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Friday, 27 July, 2001, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Etna from space
Landsat Esa Eurimage
Lava flow: Landsat 5 acquired this image on 21 July
Orbiting satellites are gathering amazing images of the eruption events on Mount Etna.

Europe's most active volcano comes to life every few months. It has been gushing lava from fractures on its southern slope for more than a week, threatening local settlements.

The data from space give the authorities on the ground additional information that they can use to manage the situation.

"The current eruption started on 17th July but new fractures are opening up all the time," said Dr Kate Evans-Jones, from the Remote Sensing Data Analysis Service (RSDAS) at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, UK.

"Activity on these could threaten more populated areas. We are providing near real-time satellite data to ground crews monitoring the activity so they can quickly identify the location of new lava flows"

Etna  Esa/Csiro
ERS-2 satellite: Plume information can help pilots
"This is the first time that satellite data have been used to support an on-going crisis assessment on Etna".

RSDAS uses data from the US Noaa (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) series of satellites to highlight high-temperature volcanic features, such as lava flows, crater lakes and hot springs.

Data are also being fed down from the joint UK-Australian sensor - the Along Track Scanning Radiometer (ATSR) - on board the European Space Agency's ERS-2 satellite. (The UK funding comes from the Natural Environment Research Council).

The data can be used to follow the volcanic plume. This information is useful to the aviation industry, which regards volcanic ash as an aviation hazard that can choke engines, causing them to stall.

Etna towers about 3,350 m (10,991 feet) above Sicily.

Terra Nasa
Nasa's Terra satellite: This 5 July false-colour image shows snow on the northern flank (white/blue)

Terra Nasa
This Terra image is in true colours and was taken on 22 July

Etna Noaa
A Noaa satellite tracks the plume on 23 July

SeaWIFS Nasa
Nasa's SeaWIFS satellite monitors the eruption on 24 July

See also:

27 Jul 01 | Europe
Etna erupts again
23 Jul 01 | Europe
In pictures: Etna in action
01 Apr 00 | Sci/Tech
Why volcanoes explode
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