The contemporaneous emission of low-K and high-K trachybasalts and the role of the NE Rift during the 2002 eruptive event, Mt. Etna, Italy

C. Ferlito, M. Coltorti*, R. Cristofolini, P. P. Giacomoni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Mount Etna volcano erupted almost simultaneously on its northeastern and southern flanks between October 27 and November 3, 2002. The eruption on the northeastern flank lasted for 8 days, while on the southern flank it continued for 3 months. The northeastern flank eruption was characterized by the opening of a long eruptive fracture system between 2,900 and 1,900 m.a.s.l. A detailed survey indicates that the fractures' direction shifted during the opening from N10W (at the NE Crater, 2,900 m) to N45E (at its lowest portion, 1,900 m) and that distinct magma groups were erupted at distinct fracture segments. Based on their petrological features, three distinct groups of rocks have been identified. The first group, high-potassium porphyritic (HKP), is made up of porphyritic lavas with a Porphyritic Index (P.I.) of 20-32 and K2O content higher than 2 wt%. The second group is represented by lavas and tephra with low modal phenocryst abundance (P.I.<20) named here oligo-phyric (low-phyric), and K2O content higher than 2 wt% (HKO, high-potassium oligophyric). The third group, low-potassium oligophyric (LKO), consists of tephra with oligophyric texture (P.I.<20) but K2O content < 2 wt%. K-rich magmas (HKP and HKO) are similar to the magma erupted on the southern flank, and geochemical variations within these groups can be accounted for by a variable degree of fractionation from a single parent magma. The K-poor magma (LKO), erupted only in the upper segment of the fracture, cannot be placed on the same liquid line of descent of the HK groups, and it is similar to the magmas that fed the activity of Etna volcano prior to the eruption of 1971. This is the first time since then that a magma of this composition has been documented at Mt. Etna, thus providing a strong indication for the existence of distinct batches of magma whose rise and differentiation are independent from the main conduit system. The evolution of this eruption provides evidence that the NE Rift plays a very active role in the activity of Mt. Etna volcano, and that its extensional tectonics allows the intrusion and residence of magma bodies at various depths, which can therefore differentiate independently from the main open conduit system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-587
Number of pages13
JournalBulletin of Volcanology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • 2002-2003 eruption
  • Etna
  • High-Kand low-K magmas
  • NE rift


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