Morphometry of scoria cones located on a volcano flank: A case study from Mt. Etna (Italy), based on high-resolution LiDAR data

Massimilano Favalli, Dávid Karátson, Francesco Mazzarini, Maria Teresa Pareschi, Enzo Boschi

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66 Citations (Scopus)


By using new high-resolution (2 m) digital elevation model derived from the 2005 LiDAR survey of Mt. Etna volcano (Italy), our study measured the classical morphometrical parameters for scoria cones, i.e. Wco (cone width), Wcr (crater diameter), H (cone height) as well as volume, inclination of cone slope and substrate, and a number of other parameters for 135 scoria cones of Mt. Etna. Volume and age distribution of cones shows that there is no direct structural control on their emplacement in terms of Etna's rift zones. The cones are progressively smaller in size toward summit, which can be explained by the large volcano's feeding system and progressively frequent lava burial toward top. A careful analysis of H/Wco ratio (determined as 0.18 for other volcanic fields worldwide) shows that this ratio strongly depends on (1) the calculation method of H and (2) lava burial of cone. For Etnean cones, applying an improved method for calculating H relative to the dipping substrate results in a significantly lowered standard H/Wco ratio (0.137), which in turn questions the validity of the classical value of 0.18 in the case of large central volcanoes. The reduction of the ratio is not only due to methodology but also to the common lava burial. This can be expressed even better if Hmean is used instead of Hmax (Hmean/Wco = 0.098). Using this measure, at Etna, well formed cones have higher ratios than structurally deformed (e. g. double or rifted) cones. Furthermore, although the sampled scoria cones at Etna have formed in a relatively narrow time interval (< 6500 yrs BP), there is a slight decrease in H/Wco corresponding to erosional changes detected globally (H/Wco = 0.143, 0.135 and 0.115 for three age classes of Etna's scoria cones, corresponding to average slopes of 26.6, 23.9 and 23.7°). Because the morphometrical effect of position on a dipping substrate as well as lava burial exceeds the effect of erosion, we call attention to use caution in simply using the H/Wco ratio of scoria cones for detecting age, especially on large active volcanoes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-330
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Volcanology and Geothermal Research
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 10 2009


  • DEM analysis
  • Etna
  • H/W ratio
  • morphometry
  • scoria cone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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