It was brief, extremely violent, and difficult to view. Even though it was a sunny, rather hot, summer day in Sicily; clouds and a rather dense haze made this a rather secret event.
Etna's fifth paroxysmal eruptive episode in this year came on the afternoon of 9 July 2011, once more from the New Southeast Crater, after several days of fluctuating Strombolian activity. Yesterday all signs seemed to indicate that it would happen on 8 July, but then suddenly everything stopped - and calm reigned for about 24 hours.
In the morning of 9 July, the activity at the New Southeast Crater resumed, and very rapidly increased. Lava exited the crater around 14 h local time (=GMT+2), and one-and-a-half hours later, a loud roar was heard over the entire Etna area, as the Strombolian explosions rapidly began to blend in one continuous, roaring jet of incandescent lava. Above this jet, a dense column of ash began to rise into the sky.
With my love Catherine and our little Ida, I drove up to the Piano del Vescovo area, on the southeast flank of Etna, where it became clear that soon ash and maybe larger chunks of rock would fall. We listened to the angry rumbling of the volcano, then drove westward, through a rain of falling ash and small lapilli fragments, passing near the Rifugio Sapienza tourist station (where many tourists seemed rather oblivious to what was happening, there being no direct view from the area toward the summit). On the way down toward Nicolosi I took this photograph, the best that I obtained of this paroxysm.
(more to follow)