All About Space

Mount Etna


Location: Earth Height: 3,350 metres (11,000 feet) Active: Yes

One of the most famous and active of Earth’s classical conical-shaped volcanoes, Italy’s

Mount Etna is a testament to Earth’s seemingly unique system of plate tectonics. This process is fuelled by interior radioactiv­e elements, which at the surface drive the constant pushing and diverging of a patchwork of oceanic and continenta­l plates.

It is on top of one of these convergent plate boundaries that Mount Etna sits, spewing out molten rock melted far below by the subduction of the water-rich African Plate underneath the Eurasian Plate. It is the introducti­on of water and other gas-forming volatiles into the subsurface that creates more viscous magmas, resulting in a unique type of explosive volcanism on Earth. Plate tectonics are a fundamenta­l mechanism of our planet, recycling vital minerals for life between the surface and subsurface.

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