Mount Etna is on the move.
mount etna
Credit: Art Wolfe/Getty Images

Italy’s Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest and most active volcano, is slowly sliding toward the Mediterranean Sea, according to new research.

The famous tourist attraction, which is located on the east coast of the Italian island of Sicily, is sliding at a pace of 14 mm per year, geologist Dr. John Murray of the The Open University in the United Kingdom and his fellow team of researchers reported in a recent study published in the Bulletin of Volcanology.

Murray has spent more than 40 years studying the stratovolcano, with the team of researchers examining GPS measurements of Mount Etna's location over an 11-year time span from 2001 to 2012.

The researchers found that the volcano was moving at a slow pace toward the coastal town of Giarre in Sicily, though they said there’s no reason for the movement to cause concern just yet.

“I would say there is currently no cause for alarm, but it is something we need to keep an eye on, especially to see if there is an acceleration in this motion,” Murray said in an interview with the BBC.

Murray and his team found that Mount Etna volcano is moving down a gentle slope of 1 to 3 degrees, with its foundation of weak sediments allowing for the movement.

The researchers believe this is the first time a downward “basement sliding” of an entire volcano has been recorded, and that it could lead to landslides with "devastating consequences" should the speed at which its moving accelerate down the line.

“The thing to watch I guess is if in 10 years’ time the rate of movement has doubled — that would be a warning,” Murray told the BBC. “If it’s halved, I’d say there really is nothing to worry about,” he added.