, Volume 69, Issue 4, pp 401-421
Date: 13 Jul 2006

Petrologic evidence of a complex plumbing system feeding the July–August 2001 eruption of Mt. Etna, Sicily, Italy

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Abstract

After the major 1991–1993 eruption, Mt. Etna resumed flank activity in July 2001 through a complex system of eruptive fissures cutting the NE and the S flanks of the volcano and feeding effusive activity, fire fountains, Strombolian and minor phreatomagmatic explosions. Throughout the eruption, magmas with different petrography and composition were erupted. The vents higher than 2,600 m a.s.l. (hereafter Upper vents, UV) erupted porphyritic, plagioclase-rich trachybasalt, typical of present-day summit and flank activity. Differently, the vents located at 2,550 and 2,100 m a.s.l. (hereafter Lower vents, LV) produced slightly more primitive trachybasalt dominated by large clinopyroxene, olivine and uncommon minerals for Etna such as amphibole, apatite and orthopyroxene and containing siliceous and cognate xenoliths. Petrologic investigations carried out on samples collected throughout the eruption provided insights into one of the most intriguing aspects of the 2001 activity, namely the coeval occurrence of distinct magmas. We interpret this evidence as the result of a complex plumbing system. It consists in two separate magma storage systems: a shallow one feeding the activity of the UV and a deeper and more complex storage related to the activity of LV. In this deep storage zone, which is thermally and compositionally zoned, the favourable conditions allow the crystallization of amphibole and the occurrence of cognate xenoliths representing wall cumulates. Throughout 2001 eruption, UV and LV magmas remain clearly distinct and ascended following different paths, ruling out the occurrence of mixing processes between them. Furthermore, integrating the 2001 eruption in the framework of summit activity occurring since 1995, we propose that the 2001 magma feeding the vents lower than 2,600 m a.s.l. is a precursor of a refilling event, which reached its peak during the 2002–2003 Etna flank eruption.

Editorial responsibility: D Dingwell