Europe’s larges active volcano


Mount Etna, located on the island of Sicily in Italy, is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth, which is reflected in a high frequency of eruptions. People living at and near the slopes of the volcano are used to being repeatedly disturbed by volcanic activities. They make use of the advantages of the situation, particularly the fertile volcanic soil and the role of the volcano as a tourist landmark.

Among other techniques advanced satellite data are used to closely monitor and quantify the damages caused by this natural event. Satellite technology plays a crucial role in tracking the eruption’s progression. High-resolution imagery provides real-time insights into the volcano’s behaviour, allowing to map the lava flows, ash plumes, and gas emissions. These observations enable timely warnings to protect nearby communities and air traffic.

The satellite maps presented here show the changing situation during an eruption of Mount Etna in natural colours, additionally integrating a shortwave infrared band highlighting the lava stream to the east.


  • Satellite Map:
    • Look at the satellite image maps and click on the layer selector in the upper right. Deselect the layer groups “Lava” and “Detail” by unticking the respective boxes.
    • In the remaining overview satellite image, try to identify important landuse and land cover classes as well as the peak of Etna.
    • Add the layer group “Lava” and try to estimate the area covered by material from Etna. How long are the lava flows to the coast?
    • Deselect the layer group “Lava” and select the “Detail” group with satellite images from an eruption series in 2022. Look at these satellite images one by one and compare them. What differences in the size of the hot lava flows, in the intensity of the smoke column and in the wind direction can you see?
    • How do the eruptions affect the people living there?
  • EO Browser:
    • Open the EO Browser.
    • Find the most recent Sentinel-2 dataset covering the area displayed in the satellite map. You may look further back in time to find more spectacular eruptions, too.
    • Select a true colour visualisation.
    • Can you identify additional, recent changes in the area (check e.g. lava fields, craters)?
    • Select the false-colour infrared “urban” representation. Can you identify active volcanic spots near the summit of Etna?

Links and Sources

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