Scientific article
Open access

The magmatic evolution of South-East Crater (Mt. Etna) during the February–April 2021 sequence of lava fountains from a mineral chemistry perspective

Published inBulletin of volcanology, vol. 85, no. 5, no. The lava fountain sequences in 2021 that disrupted the eruptive history of Mt Etna volcano, Italy, 33
Publication date2023-04-26
First online date2023-04-26

The South-East Crater (SEC) at Mt. Etna started a period of lava fountaining in December 2020, producing over 60 paroxysms until February 2022. The activity had an intense sequence from February 16 to April 1, 2021, totaling 17 paroxysmal events separated by repose times varying from 1 to 7 days. The eruptive sequence was extensively monitored, providing a unique opportunity to relate the chemistry and texture of the erupted products to eruption dynamics. We investigate the temporal evolution of the magmatic system through this eruptive sequence by quantifying variations in the composition and texture of clinopyroxene. Clinopyroxene major element transects across crystals from five representative lava fountains allow us to determine the relative proportions of deep versus shallow-stored magmas that fed these events. We use hierarchical clustering (HC), an unsupervised machine learning technique, to objectively identify clinopyroxene compositional clusters and their variations during this intense eruptive phase. Our results show that variations of monitoring parameters and eruption intensity are expressed in the mineral record both as changes in cluster proportions and the chemical complexity of single crystals. We also apply random forest thermobarometry to relate each cluster to P-T conditions of formation. We suggest that the February–April 2021 eruptive sequence was sustained by the injection of a hotter and deeper magma into a storage area at 1–3 kbar, where it mixed with a slightly more evolved magma. The February 28 episode emitted the most mafic magma, in association with the highest mean lava fountain height and highest time–averaged discharge rate, which make it the peak of the analyzed eruptive interval. Our results show that after this episode, the deep magma supply decreased and the erupted magma become gradually more chemically evolved, with a lower time–average discharge rate and fountain height. We propose this approach as a means to rapidly, objectively, and effectively link petrological and geophysical/geochemical monitoring during ongoing eruptions. We anticipate that the systematic application of this approach will serve to shed light on the magmatic processes controlling the evolution of ongoing eruptions.

  • Clinopyroxene
  • Hierarchical clustering
  • Mineral stratigraphy
  • Thermobarometry
  • Random forest machine learning
Citation (ISO format)
MUSU, Alessandro et al. The magmatic evolution of South-East Crater (Mt. Etna) during the February–April 2021 sequence of lava fountains from a mineral chemistry perspective. In: Bulletin of volcanology, 2023, vol. 85, n° 5, p. 33. doi: 10.1007/s00445-023-01643-2
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0258-8900

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