Italy’s famous volcano Mount Etna may be fed mostly by hot water and carbon dioxide, with only a small dose of molten rock to make it resemble a classic volcano

Mount Etna, one of the world’s most famous volcanoes, may be misunderstood. According to one geologist, the material feeding the cone is mostly water, so Etna is effectively a giant hot spring. But other geologists are unconvinced.

Mount Etna in Italy is almost constantly active. It’s been estimated that it spewed about 70 million tonnes of lava in 2011 alone. But what really puzzles Carmelo Ferlito at the University of Catania, Italy – about 30 kilometres from the volcano – is that Etna also belches out more than 7 million tonnes of steam, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide every year.

The conventional explanation is that this gas bubbles out of magma as it loses pressure on its way up through the volcano’s vent. But Ferlito says Etna would need to erupt ten times more lava than it

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