Geologist: mount Etna is a giant geyser, and not the volcano

© Acocella et al. / Frontiers in Earth Science 2016Жерла of mount EtnaGeologist: mount Etna is a giant geyser, and not the volcano© Acocella et al. / Frontiers in Earth Science 2016

The famous mount Etna in Sicily may be a giant geyser, not a volcano, as indicated by an unusually large amount of steam and other volatile substances in its emissions, says a scientist in an article published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews.

«This volcano looks like on the principles of their work on a giant geyser or, in some sense, on the exhaust pipe. The role of this pipe are a narrow system of «livepreview» through which the surface of the Earth rise up millions of tons of hot water and gas. If it is «clogged» relatively dense lava, then gas emissions cease, and the volcano «spits out» this solid tube, and when it is cleaned, he throws mostly gas and steam,» writes Ferlito Carmelo (Carmelo Ferlito) from the University of Catania (Italy).

Mount Etna is one of the most turbulent geological objects on Earth – it is almost continuously spewing lava, steam and manifests other signs of activity, but his mouth never stands still and constantly changes its position. Current estimates of scientists, his position has changed at least three times over the last 40 years, and each year Etna spews tens of millions of tons of lava.

Another unusual feature of the main mountains of Sicily is that it emits huge amounts of dust, vapor and various volatile substances, whose mass is estimated at about 7 million tons. Most geologists believes that this is due to the special chemical composition of the magma in the bowels of mount Etna and the unusual structure of its magma chamber.

Ferlito believes that there is a much simpler explanation, and one and another strange trait of Etna – in fact, this mountain is not a real volcano, and a huge hot spring, which pumps through millions of tons of water and other volatile elements, most of which leaves the volcano through the crater, and through numerous cracks on its slopes.

In this conclusion of his was prompted by weirdness in the chemical composition of lava and emission of Etna. As noted by the researcher, samples of lava from the depths of the mountains contain about 3.5% water, which is high but not a record. On the other hand, the volcano emits about 1.5 times more water and other volatile substances than basalt and other hard rocks, which is about 10 times more than shown by theoretical calculations.

Accordingly, if you believe such measurements, «lava» Etna should consist of 70% water, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and other volatile substances in an intermediate state between liquid and gas, and only 30% of its weight falls on hard rocks.

Such an exotic composition of the lava, as the scientist, is not typical for any other volcano, and so he had essentially zero to calculate how its behavior changes as you rise to the surface of the Earth. These calculations showed that Etna is actually a geyser, «clogging» which leads to eruptions of basalt and other rocks.

When the lava rises to approximately 2-3 kilometers from the Earth’s surface, a mixture of rocks and volatiles sharply divided and the gas flows into the atmosphere, moving through the cracks and the main crater of mount Etna. Heavy rocks begin to accumulate inside the «livepreview» and after some time they block the movement of gas, which leads to a sharp buildup of pressure in the bowels of the volcano.

In a time of gas «kicks» these stone plugs and causes the lava to the surface, causing explosive eruptions, which often occur at Etna. In this way, according to Ferlito, may explain the high level of activity of the main volcano of Sicily, and the unusual composition of its emissions.