. In addition to the active intracrater cone, 4 small vents inside the NE crater are present. At the SW crater, strombolian activity produced ash-rich plumes, some up to 200 m high, and occasionally spatter was thrown out of the crater rim.
Source: INGV 

9 July 2003: Update - reappearance of strombolian activity/ end of effusive eruption?

After repeated visits to Stromboli during our recent expedition (see details on travel.stromboli.net) the following summary is given: it appeares that the effusive eruption is about to come or perhaps already has come to an end.
While the lava emission from 2 or 3 vents at around 500-600 m was fluctuating in intensity throughout May and most of June, it was essentially a continuous event. A small number of alternating or simultaneous lava flows, usually 2 or 3, were active on the Sciara del Fuoco during all times, reaching elevations that varied between 200 and 400 m a.s.l.; incandescent blocks tumbling down from their fronts and from the surfaces of the flows, spectacular during the night, were frequent. They produced a near-continuous heavy-rain-like sound, accompanied by the deeper rumblings of occasional minor landslides and the more frequent small rockfalls from what is left of the W rim of the 30 Dec. 2002 landslide scar. The depression that had formed by the 30 Dec. landslide has largely been filled by the recent flows and the loose debris of lava blocks discharged from their fronts.

On around 4 July, the lava emission decreased significantly. On late 7 July, only a tiny small incandescent lobe from one vent was still visible at night. At the same time, the SE crater had started to display small and medium-sized strombolian explosions (50-150 m high), occurring about every 20 minutes during the night of 6-7 July. On 7 July, the SW crater (towards Ginostra) displayed frequent and impressive emissions of brown, probably older ash, some of which rose as billowing clouds to about 300 m above the summit. During the night of 7-8 July, no incandescent strombolian explosions could be observed during about 2 hours of observation, while the ash emission continued. It is therefore likely that the internal magma column had dropped sharply at some time on 7 July and caused internal collapses within the conduits, that resulted in the emission of huge amounts of older ash.

It is so far unclear weather this heralds the definitive end of the effusive eruption, but this seems likely. Once the lateral vents are shut down because of the lack of alimentation, the most probable future scenario would be that the summit craters will come back to life as the only active vents, when the magma column rises again. That this change has already partially taken place, was clearly demonstrated by the beautiful strombolian activity of the SE crater that reappeared during early July, particularly when observed during the night of 6-7 July. 

Photos of the recent activity are now available at this link.

19 May: Update

The effusive eruption is still continuing at low levels. INGV reports several small lava flows that extend and overlap each other on the upper flatter part of the Sciara del Fuoco, reaching down to elevations around 550 m a.s.l. Occasional ash emissions without corresponding seismic explosion signals are observed at the NW crater (towards Ginostra), these are probably related to internal failures of the conduit walls. Incandescent rock-falls from the lava flows are occurring frequently and spectacular at night-time. In the meantime, new regulations to visit the area and amazing photos of the 5 April eruption as well as of the recent lava-flows have become available on my colleagues' website www.stromboli.net.

9 April: Update/ report on 5 April explosion

INGV reports that the effusive eruption from 4 small vents at 590 m asl. is still ongoing after the paroxysm on 5 April. In the meantime, a dramatic report of that particular event, based on  eyewitnesses who were on a surveillance flight during the eruption, has been published and is here given in its full length:

"From: Sonia Calvari <calvari@ct.ingv.it>

Stromboli eruption update: 8 April 2003

The effusive eruption from a vent along the Sciara del Fuoco is still going on as on 8 April 2003. Effusion of lava takes place from 4 vents at 590 m a.s.l., with effusion rate decreasing since early March. Thermal mapping of the lava flow field and of the craters interior revealed on early April a talus of debris partially obstructing the summit craters bottom. Frequent inner collapses and lithic ash emission increased the possibility of sudden gas explosions, which eventually happened on 3rd April 2003. Lithic angular blocks up to 50 cm wide have been expulsed from crater 3 (the SW crater), falling mainly on the north flank of the cone up to 300 m distance.

On 5 April, at 9:12 am local time, scientists from INGV-CT were doing a helicopter flight for the daily surveys with a portable thermal camera. We surveyed the active lava flow field expanding on the upper sector of the Sciara del Fuoco, above a flat zone at the base of the 28 December 2002 eruptive fissure. Three vents along this surface were feeding small lava flows, and the
summit craters of the volcano were producing a very diluted gas cloud. A few minutes after the start of the survey, the gas plume coming out from the craters and moved west by the strong wind was suddenly crossed by a reddish ash emission, that we interpreted as further collapses within the craters. However, the red ash was soon substituted by juvenile, darker material coming out from
crater 1 (the NE crater). This formed a hot jet with cauliflower shape rapidly growing above the crater. Two-three seconds later, also crater 3 produced a hot jet of juvenile material. The eruptive process then evolved very rapidly, with jets from craters 1 and 3 joining together. A very powerful explosion took place, which pushed the helicopter away from the crater, suddenly increasing
its velocity of 30 knots/hour. A mushroom-shaped dark cloud rised from the craters, expanding vertically up to an elevation of about 2 km a.s.l., 1 km above the volcano's summit. The eruptive cloud was surrounded at its base by a dark-grey cloud similar to a base-surge, while it was still expanding vertically and assuming the mushroom shape. Bombs, ash and blocks fell on the
NE flank of the volcano above 400 m elevation, causing burning of the vegetation. Most of the ejecta were brought by the wind westward, falling on Ginostra and damaging two houses. No people have been injured by the event.
Continuing the helicopter survey after the paroxysm, we could observe that the lava flow field on the upper Sciara del Fuoco was completely covered by a brown carpet of debris ejected from crater 1 during the initial phase of the event. A very thick steam cloud was rising from this site, suggesting vaporisation of wet material above the still active lava flows. In the meanwhile, several
alternating black and reddish pulses were taking place, mainly from crater 3. Several fingers of light-brown debris were expanding from the NW flank of crater 1 along the middle part of the Sciara del Fuoco. The upper part of the volcano above 700 m elevation was completely covered by a continuous carpet of pyroclastic products. Il Pizzo Sopra La Fossa, a hill standing above the summit
craters, showed on the north flank a number of new fractures concave towards north and extending between the summit of the volcano and the south base of crater 1. The presence of these fractures makes it possible that new landslides can occur on the summit of the volcano. Within a few minutes from the start of the paroxysm, the upper Sciara del Fuoco showed active flows emerging from the
carpet of debris covering the lava flow field. The explosive event caused abundant emission of the so-called "golden pumice" mixed with little brown scoria. The golden pumice comprised little crystals and was very vesiculated. Often surrounded lithic blocks of crystalline, angular material with light grey groundmass and centimetre-sized crystals of pyroxene.

A helicopter survey carried out on 8 April showed four active vents pouring out lava on the upper Sciara del Fuoco at 590 m a.s.l.. Two of the flows were expanding along the middle Sciara del Fuoco, causing detachment of blocks from the flow front and little rock falls reaching the sea. Within the summit craters a thick carpet of debris has accumulated following the paroxysm of 5 April. This has reduced the craters depth of about 50 m thickness, causing partial obstruction.
Photos of the 5 April paroxysm can be found at the INGV-CT webpage
www.ct.ingv.it. "

5 April: Special event: large explosion

INGV and Stromboli on Line report an exceptionally strong explosion at Stromboli, presumably from one of the summit craters that occurred earlier today. This event is likely to herald the beginning of a new phase of summit activity. A spectacular shot and further details on a special page of Stromboli on Line.

Press photo released by INGV showing the ash cloud of the eruption.

According to INGV, the explosion took place at the NE crater at 7.12 GMT on 5 April. It produced a spectacular mushroom cloud of about 500 m height, but judged from the photograph on Stromboli On Line, it is likely to be much higher. During the explosion, the onset of the eruption was dominated by the ejection of lithic fragments, which can be interpreted as effectively cleaning the crater followed by fluid spatter. This is confirmed by distance measurements during the eruption, indicating a rapid enlargement of the conduit diameter. In the second phase of the eruption, it was observed (?) that fresh, hot lava was thrown out as spatter. Some of the ejected bombs and blocks have reached the lower slopes of the island, apparently some larger blocks have hit houses in the village of Ginostra and others caused a number of smaller bush fires on the vegetation of Stromboli's upper slopes. No impacts are reported from the village of Stromboli. 
It appears that the explosion has severely damaged a number of surveillance instruments placed around the crater region, since no signals from many instruments have arrived since the event. It looks as if no distinct precursors have been registered enabling anyone to predict the eruption. More details are available and even more expected to be posted very soon on the website of the INGV.

29 March 2003: Update

As of 29 March, the lava flow is still active on the Sciara del Fuoco, but does no longer reach the sea. The active vent at about 600 m asl. is feeding a small flow that divides into a number of branches with the most advanced fronts being at about 500 m asl. Incandescent rockfalls from the flow fronts are frequent as well as minor rockfalls from the walls of the crater and the landslide scar.

Explosive activity seems to have resumed at at least one of the craters (the NE crater towards Stromboli village) with 10-20 heard explosions every hour, some of which are accompanied with ash emission.

In the meanwhile, the island has been reopened, but access anywhere close to the eruptive theater is -obviously- still officially forbidden or at least heavily restricted by the local authorities.

Detailed reports (in Italian) can be found at the INGV-CT website www.ct.ingv.it.

1 March 2003: Update

Eruptive activity:
As of 26 February, the lateral effusive eruption at the Sciara del Fuoco is still continuing at a low rate. After a gradual decrease, the main effusive vent at ca. 500 m elevation has remained inactive since15 February. Since then, the previously sporadically active vent at ca. 600 m appears to have been the site of all lava emission. The low effusion rate, however, did not allow to create a major lava flow extending to the sea, but rather built up a field of small, overlapping lava lobes on the relatively modestly gently steeping slope below the base of the NE crater.
On the summit, no explosive activity has been visibly observed at the craters, but it is likely that weak, deep-seated strombolian activity has been continuing, as is indicated both by seismic signals and occasionally audited loud explosion sounds. Rare episodes of emission of brown ash from the craters are interpreted as caused by collapses of the inner crater walls.
On the Sciara, frequent minor rockfalls and small landslides have slowly been eating and widening the W side of the huge scar left by the 30 December 2002 landslide. By the same process, the base and W wall of the NE crater is being eroded significantly. As a result, all those, who have climbed Stromboli in the past and will hopefully be able to do again so in the near future can expect to find themselves facing a significantly changed scenery. Recent studies of the submarine part of the Sciara have confirmed that a significant part of the landslide on 30 Dec. took place underwater, resulting in a total volume of at least 10-20 million cubic meters (ca. 1/50th of a cubic kilometer).  

Detailed reports (in Italian) can be found at the INGV-CT website www.ct.ingv.it.
(summarized from a report by S. Calvari, INGV)

Access to Stromboli:
As authorities are praising themselves for their efforts to 'protect' the population, claiming that the Eolian island are now among the best-monitored (and thus 'safest' ) areas on the planet, the Sicilian newspaper "La Sicilia" announced on 27 February, that within a few days, the effective blocking of all non-residents to the island should be suspended and free access granted to everybody. No big surprise,- the tourist season is approaching.

1 February 2003: Update

As of 1 February, Stromboli is still erupting small, but very beautiful lava flows on the Sciara del Fuoco from 2 vents at around 500 m elevation and a recently opened vent at ca. 600 m. Thus, lava emission has been continuous with some fluctuation continually since 28 December. At the same time, smaller rockfalls and minor landslides are occurring frequently on the instable walls of the breached Sciara del Fuoco. On short visits on 23 and 24 January, the emission rate from the vents around 500 m was very low, and no active flows reached the sea. During that visit it became clear that the continued lava effusion had already partly filled the channel formed by the landslide.

The strict access rules to Stromboli, maybe questionable, are still being enforced by civil authorities. As far as information is publicly available, however, there is no indication that a major volcanic disaster (such as a large explosive eruption or another large or even catastrophic landslide triggering another tsunami) can be expected in the near future.
More intensely than the eruption, an immense amount of work is being done by combined efforts of volcanologists, trained mountain engineers, civil protection, military and other authorities to monitor the eruption and install a number of modern monitoring devices. In the future, Stromboli will probably be one of the best monitored volcanoes around. Advanced GPS devices, tiltmeters and a stationary radioinferometer are among the critical instrumentation that should detect any significant ground deformation as well as larger rockfalls and landslides that could trigger tsunamis.
In an interview, the Civil Protection announced that the works should be terminated within the next weeks, to "guarantee complete safety for everybody on the island", and free access to Stromboli would again be given to everybody. For the future, regular emergency evacuation exercises are planned.

Sources: INGV, La Sicilia


Lava flow on Sciara del Fuoco, Stromboli Lava flow on Sciara del Fuoco, Stromboli
Photos above: The Sciara del Fuoco on 23 February. The narrow lava channel is seen in the middle of the recent lava field. No lava is actively reaching the sea, only tumbling hot boulders produce some steam (note the steam ring) when they fall into the water.

January 2003:
For detailed information and photos about the complex events relating to the lavaflow, the landslide on 30 December 2002 and the tsunami go to the following separate page.