Formation of lava tubes and extensive flow field during the 1991–1993 eruption of Mount Etna

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Journal of Geophysical Research


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Detailed mapping during the 1991–1993 eruption of Mount Etna has shown that there is a relationship between tumuli, ephemeral vents, lava tubes, and their parent lava flows. During this eruption, many tubes formed in stationary, inflated ‘a‘a lava flows. Ephemeral vents at the fronts of these stationary flows and above lava tubes fed secondary lava flows, many of which subsequently developed new tubes. The resulting complex network of tubes, ephemeral vents, and secondary flows was responsible for most of the widening, thickening, and lengthening of the 1991–1993 Etna lava flow field. The supply of relatively uncooled lava via tubes to distal parts of this flow field allowed lava to flow 3 km farther from the vent than the longest channel-fed lava flow. Our observations suggest that lava tubes play a more important role in the formation of extensive ‘a‘a flow fields on Etna than has previously been recognized.

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