Abstract Etna


We analyze short- to long-term changes (from days to months) in Radon (Rn) activity measured nearby (<2 km) the eruptive fractures that fed a lava effusion at Mt. Etna, Italy, between 13 May 2008 and 6 July 2009. The N120-140°E eruptive fractures opened between 3050 and 2620 m above sea level before a dike-forming intrusion fed the ∼14 month-long lava emission. Our high-rate data streams include: Rn, ambient parameters (barometric pressure and soil temperature), and seismic data (earthquakes and volcanic tremor) recorded from January 2008 to July 2009. The analysis highlights repeated episodes of rock-fracturing related to seismic swarms, and vigorous gas pulses and peak values in Rn emissions (maximum ∼4.1×105 Bq/m3 on 16 November 2008), which we interpreted in a conceptual model as the response to inputs from the magmatic system during the eruption. This multidisciplinary study: (i) provides evidence of a close relationship between Rn emission at a fumarole near the summit active craters and local earthquakes, and (ii) enables exploring the important role of the volcanic source on the temporal development of the Rn flux, which may account for the much higher (≫94 m/d) ascent speed of the Rn carrier (vapor) than diffusion. The close location of Rn probes to the active conduits, along with the application of our multidisciplinary approach, may shed new light on the internal dynamics of other active volcanoes worldwide.