Quantitative analysis of the 1981 and 2001 Etna flank eruptions: a contribution for future hazard evaluation and mitigation

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Maria Marsella
Silvia Scifoni
Mauro Coltelli
Cristina Proietti


Lava flows produced during Etna flank eruptions represent severe hazards for the nearby inhabited areas, which can be protected by adopting prompt mitigation actions, such as the building of diversion barriers. Lava diversion measures were attempted recently during the 1983, 1991-93, 2001 and 2002 Etna eruptions, although with different degrees of success. In addition to the complexity of barrier construction (due to the adverse physical conditions), the time available to successfully slow the advance of a lava flow depends on the lava effusion rate, which is not easily measurable. One method to estimate the average lava effusion rate over a specified period of time is based on a volumetric approach; i.e. the measurement of the volume changes of the lava flow over that period. Here, this has been compared to an approach based on thermal image processing, as applied to estimate the average effusion rates of lava flows during the 1981 and 2001 Etna eruptions. The final volumes were measured by the comparison of pre-eruption and post-eruption photogrammetric digital elevation models and orthophotographs. Lava volume growth during these eruptions was estimated by locating the flow-front positions from analyses of scientific papers and newspapers reports, as well as from helicopter photographs. The analyses of these two eruptions contribute to the understanding of the different eruptive mechanisms, highlighting the role of the peak effusion rate, which represents a critical parameter for planning of mitigation actions and for hazard evaluation.

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Marsella, M., Scifoni, S., Coltelli, M. and Proietti, C. (2011) “Quantitative analysis of the 1981 and 2001 Etna flank eruptions: a contribution for future hazard evaluation and mitigation”, Annals of Geophysics, 54(5). doi: 10.4401/ag-5334.

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