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The 1974 West Flank Eruption of Mount Etna: A Data-Driven Model for a Low Elevation Effusive Event

Abstract : Low elevation flank eruptions represent highly hazardous events due to their location near, or in, communities. Their potentially high effusion rates can feed fast moving lava flows that enter populated areas with little time for warning or evacuation, as was the case at Nyiragongo in 1977. The January–March 1974 eruption on the western flank of Mount Etna, Italy, was a low elevation effusive event, but with low effusion rates. It consisted of two eruptive phases, separated by 23 days of quiescence, and produced two lava flow fields. We describe the different properties of the two lava flow fields through structural and morphological analyses using UAV-based photogrammetry, plus textural and rheological analyses of samples. Phase I produced lower density (∼2,210 kg m−3) and crystallinity (∼37%) lavas at higher eruption temperatures (∼1,080°C), forming thinner (2–3m) flow units with less-well-developed channels than Phase II. Although Phase II involved an identical source magma, it had higher densities (∼2,425 kgm−3) and crystallinities (∼40%), and lower eruption temperatures (∼1,030°C), forming thicker (5m) flow units with well-formed channels. These contrasting properties were associated with distinct rheologies, Phase lavas having lower viscosities (∼103 Pa s) than Phase II (∼105 Pa s). Effusion rates were higher during Phase I (≥5m3/s), but the episodic, short-lived nature of each lava flow emplacement event meant that flows were volume-limited and short (≤1.5 km). Phase II effusion rates were lower (≤4m3/s), but sustained effusion led to flow units that could still extend 1.3 km, although volume limits resulted from levee failure and flow avulsion to form new channels high in the lava flow system. We present a petrologically-based model whereby a similar magma fed both phases, but slower ascent during Phase II may have led to greater degrees of degassing resulting in higher cooling-induced densities and crystallinities, as well as lower temperatures. We thus define a low effusion rate endmember scenario for low elevation effusive events, revealing that such events are not necessarily of high effusion rate and velocity, as in the catastrophic event scenarios of Etna 1669 or Kilauea 2018.
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https://hal.uca.fr/hal-03137036
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Charline Lormand, Andrew Harris, Magdalena Oryaëlle Chevrel, Sonia Calvari, Lucia Gurioli, et al.. The 1974 West Flank Eruption of Mount Etna: A Data-Driven Model for a Low Elevation Effusive Event. Frontiers in Earth Science, Frontiers Media, 2020, 8, ⟨10.3389/feart.2020.590411⟩. ⟨hal-03137036⟩

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