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Earthen barriers to control lava flows in the 2001 eruption of Mt. Etna

DOI: 10.1016/S0377-0273(03)00038-6
Title: Earthen barriers to control lava flows in the 2001 eruption of Mt. Etna
Journal Title: Journal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Volume: 123
Publication Date: 15 April 2003
Start Page: 231
End Page: 243
Published online: online 1 April 2003
ISSN: 0377-0273
Author: F. Barberia, F. Brondib, M.L. Carapezzac, L. Cavarrab, C. Murgiad

  • a Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, Università di Roma Tre, Largo San L. Murialdo 1, 00146 Rome, Italy

  • b Dipartimento della Protezione Civile, Via Ulpiano 11, 00194 Rome, Italy

  • c Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, GNV, Via Nizza 128, 00198 Rome, Italy

  • d Comando Provinciale dei Vigili del Fuoco di Catania, Via C. Beccaria 31, 95100 Catania, Italy
  • Abstract: by four days of intense seismicity and marked ground deformation, a new eruption of Mt. Etna started on 17 July and lasted until 9 August 2001. It produced lava emission and strombolian and phreatomagmatic activity from four different main vents located on a complex fracture system extending from the southeast summit cone for about 4.5 km southwards, from 3000 to 2100 m elevation (a.s.l.). The lava emitted from the lowest vent cut up an important road on the volcano and destroyed other rural roads and a few isolated country houses. Its front descended southwards to about 4 km distance from the villages of Nicolosi and Belpasso. A plan of intervention, including diversion and retaining barriers and possibly lava flow interruption, was prepared but not activated because the flow front stopped as a consequence of a decrease in the effusion rate. Extensive interventions were carried out in order to protect some important tourist facilities of the Sapienza and Mts. Silvestri zones (1900 m elevation) from being destroyed by the lava emitted from vents located at 2700 m and 2550 m elevation. Thirteen Earthen barriers (with a maximum length of 370 m, height of 10–12 m, base width of 15 m and volume of 25?000 m3) were built to divert the lava flow away from the facilities towards a path implying considerably less damage. Most of the barriers were oriented diagonally (110–135°) to the direction of the flow. They were made of loose material excavated nearby and worked very nicely, resisting the thrust of the lava without any difficulty. After the interventions carried out on Mt. Etna in 1983 and in 1991–1992, those of 2001 confirm that Earthen barriers can be very effective in controlling lava flows.
    Accepted: 25 February 2002
    Received: 21 December 2001
    Revised: 25 February 2002
    Keywords: lava flow control; earthen barriers; Mt. Etna 2001 eruption
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