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  • Context (IE): Mount Etna has been producing rare rings of smoke since last week. These rings are known as volcanic vortex rings and are similar to smoke rings blown by cigarette smokers. This phenomenon occurs when a volcano releases gases in a particular way.

What are volcanic vortex rings? Mount ...

About Mount Etna

  • It is an active volcano located on the east coast of Sicily, Italy.
    • Sicily: Largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • It is the largest volcano in Europe and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.
  • The volcano has five craters at its summit, which are responsible for most of its eruptions.
  • Additionally, over 300 vents of various sizes are along the mountain’s slopes, which also contribute to eruptions.
  • Etna is nearly always active and has experienced over 60 flank eruptions and numerous summit eruptions since 1600.
  • Mount Etna has been designated as a World Heritage Site since 2013.
  • UNESCO states that the volcano’s eruptive history spans back 500,000 years. Records have documented at least 2,700 years of Etna’s volcanic activity.
  • Notable summit eruptions occurred in 2006, 2007-08, twice in 2012, 2018, and 2021. Flank eruptions have been recorded in 2001, 2002-03, 2004-05, and 2008-09.
Crater & Vent

Vortex rings

  • Vortex rings form when gas, mainly water vapour, is rapidly released through a vent in the crater.
  • The vent in Etna’s crater is nearly perfectly circular, resulting in circular rings seen above the mountain since April 2.
  • A scientific paper published in February 2023 documented volcanic vortex rings, first observed at Etna and Vesuvius in Italy in 1724.
  • According to a volcanologist, volcanic smoke rings are formed similarly to how dolphins blow bubble rings.
  • Dolphins compress water in their mouths and push it out with their tongues, creating pressure that forms a ring.

Vortex rings observed in recent times at various volcanoes worldwide

Volcano Name Country
Redoubt

Alaska

Tungurahua

Ecuador

Pacaya

Guatemala

Eyjafjallajökull & Hekla

Iceland

Stromboli

Italy

Yasur

Vanuatu

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