Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 72, Issue 6, pp 671–676 | Cite as

Imaging short period variations in lava flux

  • Mike R. JamesEmail author
  • H. Pinkerton
  • M. Ripepe
Research Article


Short period (e.g. <1 h) variations in lava effusion rate have been detected previously on Mount Etna, Sicily, but the causes and effects of such changes are poorly understood because of difficulties in obtaining suitably high frequency measurements over long periods. Here, we report short period flux variations in active lava flows, recorded in dense time series imagery over a 7-night period using modified remote trail cameras. The sequences of night-time images show significant pulses of enhanced incandescence, interpreted as short period increases in lava flux, travelling down-channel at velocities of ∼10–20 m min−1. Pulse generation decreased from an average of one pulse per hour on the first night to approximately one per night within a few nights. Effusion rate changes on these timescales are considered to reflect instabilities in magma ascent and, consequently, could provide insight into subsurface flow processes.

Key words

Lava Effusion rate Mt. Etna Unsteady flow Time-lapse imaging Pulse 



This work was funded by the Royal Society and through project INGV-DPC 2007–2009 “V3-LAVA”. This research has benefited from funding provided by the Italian Presidenza del Cosiglio dei Ministri-Dipartimento della Protezione Civile (DPC). Scientific papers funded by the DPC do not represent its official opinion and policies. We are grateful for constructive reviews from Tim Orr and John Bailey.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lancaster Environment CentreLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze della TerrraUniversità di FirenzeFlorenceItaly

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