Mount Etna's mystery explained?

Oct 07, 2010
Dr. Wouter Schellart, Monash University, has developed a new theory of Earth dynamics. Credit: Monash University

Internationally renowned geophysicist Dr Wouter Schellart has developed the first dynamic model to explain the mystery of the largest and most fascinating volcano in Europe, Mount Etna.

Dr Schellart's results from fluid dynamic models provide an alternative explanation for the existence of Mount Etna, its geological environment and evolution, as well as volcanism in the surrounding region.

His theory suggests that Mount Etna is not directly the result of tectonic plate boundary activity, but that it resulted from decompression melting of upper material flowing around the nearby edge of the Ionian slab that is slowly sinking into the Earth's mantle.

"Most volcanism on Earth occurs at plate boundaries in places where move apart (e.g. Iceland) and in places where tectonic plates come together with one plate diving (subducting) below the other plate into the mantle (e.g. Pacific ring of fire)," Dr Schellart said. "For the latter scenario, the volcanoes form directly above the subducted plate."

However, Dr Schellart said some volcanism, appropriately named intraplate volcanism, occurs far from plate boundaries and its origin is more controversial.

"The chemistry of the from Mount Etna and the nearby Iblean volcanics in Sicily and in the surrounding seas indicate that they are intraplate volcanics. Interestingly, the volcanics are located within a few hundred kilometres of, but are laterally offset from, the Calabrian subduction zone plate boundary, where the African plate sinks below the Eurasian plate," Dr Schellart said.

"This suggests that the volcanics are somehow related to the Calabrian subduction zone."

"New modelling of subduction and confirms this, showing that backward sinking of the African plate at the Calabrian subduction zone induced flow around the southern edge of the subducted plate and upward below Sicily," he said.

"The upward flow induced decompression melting of upper mantle material and these melts extruded at the surface in Sicily, forming Mount Etna and the Iblean volcanics," Dr Schellart said.

Until now there had been many explanations for Mount Etna and that of the surrounding volcanics, but none had been able to explain the timing, origin and dynamics of the activity.

"That's why Mount Etna has remained a mystery for so long," Dr Schellart said.

"The new research provides a dynamic explanation and completes the puzzle," he said
Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is in an almost constant state of activity. The most recent ash explosion occurred in August of this year, producing an ash plume that rose 800 meters above the crater edge.

The research was recently published in the journal Geology.

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omatumr
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 07, 2010
Has the group considered the influence of gravitational interactions between the Earth and other bodies in the solar system?

Several studies have show that this has a great influence on Earth's climate.

1. Jose, P.D., “Sun’s motion and sunspots”, Astron. J., 1965, 70, 193-200.

2. Fairbridge, R.W. and Shirley, J.H., “Prolonged minima and the 179-yr cycle of the solar inertial motion,” Solar Physics, 1987, 110, 191-220.

Etc., etc.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo

omatumr
1 / 5 (2) Oct 07, 2010
Delete repeat
_ilbud
not rated yet Oct 07, 2010
Ow “Prolonged minima and the 179-yr cycle of the solar inertial motion” makes my pattern matcher overheat. I feel like a right Nostradamus after soaking in those figures.