Mount Etna Blows Mesmerizing Volcanic Smoke Rings Into the Sky

Volcanos are fascinating geological structures. They essentially serve as vents, allowing the warmer inner materials of the Earth to emerge in flowing lava. Mount Etna, located in Sicily, is even more interesting than your average volcano though. Known as a stratovolcano for its steep cone-shape, Mount Etna's eruptions have been watched and recorded by humans since 1500 BCE. The mountain is particularly known for producing smokey vortex rings, which look almost mythical—and the mountain has been belching these at a swift rate recently.

Mount Etna is generally extremely active. The name Etna actually may originate in the Latin and Greek words meaning “to burn,” or potentially Phoenician for “furnace.” Vortex rings are Mount Etna's specialty. They are created when vents open up, allowing hot gasses, vapors, and smoke to emerge from the hotter volcanic material below. Differences in speed as the gaseous material is ejected creates a vortex, a high speed swirl. The gaseous ring then floats off, eventually fading.

In April 2024, Mount Etna has produced more rings than any volcano on record, according to The New York Times. Despite this unprecedented pace, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a big explosion is on the way. For now, the hyperactivity is a mesmerizing piece of nature. Even if you’re not in Sicily right now, you can watch the video above. The Straits Times has captured footage of the hypnotizing smoke rings floating through the sky.

The active volcano is currently a protected park. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site that has a unique ecosystem on its slopes, where plants and animals live. One can explore Mount Etna via hiking trails and scenic viewpoints, and perhaps will even catch sight of a vortex ring. You can also follow the explosions and flows through a webpage maintained by The Smithsonian.

Mount Etna, a volcano in Sicily, has been blowing out smoke rings at an unprecedented rate this month.

Mount Etna's Volcanic Smoke Rings Fascinate Viewers

A Mount Etna smoke ring in August 2023. (Photo: PSomol via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

h/t: [Colossal]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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