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Mount Etna is 100 feet taller than it was 6 months ago

Red lava streams down the side of Mount Etna in Sicily.
(Image credit: Michele Cipriano/EyeEm via Getty Images)

Mount Etna, Europe's tallest and most active volcano, has erupted so much in the past six months, it has grown about 100 feet (30 meters) in height, satellite images reveal.

The youngest and most active of Etna's four summit craters — the southeastern crater — is now the tallest part of the volcano, towering 11,013 feet (3,357 m) above sea level, the tallest it has been in recorded history, according to the National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV), located at the foot of Mount Etna in Catania, Sicily. 

This sudden growth spurt is the result of about 50 eruptions at the southeastern crater since Feb. 16, 2021, which have led to a "conspicuous transformation of the shape of the volcano," the INGV reported in a translated statement released Aug. 10. Scientists discovered the explosive growth while analyzing images taken by the Earth-imaging Pléiades satellites on July 13 and July 25. The data have an uncertainty of about 10 feet (3 m), the INGV noted.  

Related: 5 colossal cones: Biggest volcanoes on Earth

In fact, the southeastern crater is now taller than its "big brother," the northeastern crater, the tallest peak on Etna for the past 40 years.

Image 1 of 2

The Pléiades satellites took these images of Mount Etna on July 13 (A) and July 25 (B).

The Pléiades satellites took these images of Mount Etna on July 13 (A) and July 25 (B). (Image credit: National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology)
Image 2 of 2

A digital model of Mount Etna's surface, according to data from July 25, 2021.

A digital model of Mount Etna's surface, according to data from July 25, 2021. (Image credit: National Institute for Geophysics and Volcanology)

After the northeastern crater erupted in 1980 and 1981, it reached a maximum height of 10,990 feet (3,350 m). But that height decreased over the years as the crater's edges collapsed. As of the summer of 2018, the northeastern crater measured 10,912 feet (3,326 m) tall.

Mount Etna is thought to have started as a submarine volcano that slowly grew above sea level as it erupted, time and again, gradually increasing its height with solidified lava, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. It's now largely covered with historic lava flows from eruptions that happened up to 300,000 years ago. To get a digital 3D view of Etna's summit, go here.

Originally published on Live Science.

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As an associate editor for Live Science, Laura Geggel covers general science, including the environment, archaeology and amazing animals. She has written for The New York Times, Scholastic, Popular Science and Spectrum, a site covering autism research. Laura grew up in Seattle and studied English literature and psychology at Washington University in St. Louis before completing her graduate degree in science writing at NYU. When not writing, you'll find Laura playing Ultimate Frisbee.