Even in mid-winter Sicily appears jewel-like in green at the tip of Italy’s “boot” – a tribute to the island’s Mediterranean climate and rich agriculture. With average daytime temperatures of about 55°F (13°F) and the light winter rains coming to an end, February often begins to feel like spring. The greening landscape and blossoming almond trees also suggest the approach of a new growing season.
On February 7, 2014 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image of Sicily. White snow sits atop peaks in the Madonie (west) and Nebrodi (east) Mountains. The city of Palermo – over 2,700 years old and capital of Sicily – can be seen as a large “smudge” made of gray-brown pixels on the northwest coast of the island, on the Gulf of Palermo.
Of all the features of the island, the snow-capped Mount Etna, near the northeastern coast, is the most striking. At higher resolutions, the ring of white gives way to a dark, treeless slope and then, at the foot of the mountain, some areas of lush green. A large, thin volcanic plume rises from Etna and blows to the southeast.
Mount Etna is Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, with an eruptive history reaching back more than 2,000 years. It has been in near-constant activity, with intermittent short pauses. Eruptions vary from relatively gentle tremors accompanied by gas and ash plumes, to violent, spectacular explosive eruptions.
Etna was relatively quiet on February 1-2, with no (or almost no) eruptive activity, according to Volcanodiscovery.com, but by February 3 was experiencing weak explosive activity and renewed lava effusion from a fissure vent. On February 7, the day this image was captured, lava flow and strombolian activity was increasing, as was tremor activity. A large ash plume continued to rise over the mountain. On February 11, a new effusive vent opened on eastern side of the New SE Crater and a large lava flow was reported down the eastern flank.