800 tons of mercury

Just another weekend at Mt. Etna.

Man-made vs. natural disasters:

During the last year or so I have had reason to study Sweden’s largest environmental disaster, the Nautanen Mining field. The Nautanen mines where active from 1902 until 1909 and in comparison to other Swedish mines the Nautanen field is puny. Still it releases more heavy metals into the surrounding waters than all other Swedish mines, historic and present, put together. It is estimated that if Nautanen is left without any measures taken somewhere in the range of 50 to 100 tons of heavy metals (mainly copper) will be released into the surrounding waters….

Let us go through what was released during [Pinatubo’s] VEI-6 eruption. While reading the numbers keep in mind the Nautanen maximum figure of 100 tons of heavy metals. Pinatubo produced 800 000 tons of zinc, 600 000 tons of copper, 550 000 tons of chromium, 300 000 tons of nickel, 100 000 tons of lead, 10 000 tons of arsenic, 1 000 tons of cadmium and 800 tons of mercury. All of it in the form of ash that was spread not only locally in layers tens of meters thick, it was also dispersed across the globe.

The concentration of heavy metals is so high that it causes birth defects, cancer, neurological disorders, liver and renal failure, heart and lung deceases and the list just goes on and on. It has been estimated that Pinatubo has shortened the lifespan on the island of Luzon by as much as a decade. That equates to 7 000 000 people in mortality if we recount the lost life years into average human life expectancy in the Philippines.



Etna is doing her thing right now (10 p.m. CDT). You can watch the fireworks here. Also here (you might need to manually refresh the view periodically) and here.

Update: The show’s over for now. There’s a spectacular video taken close to the vent here. There’s also this snapshot of a less familiar sort of volcanic activity.

Hot stuff in Sicily

Etna is doing her thing again. You can watch the show though numerous webcams, such as this or those here. You can listen to the explosions here as well as see them when the camera is working and the server isn’t overburdened.

Update: the show is over. You can see pictures here and some videos of the eruption here. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see a cheesy Italian commercial.

Sicilian fireworks

Etna is doing its thing again. Watch the show here.

We might see some nice lava fountains tonight. According to vulcanologist Boris Behncke about 40 minutes ago, “It’s still quite modest Strombolian activity as of now, and might still take a few hours to reach its culmination – however, the increase in volcanic tremor amplitude is accelerating.”

Update: The show’s over for now. Here’s a video of the eruption.

Update II: Here’s another video:


Mt. Etna in Sicily is putting on a brilliant show today, which you can watch here. (You’ll need to refresh the page every five minutes or so.) See Eruptions for commentary. (Scroll down to the later comments.)

Update: The show’s over for now. According to Boris Behncke, a vulcanologist in Sicily, “This has been a typical lava fountain from the Southeast Crater (that is, the vent on its east flank which seems to have completely taken over the job from the old vent at its top), with jets rising 300-500 m – maybe a bit more – and lasting for little more than one hour.”

Everything you ever wanted to know about Mt. Etna: here, here and here.

Update II: For those who missed the show, here’s a video: