Etna, the highest and most active volcano in Europe, has been erupting spectacularly over the past few days. Images have shown lava oozing out of vents, while others show “fireworks” of explosions.
According to volcanic activity tracking site VolcanoDiscovery, “a swarm of small earthquakes” struck under the eastern flank of Etna on Sunday morning.
Magnitudes have tended to measure up to around 2.3 and take place between 10 and 20km underground.
Analysts say the quakes suggest there is a fault zone within the Earth that has been “activated,” though the cause of this is uncertain.
It has not been mentioned whether local populations are affected by the quakes, though they are not thought to have been strong.
Boris Behncke, a volcanologist with INGV-Osservatorio Etneo in Sicily, has been tracking the volcano’s activity over the past few weeks.
He said Etna had “unleashed” what is called a paroxysmal eruptive episode on the evening of January 18.
“Note that this is very modest, and completely harmless activity taking place at the summit, far away from populated areas.”
Earlier, the volcanologist had said Etna has been “quite active and spectacular at the turn of the year”.
In addition, yesterday morning’s earthquake activity is not the first to have hit the volcano in recent weeks.
Mr Behncke said there had also been another “conspicuous” swarm which hit the area just before the end of last year.
Etna is located on the island of Sicily above the city of Catania. It is thought that over a quarter of the island’s population live in the volcano’s slopes, which provide both tourism and useful soil for agriculture.