Italian Journal of Geosciences - Vol. 139 (2020) f.3

A Christmas gift: Signature of the 24th December 2018 eruption of Mt. Etna on the chemical composition of bulk deposition in eastern Sicily

Filippo Brugnone (1), Walter D’Alessandro (2), Sergio Calabrese (1,2), Lorenza Li Vigni (1), Sergio Bellomo (2), Lorenzo Brusca (2), Vincenzo Prano (2), Filippo Saiano (3) & Francesco Parello (1)
(1) Università degli Studi di Palermo, Dipartimento Scienze della Terra e del Mare, via Archirafi, 36, 90123, Palermo, Italy. (2) Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia, via Ugo la Malfa 153, 90146, Palermo, Italy. (3) Università degli Studi di Palermo, Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari e Forestali, viale delle Scienze ed.4, 90128, Palermo, Italy. Corresponding author e-mail:

Volume: 139 (2020) f.3
Pages: 341-358


The eruption of Mt. Etna which occurred on December 24th 2018 was characterized by strombolian activity and fire fountains, emitted by the New South-East Crater and along a fissure that propagated towards the SE. The influence of volcanic emissions on atmospheric deposition was clearly detectable at several kilometres from the source. Wet and dry (bulk) deposition samples were collected each month, through a network of eleven collectors, in the areas of Milazzo, and Priolo between June 2018 and June 2019. They were analysed for major ions and trace elements concentrations. The pH values range from 3.9 to 8.3, while the EC values range from 7 to 396 μS cm-1. An extensive neutralization of the acidity has been recognised mainly due to the suspended alkaline dust particles, which have a buffering role in rainwater. A high load of Na+ and Cl- was observed at all sites, related to the closeness of the study areas to the coast, showing a high positive correlation (R2 = 0.989) along the line of Na+/Cl- ratio in seawater. During the eruption, the volcanic plume was carried by the winds for long distance (more than 300 km) affecting the area of Priolo but not that of Milazzo, which was upwind with respect to Mt. Etna. The impact of volcanic HF was clearly recognised in the samples collected after the eruption. Volcanic SO2 and HCl had a lower impact due to the overwhelming input of anthropogenic sulfate and marine chloride. On the contrary, the signature of the Mt. Etna eruption can be well recognised in the high concentrations of certain trace elements in the samples collected immediately after the eruption. The strongest contrast between affected and non-affected samples was recognised in Al, Cd, and especially in the volatile elements Tl and Te, which are typically enriched in volcanic emissions. The results showed that volcanic eruptions might have a relevant effect on the atmospheric chemistry and on the composition of rainwater up to distances of 80 km from the emission vents.


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