• Age: 14-16 MYP Individuals and Societies
  • Age: 14-16 GCSE / IGCSE Geography
  • Natural Environments
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  • IGCSE Geography Revision Question Bank
  • 2.1 Earthquakes and volcanoes
  • 2.4 Weather
  • 2.5 Climate and natural vegetation
  • Distribution
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Plate Boundaries | Plate Margins

Volcano case study - Mount Etna (2002-2003), Italy

Can you describe the location of Mount Etna? Could you draw a sketch map to locate Mount Etna?

Eruption of Mount Etna - October 27, 2002

Case study task

Use the resources and links that can be found on this page to produce a detailed case study of the 2002-2003 eruption of Mount Etna. You should use the 'Five W's" subheadings to give your case study structure.

What happened?

The Guardian - Sicilian city blanketed in ash [28 October 2002]

When did it happen?

Immediately before midnight 26 October 2002 (local time=GMT+1), a new flank eruption began on Mount Etna. The eruption ended after three months and two days, on 28 January 2003.

Where did it happen?

The eruption occurred from fissures on two sides of the volcano: at about 2750 m on the southern flank, and at elevations between 2500 and 1850 m on the northeastern flank.

Map of the lava flows of October 2002 to January 2003

Why did it happen?

Mount Etna is a volcano. The reasons why Mount Etna is located where it is are complex. Here are some of the theories:

Who was affected by it happening?

Look at this video clip from an eruption on Mount Etna in November 2007.  What sort of eruption is it?

There is no commentary on the video - could you add your own explaining what is happening and why?

You should be able to use the knowledge and understanding you have gained about 2002-2003 eruption of Mount Etna to answer the following exam style question:

In many parts of the world the natural environment presents hazards to people. Choose an example of one of the following: a volcanic eruption, an earthquake, a drought. For a named area, describe the causes of the example which you have chosen and its impacts on the people living there. [7 marks]

Hinchingbrooke School

Tectonic hazard case study: Mt Etna

Image result for mt etna eruption 2002

Memrise – Mt Etna 2002

Get revising – Mt Etna 2002

Mt Etna is on a destructive plate boundary. The African plate is being subducted underneath the Eurasian plate. Mt Etna is a strato-volcano formed by repeated volcanic eruptions that have built up layers of lava and ash to create a cone.

Consequences Social


Responses Short-term

Internet Geography

Europe’s most active volcano , Mount Etna, has been hitting the headlines recently after a series of spectacular eruptions. In Etna’s first eruption of 2021, explosive lava fountains reached over 1500 m in one of the most amazing eruptions in decades.

Mount Etna

Mount Etna, Sicily, erupting in February 2021

Mount Etna, located on the island of Sicily, has been largely dormant for the past two years. The stratovolcano (composite) dominates the skyline of the Italian island, where it sits on the eastern coast.

Located between the cities of Messina and Catania, it is the highest active volcano in Europe outside the Caucasus – a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.

The recent activity is typical of a strombolian eruption among the normal activities of the more than 3,300-metre-high volcano. The recent eruption is the strongest explosion in the southern crater since it was discovered in 1971.

On Monday 22nd February 2021, at around 11 pm, the lava fountains, surrounded by gigantic clouds of smoke, exceeded 1,500 metres (4,900ft) in height, while thousands of rock fragments, some the size of fridges, were thrown from the crater into the sky for several kilometres.

Etna is a hyperactive volcano with over 3,500 years of historically documented eruptions. The volcano has been erupting on and off since September 2013. Since September 2019, it’s been erupting from its various summit craters virtually continuously. In December 2020, Etna’s explosive activity and lava output began to spike, and in February 2021, it has been launching fluid lava skywards.

Etna is an unusual volcano in that it can produce explosive eruptions of runny lava and release slower flowing, thick lava flows. Scientists are still trying to work out why this is the case.

The magma from the latest eruption appears to be coming up from deep within the mantle. Extremely hot, fluid magma is rapidly rising through the network of conduits within and below the volcano. However, there is another factor that is contributing to the current explosive eruptions.

There are high quantities of water vapour in Etna’s magma, which makes it explosive. The water does not cool the magma. As the molten magma approaches the surface, the pressure drops, and the bubble of water vapour expands violently, leading to lava being ejected out of the volcano.

Following each explosive lava fountain , less gassy magma lingers just below the vent. This is then cleared when a new volley of gassy magma rises from below. These explosive eruptions are known as volcanic paroxysms.

Authorities have reported no danger to the nearby towns, however, local airports have been temporarily closed, as has the airspace around the volcano. Etna’s last major eruption was in 1992. Despite the explosive nature of the recent eruption, there is no risk to the population, other than from the ash that covers buildings and smoke that can, after a few hours, cause breathing problems. In March 2017 vulcanologists, tourists and a BBC film crew were injured during an eruption when a flow of lava ran into snow, producing superheated steam that sent fragments of rock flying in all directions.

Further reading For a Volcanologist Living on Mount Etna, the Latest Eruption Is a Delight  – Advisory – this article contains expletives (swear words).

In Pictures: Mount Etna eruption lights up Sicily’s night sky

Mount Etna: BBC crew caught up in volcano blast

Mount Etna illuminates night sky with 1,500-metre lava fountain

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mount etna eruption case study

Volcanoes ~ GCSE Geography

mount etna eruption case study

Mt. Etna, Sicily (Case Study of a Volcano in an ME

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The generally accepted explanation for the formation of Mt. Etna is the subduction of part of the northward-moving African Plate beneath the Eurasian Plate.

Mount Etna case study

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Mt Etna Case Study 2012

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The photo above shows snow-capped Mount Etna belching smoke and ash during the morning of March 4. 2012. as viewed from Catania. on the island of Sicily in Italy. This was actually Etna’s third eruption episode of 2012. The source of the pictured eruption was a new cinder cone on the southeast flank of this stratovolcano ’s primary crater.

Wednesday. January 4. 2012. MEDC Comparison Case Study- (Mount. Etna) MEDC Case Study- Mount. Etna. Italy. Diagram explanation of the cause of Mount Etna eruptions. Diagram. Stages. The denser Eurasian plate is subducted under the lighter African plate. forming a . subduction zone. The denser Eurasian plate is destroyed under the immense heat and pressure turning it into lava . The …

Geography Case Study: Mount Etna. Sicily Mount Etna in Sicily. Location: NE Sicily. Italy. More than 25% of Sicily’s population live on Etna’s slopes. with Catania city at its base. The Volcano: Active. composite (stratovolcano). formed by the Eurasian plate subducting beneath the African. 3350m in height and growing. Key . . .

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