Q:

What caused Mount Etna to erupt?

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Quick Answer

Mount Etna erupts and is active because it lies on the subduction fault boundary between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates as well as the fault between the African and the Ionian microplate. The Ionian plate is tilted backward, allowing space for mantle magma to well up to the surface.

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Full Answer

Experts believe that the position of Mount Etna is critical to its activity. While most volcanic lava is made up of melted crust, the lava from Mount Etna comes directly from the mantle below the crust because of the way the African and Eurasian plates and Ionian microplate are positioned. Experts also theorize that this mantle magma wells up from a crack in the African plate that is situated just beneath Mount Etna. Another theory suggests that Mount Etna lies on a hotspot.

Not only is Mount Etna the largest active volcano in Italy, it also boasts the longest history of eruptions of any volcano in the world. Some of the first records of its eruptions date back to 425 B.C. Other records state that the volcano erupted in 122 B.C., 40 A.D., 1169, 1185 and 1669. In the 1900s it erupted three separate times, completely destroying Mascali as well as nearby land.

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