Space Station View of Mount Etna Erupting

As reported online by Nasa, Mount Etna, the highest volcano in Europe, demonstrated its might, reaffirming for all that it is Europe's most active volcano with a scene visible from space. The volcano, which lies between the cities of Messina and Catania, hurls columns of lava well over 1000 feet skyward making them clearly visible in Catania, 31 miles away.

Mount Etna is a towering mass that dominates the island of Sicily. Rising 11,000 feet above sea level Mount Etna’s presence is nearly inescapable given it is visible from virtually every part of the 460-square-mile island. It is hard to imagine living in confinement with a volcano that is not only incredibly active but also holds the record for the longest continuous eruption. Miraculously, thus far, there have been no reports of damage. Locals appear to be taking the event in stride capturing their experience of the incredible natural phenomenon and posting them on the internet. The Catania–Fontanarossa Airport has even remained open without disruption. Given Mount Etna erupts several times a year Sicilians have developed a much thicker skin than the outsiders watching and learning about the event through various news sources. In fact, Sicilians were forewarned of this eruption as Etna has been active since January 23 of this year -- ejecting cinder, ash, and smoke all of which were indications that magma was close to the surface.

1992 hailed the volcano's last major eruption and gravely endangered the town of Zafferana; ultimately it was saved due to successful lava diversion tactics. The Sicilians have not, however, always been so fortunate. Mount Etna has a long documented geologic history. It has been periodically spewing ash and lava since as early as 475 BCE, the year of its first recorded eruption. Etna has since continued to show its force as the most active volcano in Europe. Despite the dangers that living near an active volcano presented, the eruptions made the surrounding soil so fertile that the slopes of the mountain soon became home to many small villages. While the bounty of Mount Etna’s frequent eruptions inspired many to live near the volcano, this restless giant made their choice to do so a deadly one. To date, at least 20,000 people have died, and as many as 30,000 have been left homeless as a direct result of the volcano’s ongoing activity.

Up to date information is critical in natural disaster situations such as these, facts change minute by minute. Workers have been building embankments of earth and hardened lava from previous eruptions to divert magma which has now come as close as 300 feet from the buildings. Lava managed to reach a car park attached to the buildings and destroyed a wooden shed used to park snow plows. Regardless the efforts, the eruption has managed to destroy a ski lift station. The lava flow's current position is a significant event given the last time it reached this point at the Sapienza Refuge was in 1983. The Workers vigilance is the perfect example that while Sicilians may appear to be thicker skinned it is not due to lax stance but instead a result of hard learned lessons from Mount Etna’s repeated challenges to their survival; they are both well-equipped and prepared to divert disaster.

For continual updates on the state of the Mount Etna eruption be sure to visit Nasa.gov that creates news with an edge for viewers who Question More.

Written by Celia Myers Martin

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