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Keeping track of Etna's pulse

From CNN's Jim Boulden

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Technology is helping scientists predict Etna's dangers.

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CANTANIA, Italy (CNN) -- There is no way to stop Europe's highest volcano from erupting, but technology is increasingly helping scientists to prevent natural disasters becoming human tragedies.

Every day, tiny earthquakes rock Mt Etna, which at 3,300 meters high, dominates the island of Sicily in southern Italy.

Seismologist Susanna Falsaperla told CNN that developments in technology mean scientists can now monitor every single change on the volcano.

"We have continuous information about the summit craters," she said.

One of the newer technologies used on Mt Etna is thermal imaging.

It allows scientists to study the fissures in the cone of the volcano -- if the fissures are getting hotter, it means an eruption is imminent.

Volcanologist Sonia Calvari, of the Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Catania (INGV-CT), said rapid advances in technology enable experts to use a wide range of methods to continually map and monitor Etna from a distance.

These include a network of Web cams, which have been helping scientists monitor the volcano for the past eight years.

"We can continuously observe and record the activity at the summit craters using our Web cams and thermal cameras, which send the images direct to Catania, " Calvari told CNN.

But as seismologist Horst Langer says, Etna's changing landscape is a hazardous working environment.

"We do not have easy logistical conditions, we are high on the mountains, we have snow, we have wind, we have temperature changes."

Mt Etna is changing all the time. It was once as high as 3,800 meters and the surrounding area is constantly racked by seismic activity.

Raffaele Azzaro, first researcher at INGV-CT, told CNN that one local faultline has moved by as much as 17 centimeters in one day, and currently moves at a rate of around three centimeters each year.

"You can see that the old central line that was offset by the fault movement. And more recently -- more or less one year ago -- the new central line was painted again."

Residents of nearby Nicolosi are well aware of the risks -- the historic town was almost wiped out by an eruption in 1669. But trade here depends on the volcano and it is known as the gateway to Etna.

Father-and-son-team Orazio and Salvatore Consoli help gather the seismic data -- three generations of their family have worked on the volcano.

"We have a love for Etna but also a hate because it is both dangerous and a beautiful mountain," Consoli Snr. told CNN.

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