VOLCANIC VORTEX RINGS (Syllabus GS Paper 1 – Geography)

News-CRUX-10     13th April 2024        

Context: Recently, Mount Etna, Europe's largest volcano and one of the world's most active and iconic volcanoes, has been consistently emitting nearly perfect rings of smoke into the air.

Mount Etna

  • About: It  also known simply as Etna, is an active volcano situated on the east coast of Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Location: It lies just off the toe of the Italian "boot" and boasts the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.
  • Size and Activity: Etna is Europe's largest and one of the most active volcanoes, characterized by almost constant activity.
  • Crater Formation: The summit of Etna features five craters, primarily responsible for its eruptions, alongside over 300 vents of varying sizes along its slopes.
  • Eruption Frequency: Since 1600, Etna has experienced around 60 flank eruptions and numerous summit eruptions, occurring at intervals over the years, with notable eruptions in 2006, 2007-08, 2012 (twice), 2018, and 2021.
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site: Designated as a World Heritage Site in 2013, Etna's eruptive history spans back 500,000 years, with documentation covering at least 2,700 years of activity.

Volcanic Vortex Rings

  • Definition: Volcanic vortex rings are circular formations of gas, primarily water vapor, rapidly released through a vent in a volcano's crater.
  • Origin at Etna: Etna's nearly perfect circular vent has been releasing these rings since April 2, creating observable circular formations above the mountain.
  • Historical Documentation: First observed at Etna and Vesuvius in Italy in 1724, documented in an engraved plate from 1755, according to a scientific paper published in February 2023.
  • Global Observations: Volcanic vortex rings have been observed at various volcanoes worldwide, including Redoubt in Alaska, Tungurahua in Ecuador, Pacaya in Guatemala, and others listed in the scientific paper "Dynamics of Volcanic Vortex Rings" by Scollo.