Mt. Etna erupts in spectacular volcanic event.

Europe’s Tallest Active Volcano Unleashes Spectacular Eruption

Europe’s Tallest Active Volcano Unleashes Spectacular Eruption

The Slatest
Your News Companion
Dec. 3 2015 5:11 PM

Europe’s Tallest Active Volcano Unleashes Spectacular Eruption

Mount Etna eruption Dec. 3 2015
A so-called "dirty thunderstorm" with volcanic lightning seen as Mount Etna erupts on December 3, 2015.

Photo by Marco Restivo/Demotix/Corbis

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Mt. Etna—Italy’s and Europe’s tallest active volcano—spewed lava and ash into the atmosphere in a brief but spectacular eruption. The volcano is one of the most active in the world, so this eruption isn’t surprising, but it sure was beautiful. The eruption lasted less than an hour with no reports of injuries.

Sicilian photographer Marco Restivo was able to capture the stunning event and the “dirty thunderstorm” that accompanied it. Eruptions like this often feature lightning, and meteorologists theorize that the ash particles rub together (much like a balloon rubbed on your head) to create the electrical charges over the volcano.

Advertisement

Earlier this year, the same thing happened during the stunning eruption of the Calbuco volcano in southern Chile.

Smoke, ash, and sulphur dioxide from this morning’s Mt. Etna eruption were visible from space, and reached an altitude of more than 10,000 feet above the summit.

Owing to its location in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, Mt. Etna has the longest written record of eruptions of any volcano on Earth. Roman records from 122 B.C. show a large eruption blocked the sun for several days, causing widespread damage. Roman taxes were cancelled for 10 years to help locals rebuild. 

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.