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The Fires of Canneto di Caronia
See working papers in Canneto Think Tank.
A Shade Tree Physics Online Publication
Page was started on 12 Feb 2004. Latest Update 27 Sep 2013.
New or modified text is in bold.
This document, or portions thereof, may be copied freely for non-profit/non-commercial purposes.
In February 2003 Mt. Etna was reported to be plugged up.
A research team found "what they believe is (was) a massive body of solid magma
intruding from about one mile to about 11 miles deep beneath the mountain,
causing a pressurization of the mountain's deep plumbing system which had
fractured the rock." Liquid magma was thought to be "moving through
cracks and fissures and collecting in an area about 1.8 miles below the surface."
(For a copy of this report see
Mount Etna Waiting To Erupt; 2003.) Until recently I have been thinking
that some of this magma may have been moving beneath the village of Canneto di Caronia.
[Modified 21 August 2005 and on 14 Sep 2013.]
The approaching magma may have been producing methane which is then being
forced up through the ground, probably in several places. (This may not be noticed in unpopulated areas.) Carbon disulfide has also been proposed. (The molten magma may also be producing electron clouds by thermionic emission. These should move easily through the ground.) Some of the methane (colorless - odorless), or other flammable gas, which reaches the surface in the Canneto area could have become trapped inside homes.
(John Curtis, in a Science groupserv.com geology forum, also suggested (in April 2004) the possible presence of Methane. He thought that when warmer weather arrives, and houses were opened up more, the problems would subside. [Modified 25 April and 2 May 2004 and 14-15 Sep 2013.]
It may be that a Mt. Etna magma path was not the direct culprit, as described above, but the fact that Etna was plugged up may have indirectly affected Canneto via a larger network of volcanic interconnections, perhaps from as far away as
Mt. Stromboli. (More to come on this.) [Added 14 Sep 2013.]
According to one source when the A20 tunnels, uphill from Canneto, were being constructed, volcanic gas was encountered which seems to have come from Mount
Stromboli. (See the 04 April 2005 entry in Canneto Think Tank,
Here is a cross-section of the Canneto di Caronia area showing a hypothetical
sub-surface magma path associated with an outlying magma plumbing branch
originating from Mt. Stromboli.
(Prior to 27 Sep 2013 I had been showing the magma plumbing as coming
from Mt. Etna.)
Google Earth bird's-eye-view of Canneto di Caronia looking to the the SSE
Red line connects to Mt. Etna
Electrical arcs associated with normal use of household appliances, or static
electricity discharges which occur under conditions of low humidity, which may be
enhanced by the magma electron cloud, if it exists,
[See: Canneto di Caronia (ME)] ignites the
methane. The methane flashes should be, by themselves, very short lived affairs. A
longer burning fuel instead of or in addition to the methane seems required.
[Modified 25 April 2004.]
Volcanic ash, which is flammable, was last deposited on Canneto by Mt. Etna in about February 2003. Remnants of that ash have most likely collected in hard-to-get-to places (inside appliances and pieces of furniture which have openings to the air. Air conditioner condensers come to mind.)
Volcanic ash itself (when ground underfoot) may be a source of electrical sparks
by the process of
triboluminescence. Sparks generated in this manner, by tracked-in ash, could also ignite the methane. If there is, from time to time, a large static electrical charge buildup inside the village homes, some of the volcanic ash could become electrically suspended in the air and provide the initial flash, instead of methane. One report has
it that the fires tend to take place when trains are approaching the village. Could the distributed weight of a train compress the ground and thus force an extra dose of methane (or electrons) to the surface? [Modified 25 April 2004.]
The idea is that electrical discharges (usually associated with human presence)
ignites the methane which then triggers other combustibles, including volcanic ash,
into fiery displays.
If it turns out that no flammable gas, such as methane, is found in the Canneto
homes, then this current version will have to be modified. (So far, I have seen no report dealing with the presence or non-presence of methane in the
If this scenario comes to be validated then the residents of Canneto should consider
the possibility of a volcano appearing in their town.
18 April 2004 - Postscript
Even if the fires at Canneto di Caronia turn out to not be related to volcanic
activity, the evidence that Mt. Etna is plugged up (with maga spreading
out horzontally underground), coupled with the decreasing numbers of Etna area
earthquakes, suggests that a Mt. St. Helens type of catastrophic erruption
may be in the making. Such an erruption, if it comes, would likely take place a
month or so after the start of a rainy season. (Melted snow could also be a
source of water for steam generation.) [Added 08 Jan 2005.] See
Part 3 for more info.
See the 16 April 2004 entry on the Canneto Think Tank, Part 2 page.
* * *
13 September 2004 Insert
On 15 July 2004 there was a unseasonally intense rainstorm in the Catania Sicily area.
The 8 cm of rain which accumulated in 12 hours was twice that of the average monthly rainfall for July. Were there any other more recent unusual amounts of rain on
Mt. Etna? What comes to mind was the rash of flash floods that occurred around the world
a few days after the 12 August peak of the Perseid meteor shower. (That shower, which was extra dusty this year, was supposed to have begun gently back
in mid July.) See NASA's article The 2004 Perseid Meteor Shower. The idea here is that unusual amounts of comet dust, sprinkling down into our atmosphere, could have triggered extra rainfall.)
On 7 September 2004 (53 days after the unusual July rain) a new fissure opened in the Valle del Bove on the eastern slope of Mt. Etna. On 13 September a much shorter fissure opened up parallel to the first one, a few hundred yards to the south. On the night of 13-14 September the 2950m Etna Trekking webcam recorded glowing hot spots to the north of the summit craters. (The hot spots are marked as 14 Sep on the map.)
Map of Mt. Etna with Approx Locations (in yellow) New Fissure Actvity
This map was commandeered from the INGV* Sezione di Catania website. The map also shows the author's best guestimate of the locations of the Etna Trekking Webcams. *INGV = Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia
The next two graphics are also from INGV Sezione di Catania. They are Milo webcam views, looking west-northwest up through the Valle del Bove. They show the 7 September and 13 September fissures.
See INGV Milo view of the new fissures in Bove Valley on 13 September 2004.
See INGV Milo view of the fissure activity in Bove Valley on the night of 13 September 2004.
See Etna Trekking Cam2 overlapping views across Bove Valley.
Whether there is a connection between the unusual 15 July rainstorm and the new fissure activity is yet to be determined. (Ground-water which reaches the appropriate magma reservoirs, in sufficient quantity, can produce steam-driven bulging and fissure activity (or worse things). The bowl-like nature of the Valle del Bove might serve to concentrate rainwater in a crater-lake fashion before it descended toward Etna's plumbing system. Was there a short-lived lake in the bottom of the valley?
Visit the following Mt. Etna Webcam sites:
[Three of these four links no longer work. 30 Mar 2010]
(*) The Etna Trekking website webcams are set up to install cookies on internet visitor computers.
You may need to relax your internet options privacy level to see the images.
14 September 2004
Section on manually defusing Etna has been removed.
17 September 2004
During the night of 16-17 September, new hot spots of sluggish lava appeared on the northeast slope of the central peak area of Mt. Etna. The 2950m Etna Trekking webcam did a good job of recording this activity. The camera jiggled (producing doubled images) several times during the night and into the morning. The cause of these jiggles may have been gusts of wind, or perhaps small localized tremors. That camera was relatively close (estimated 0.5 to 1.0 mile) from the new surface lava activity. [Revised on 21 September.]
18 September 2004
See the Etna Trekking 2637m webcam photographs for 17 September 2004.
The 2637m camera is located south-southeast of Etna's summit . The pictures document the 7 and 13
September flows along the floor of Bove valley. The sunrise photos are downright fun. [Revised 21 September.]
Active Volcanoes / Aktive vulkaner: Etna, Italy
site has up-to-date news (with photos and lava flow maps) for the current Etna activity.
See Etna Volcano Photos -
[Added 30 Oct 2004.]
12 October 2004
Assuming that there was a connection between Etna's having been
plugged up, and the seemingly spontaneous fires that occurred in
Canneto di Caronia, then as long as the lava flows in Etna's Valle del
Bove (or other places near the summit) continue to vent volcanic internal
pressures, the Village of Canneto di Caronia should have no further
problems with fires breaking out.
17 October 2004 (Revised 18 August 2005.)
See the following cloud activity animations which are based on still
frames made by Albanet's WebCam (2) on Oct. 16, 2004.
14:45:13 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . | . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15:28:13
One Minute Intervals (43 frames)
Half Minute Intervals (20 frames)
Half Minute Intervals (14 frames)
(The loading time of the first animation may be objectionable on 56 Kbps
and slower modems.)
Of special interest is what seems to be a low-elevation water-cloud
eruption that begins at 15:15:43 next to the left edge of the
photographic field of view. The activity seems to have been occurring near
a point identified as Ballo on
Albanet.com's webcam map. [Link no longer works. 30 Mar 2010.] The activity location is marked by an inserted white arrow just
before and during the start of the erruption. [Modified 18 August 2005.]
Also note the nearly complete disappearance of the billowy/wispy clouds,
which were "playing" around on the upper southern and eastern
slopes of Etna, which occurs at about the same time that the visible
low-elevation (ground-level) water-vapor activity begins.
[Modifed 18 August 2005.]
The following simplified schematic diagram of hypothetical Etna plumbing shows
how some water vapor path blockage could produce the above described effects. [Added 18 August 2005.]
Schematic Diagram - Simplified Etna Plumbing
[Added 18 August 2005.]
End of Mt. Etna summary.
This page started on 12 February 2004 as an addition to the author's page on
The Kite-Acheson Effect, but was pulled out of that page to
become a stand-alone item on 8 March 2004.
(It became apparent that solar storm induced electrical charge buildup may not have been the main
culprit behind the fires at Canneto di Caronia, and instead that volcanic activity appears to provide a
reasonable working hypothesis.)
Think Tank - The Fires of Canneto di Caronia
The think tank was installed on 9 April 2004 and contains excerpts from e-mails from other researchers and parties interested in the Fires of Canneto di Caronia. Entries are presented in chronological order.
Sicily's other volcanoes - Metageologist - 13 Mar 2012