Mount Etna, sitting on the east coast of Sicily in Italy, has spewed ash and smoke in a new eruption on Tuesday, February 16.

Mount Etna, sitting on the east coast of Sicily in Italy, has spewed ash and smoke in a new eruption on Tuesday, February 16.

Despite the new eruption, local authorities said that it still poses no immediate threat to the villages surrounding the Italian stratovolcano – considered as one of the most active in the world.

Ash and Smoke Over Catania

“This event started at 5pm today and is ending,” said Stefano Branca, director of the National Institute for Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV) in Catania, in an interview with a local news agency AGI. The local outlet also reported ash clouds drifting over Catania, the ancient port city resting on the heels of Mount Etna, with small stones about one centimeter found in the city.

“We have seen worse,” Branca added.

Also, an announcement from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Toulouse, France warns that the ash plume from the latest Etna eruption created a column about 33,000 feet (10,100 meters) high and is moving southward at a speed of 25 knots.

Despite assuring the safety of communities surrounding Mount Etna, Italian authorities have decided to temporarily close Catania International Airport. Additionally, the Central Emergency Department informs the public through its Twitter page that they are closely monitoring the situation, especially the three villages at the foot of Mount Etna – Linguaglossa, Fornazzo, and Milo. The tweet was accompanied by an image of the latest Mount Etna discharge – a gray to an orange plume of smoke and presumably ash seen from afar.

About Mount Etna

Standing tall at almost 11,000 feet (or 3,324 meters), Mount Etna remains the tallest active volcano in all of Europe and the highest Italian peak south of the Alps mountain range. In comparison, Etna stands about two and a half times taller compared to Mount Vesuvius, the second most active volcano, also in Italy.

A sidebar summary for Etna, also from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, describes the volcano as “near continuously active,” currently designated as an erupting volcano. Also, it notes some of the notable eruptions of the stratovolcano in the past. Historical records point out to a Plinian summit eruption in 122 BC.

Plinian, or Vesuvian eruptions, are particularly violent eruptions likened to the Mount Vesuvius event in 79 AD which buried the cities of Herculaneum and Pompeii. As for the 122 BC Etna eruption, it heavily damaged establishments in Catania.

Another significant eruption of Mount Etna occurred in 1669, producing pyroclastic flows that destroyed at least 10 villages on its southern side, before eventually reaching Catania’s city walls five weeks after the eruption. While the city walls redirected the flow into the sea, a small volume managed to break through and enter the city.

Despite being an active volcano, Mount Etna remains one of the main tourist attractions for the entire region of Sicily. Among its hot spots for tourists are the ski resorts: one at the Sapienza Refuge and another near Linguaglossa.

Originally published at The Science Times