All About Space
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.