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Geography Case Study: Mount Etna, Sicily

Mount Etna in Sicily Mount Etna in Sicily

Location: NE Sicily, Italy

More than 25% of Sicily’s population live on Etna’s slopes, with Catania city at its base.

The Volcano: Active, composite (stratovolcano), formed by the Eurasian plate subducting beneath the African. 3350m in height and growing.

Key characteristics: Regular violent explosions and lava flows. Multiple active chambers, several craters, 300+ vents – Etna erupts from both summit & side vents.

Local Economy: Rich volcanic soils make the land fertile for olive groves, vineyards, citrus fruits and orchards. Piano Provenzano ski resort is on Etna.

July 2001... One of Etna’s largest recorded eruptions to date. Magma caused the volcano to bulge, resulting in earthquakes, followed by Strombolianstyle eruptions with ash, lava and volcanic bombs. Eruptions lasted for 24 days.

Impacts: Holiday villas, roads & buildings damaged (SOCIAL); Local vegetation & habitats destroyed (ENVIRONMENTAL); Catania airport closed due to ash; Orange groves & vineyards destroyed; farmland covered in ash; chairlift at ski resort damaged; ash fell in Catania (ECONOMIC). No deaths.

Response: Evacuation; US army dropped concrete to stop lava flow; cancelled holidays damaged the tourist industry; mass clean-up operation in Catania & surroundings; £5.6m aid from Italian government (SHORT TERM). Improved monitoring systems; better emergency planning; tourism used to boost economy; tax breaks given to locals to assist rebuilding; raised awareness of Sicily as a tourist destination (LONG TERM).

Post-2001: Etna has erupted annually but is well monitored and actively managed.

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